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4 min read

Managed Services Provider (MSP) vs Managed Security Services Provider (MSSP): What’s the Difference?

Not a day goes by where we don't hear stories of businesses falling victim to cyber attacks. The big ones make headlines, but there are thousands more happening worldwide each day. They're so common in fact, that some business leaders think it's normal to be hacked. 

Let me tell you -- while cyber attacks are common, getting hacked should not be considered normal.  With the right security layers in place, your risk of an intrusion is significantly reduced. 

Hackers are working overtime, coming up with more impactful ways of penetrating your security every day. It takes specialized tools, expertise, and mindset to stay ahead of them and keep them out of your business systems. 

To get access to that expertise, many businesses turn to Managed Service Providers (MSP) and Managed Security Service Providers (MSSP). Chances are, your company is already working with one or the other. However, most people don't know the difference between the two or what they do. With so many acronyms, it's hard to know. 

Let's look at each of them and elaborate on what makes them unique.

What Does An MSP Do?

A Managed Service Provider (MSP) can act as your company's IT department or can supplement your internal IT team.

Each MSP's offering is different, but they generally handle things like backup and disaster recovery, business continuity planning, strategic IT planning, proactive maintenance, network administration, new user setups & user deactivations, IT projects, foundational security services (e.g. endpoint detection and response, patch management, multi-factor authentication, etc.), and help desk services. 

They help keep your company's technology running smoothly and avoid unnecessary downtime. 

What Does An MSSP Do?

Managed Security Service Providers (MSSP) provide comprehensive cyber security solutions. Their mission is to make sure every possible door into your network is locked tight and detect anomalies at the first sign. They perform security monitoring and respond to any incidences for your organization's endpoints and networks.

They offer advanced security services like data loss prevention (DLP), vulnerability scanning, endpoint threat detection, security information & threat management (SIEM), and more.

Many also perform gap analyses and assessments for regulatory compliance, such as CMMC, NIST, HIPAA, PCI-DSS, and others -- then help you implement the necessary technical controls.

They may also offer cyber forensic services if a breach occurs. They'll dig through system logs and files to diagnose where a threat may have come in and what damage may have been done. These are the detectives who answer the question, "What happened here - and how can I prevent it from happening again?"

🔎 Related: Top 30 Cyber Security Risk Management FAQs

What's The Difference Between An MSP And An MSSP?

Sounds like there's some crossover, right? Could be, but there are some important differences.

The main difference comes down to their focus, goals, and expertise:

  • MSPs are focused on the IT function as a whole and making sure users can be productive. Engineers and technicians are trained and certified in networking, system administration, and user support.
  • MSSPs are focused on advanced security and cyber risk management strategies to detect abnormalities and suspicious behavior, as well as prevent unauthorized access. Engineers are trained and certified in cyber security specialties. They spend time researching current threats and focusing on what's next.

You may be thinking, "I work with an MSP right now and security is included in my agreement." That could be true -- but it's unlikely that the advanced security strategies are included unless they're also an MSSP. 

MSP agreements typically include foundational security tasks that are inherent in good IT management.  MSSPs take that several steps further -- It's a specialized expertise with a completely different toolset, skillset, and mindset.

Do I Need an MSP and an MSSP?

How you choose to resource your company's IT is a choice only you can make.  You'll likely want a combination of the two.

Our recommendation is to work with an IT provider that has demonstrated competency in both areas. It's rare to find an MSP that is also an MSSP (though it is possible because VC3 is one of them). We chose to develop this expertise and invest in the proper tools because this is what is necessary to effectively support and manage IT environments today.

What we're seeing is that cyber security threats are increasing, therefore the baseline for what should be considered foundational IT security has moved. Advanced security tactics and strategies are necessary, as well as finding that balance between security and usability. 

If you'd like to know more about which type of service provider is best suited to help your business run smoother, or if you need any help figuring out a cyber security solution that would be best for your needs, we're here to help!

Reach out to our team any time at 800-481-4369 or request a Free IT Assessment.

Let's talk about how VC3 can help you AIM higher.