MSP vs. MSSP: What’s the Difference?

MSP is an acronym for managed service provider while MSSP stands for managed security service provider. The primary focus of MSPs is IT infrastructure management, whereas MSSPs provide comprehensive cybersecurity services to customers. However, the scope and extent of cybersecurity services offered by MSPs is generally smaller and less comprehensive than those offered by MSSPs.

The confusion though, stems from the fact that MSPs provide cybersecurity services as well. So, how are MSPs different from MSSPs?

In this blog, we’ll examine the business roles of MSPs and MSSPs, understand the differences between the two, and provide tips on how MSPs can expand their business reach and boost their profits by adding security services to their portfolio. Read on. 

What is the difference between MSPs and MSSPs?

MSPs are primarily responsible for maintaining their clients’ IT infrastructure, thereby allowing them to progress through their daily workflow efficiently. They provide services like network management, managed mobility, managed communication and cloud management, to name a few. As part of their standard cybersecurity services, MSPs typically offer software and OS patch management, bug fixes, threat detection, and basic antivirus and antimalware protection.  

In contrast, MSSPs provide advanced protection from cybercrime. They employ sophisticated tools, such as top-of-the-line intrusion detection systems, vulnerability scanners, VPNs, firewalls and dark web scanning solutions, to carry out comprehensive threat detection, prevention and mitigation activities for existing and potential threats.

The MSP Model: Managed Service Providers

A managed service provider is a third-party IT service provider that manages backend IT infrastructure for its clients, like servers, applications and networks, and also provides them with native or external tools to drive organizational efficiency. 

To conduct business, every company requires a reliable IT infrastructure. However, unlike their larger counterparts that have deep pockets and the best IT talent to oversee their IT infrastructure, small and midsize businesses (SMBs) often lack the funding and resources to build an IT system to their liking. Managed service providers are a boon to SMBs that need access to modern and scalable IT infrastructure at an affordable price.

The global managed services market size is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.9%, and is expected to reach $354.8 billion by 2026 — up from $242.9 billion in 2021. To maintain their competitive position and achieve operational excellence, organizations across the globe are investing heavily in their IT infrastructure. MSPs offer their clients competitive pricing by bundling their services into specialized packages or customizing plans to meet the unique business requirements of their big-ticket customers. Most MSPs have adopted a subscription model that provides them with a recurring source of revenue, allowing them to plan their growth trajectory with precision.

An MSP can be a small business with one employee or a large enterprise with hundreds of employees. They use modern and sophisticated unified endpoint management (UEM) and remote monitoring and management (RMM) tools in conjunction with a host of business solutions to manage their clients’ IT infrastructures remotely or on-premise.  

Some of the critical business solutions that UEM and RMM integrate seamlessly with are:

  • Professional service automation (PSA) tools
  • IT documentation tools
  • Data backup and recovery tools
  • Ticket management tools

With seamless integration, MSPs can move between tasks, processes and applications with just a swipe of their finger. They can complete their tasks using fewer steps, streamline their daily operations and unlock cost efficiencies for both themselves and their clients.

What is the role of an MSP? 

The MSP business model was born out of the break-fix system, where companies hired IT technicians by the hour to fix issues they couldn’t resolve internally. With the need for faster and more efficient IT infrastructure growing over the years, the MSP business model has flourished. 

The original role of MSPs was to provide IT administration and operation services and help clients reduce business costs. However, MSPs play a much bigger role today in helping businesses thrive in a digital and competitive economy. Clients rely on them to make informed and strategic IT decisions that help them achieve their goals and objectives. Through their process improvement knowledge, MSPs leverage their skilled workforce to ensure a smooth transition to new technologies for their clients, better positioning them to capture current and future growth trends. In fact, he majority of businesses plan on increasing their tech spending next year while 35% plan to maintain it. On average, businesses are planning to boost technology spending by 26% in 2022.  

Businesses are also discovering that working with MSPs has many advantages, such as lower IT costs, enhanced business agility and efficiency, better cybersecurity, proactive support, and most importantly, freeing up more time, energy and resources to drive core business initiatives.

There’s no doubt that the need for MSPs has increased dramatically over the last few years as the pandemic prompted cloud and digital adoption among SMBs, and increased cybercrime forced companies to take more stringent measures against malicious threats. Small businesses (those with less than 500 employees) saw an increase in data breach costs, rising from $2.35 million in 2020 to $2.98 million in 2021 — a 26.8% increase. Currently, MSPs offer not only remote monitoring and management of endpoints, but also migration to a cloud infrastructure, digital adoption, security consultation, IT consultation and compliance management services to name a few.

Services provided by MSPs

MSPs provide a wide range of IT services to their customers in exchange for a monthly subscription fee. This section introduces you to some of them.

Data storage and backup: Keeping your company’s critical and sensitive data safe from prying eyes, hands and ears is crucial to staying in business. MSPs offer various kinds of backup solutions to meet their clients’ needs, such as local, onsite, cloud, application, endpoint and Windows server backups. MSPs also provide encryption services to help maintain the security and integrity of the data whether it’s being stored, shared or recovered.

Endpoint management: An MPS’s primary responsibility is to manage endpoints. In addition to laptops, workstations and mobile devices, endpoints also include servers, routers and switches. By using endpoint management tools, MSPs are able to manage and deploy applications, operating systems, cybersecurity solutions and other business-critical resources on various endpoints of their clients. 

Managed cloud services: Cloud services managed by MSPs include migration, optimization, security and configuration. Typically, MSPs help clients choose whether to use public, private or hybrid clouds depending on their business needs.

Managed IT infrastructure: In the past, MSPs handled only the technical aspects of a company’s IT infrastructure while the managerial decisions remained with the company. MSPs today also help companies decide the ideal IT setup and make strategic IT decisions that drive efficiency in their core business operations. 

Network operations center (NOC): The network operations center (NOC) serves as a hub where skilled IT technicians monitor, manage and secure the network operations of a client remotely. NOCs can be run directly by MSPs or the MSP can partner with a third-party NOC to provide a host of remote IT and ticket management services to clients.

In addition to helping MSPs manage more clients and with greater efficiency, NOCs also assist MSPs in filling skill gaps. This enables MSPs to take on new responsibilities without having to hire new technicians. Partnering with a NOC also allows MSPs to spend more time on strategic activities like marketing, business development and customer engagement.

No matter what your business needs, Kaseya NOC Services can be tailored to suit your requirements. With our flexible service model, you can enroll your endpoints in the appropriate service level and easily add endpoints and upgrade service levels at any time.

Service desk management: IT environments, no matter how well managed, encounter problems. Therefore, it’s important for MSPs to provide their clients with access to a service desk — a system where clients can raise tickets and track the progress of their service requests.

Software/application installation and patching: Installing and patching applications is one of the features of endpoint management tools. An RMM tool allows technicians to deploy and maintain business-critical applications on hundreds of endpoints with one click. 

The MSSP Model: Managed Security Service Providers

It is estimated that the managed security services market will reach approximately $64 billion in 2026, with North America being the largest market. Managed security service providers, or MSSPs, offer services such as 24/7 security monitoring, virus and spam blocking, vulnerability scanning, threat intelligence and intrusion detection, penetration testing, compliance management and perimeter management to name a few. 

What is the role of an MSSP? 

Cybercrime is one of the biggest concerns for businesses today. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, cybercrime is up 600% in 2020. Through 2021, there were an average of 270 attacks (unauthorized access to data, applications, services, networks or devices) per company — an increase of 31% compared to 2020. To keep their data and day-to-day operations safe from a breach or an intrusion, organizations must equip themselves with state-of-the-art cybersecurity tools and processes. However, most internal IT teams are strung out with everyday IT tasks and troubleshooting service tickets, leaving little time and financial resources to oversee cybersecurity. To guarantee comprehensive cybersecurity for their businesses, companies look to MSSPs to plan, design and monitor their security infrastructure.

Managed security service providers (MSSPs) typically provide 24/7 cybersecurity services from high-tech security operations centers (SOCs). Through the use of advanced security monitoring tools such as SIEM (security information and event management), MSSPs collect and analyze data from their clients’ IT infrastructure that helps them prevent, identify and mitigate threats. To fill the skill gaps and protect their businesses from cyberattacks, companies can also augment their internal IT teams by hiring especially skilled MSSP security experts.

Services provided by MSSPs

Management security services are tactical in nature as opposed to advisory. Let’s examine some of the services MSSPs provide.

  • Antivirus (AV) and firewalls: Both antivirus and firewalls provide system security, but they target different vulnerabilities. Firewalls protect a company’s network infrastructure by inspecting incoming network traffic, and antivirus solutions prevent malicious files and viruses from invading the network.
  • Data loss prevention (DLP): Data loss prevention is the use of tools and processes to protect a company’s sensitive and confidential data stored and shared on networks, endpoints and the cloud. A data loss prevention solution prevents data from being copied or moved anywhere outside of an unauthorized network system.
  • Identity and access management (IAM): Organizations whose entire network is accessible to employees are more susceptible to cyberattacks. Identity and access management solutions ensure that employees have access to the tools, applications and resources they require to do their jobs regardless of their location while also keeping them from getting access to networks they don’t need. In this way, productivity and security are both ensured.
  • Incident response (IR): Planning an incident response plan ensures that companies have the tools and processes necessary to stay protected from cyberattacks. 
  • Intrusion detection and prevention system (IPS): An intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDPS) allow organizations to detect potential cyberattacks early and respond to them automatically. 
  • Privileged access management (PAM): A privileged user is someone who has administrative access to your critical systems. PAM tools offer a scalable way to authorize and monitor all privileged accounts across your IT environment. 
  • Security awareness training: The goal of security awareness training is to prevent and mitigate user risk. Many cyberattacks could be prevented if employees exercised caution. Employees can benefit from security awareness training by learning best security practices and refining their detection capabilities through mock attacks. 
  • Security information and event management (SIEM): Security information management (SIM) and security event management (SEM) work together as SIEM. While SIM analyzes log files for security threats and events, SEM detects and alerts network administrators about issues in real time and establishes correlations between security events.
  • Security operations center (SOC): Security operations centers (SOCs) specialize in safeguarding client infrastructure and data from cybersecurity threats at a deep level. The technologies that fall under this category include everything from firewalls to SIEM solutions. SOC providers monitor networks for anomalous activity, investigate possible threats and take action to prevent or contain them. 
  • Virtual private network (VPN) support: A VPN transforms an open internet connection into a private network that gives you online privacy. VPNs give remote workers secure access to office resources. Once you install VPN on all of your remote endpoints, you can monitor them in your endpoint management tool to ensure that they are functioning properly. 
  • Vulnerability scanning: Companies use security vulnerability scanner tools to detect weaknesses in their software and networks. These tools scan for security vulnerabilities in all IT assets, such as servers, desktops, virtual machines, operating systems, applications and active ports, on each machine. When a vulnerability is discovered, companies immediately release a patch to fix it. 

MSP vs. MSSP: Comparing the basics

By now, you should be able to explain the differences between an MSP and MSSP to anybody clearly and concisely. Below is a table that illustrates the differences between the two models.

Managed Service Providers ( MSP )Managed Security Service Providers ( MSSP )

The objective of an MSP is to help drive operational efficiency for a company by remotely managing its IT infrastructure and end-user systems.

An MSSP provides businesses with advanced security services using tools and solutions that protect a company’s data, network and endpoints from all kinds of cyberthreats. 

MSPs provide basic cybersecurity services like firewalls, endpoint protection and email filtering.

Provides advanced cybersecurity services like intrusion detection and mitigation, vulnerability scanning, deep web scanning, etc.

MSPs assist with patch management, bug fixes and threat detection services.

MSSPs offer advanced protection against even the most malicious cyberthreats.

MSPs handle a variety of day-to-day IT services for their clients such as help desk, networking and storage.

MSSPs provide comprehensive cybersecurity services to their clients using advanced cybersecurity tools.

Network operations centers (NOCs) help MSPs manage and deliver IT services around the clock.

MSSPs leverage security operations centers (SOCs) to provide extensive cybersecurity service.

MSPs use remote monitoring and management (RMM) tools to manage computers and networks.

MSSPs utilize SIEM tools to monitor the cybersecurity position of their clients closely. 

Managed service providers help clients achieve operational efficiency by properly troubleshooting IT issues and providing timely and accurate assistance.

Clients work with MSSP security analysts who understand the business to develop the right cybersecurity setup.

Boost your security portfolio with Kaseya 

As a top-tier unified remote monitoring and management solution, Kaseya VSA allows companies to manage core IT security functions from a single console and keep a range of cyberthreats at bay. It combines software patch management and antivirus/antimalware deployment and management as well as backup and disaster recovery management so companies can be confident about their cybersecurity posture.  

In addition to the aforementioned integrated security functions, VSA provides several built-in product security features, like Two-Factor Authentication (2FA), Data Encryption and 1-Click Access, to help safeguard your IT environment from threat actors. This combination of features and functions makes VSA an indispensable solution for your business.

You can also maximize your VSA investment with Kaseya Compliance Manager, a purpose-built compliance process automation tool that lets users audit and document compliance from a single pane of glass.

By combining VSA with Kaseya’s suite of security solutions, MSPs and SMBs have the tools they need to protect their businesses from the growing threat of cyberattacks. How about upgrading your security system with the best tools on the market? Get a free VSA demo today!

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