Comparing Managed Security Service Providers (MSSP) and Managed Service Providers (MSP) 26 Oct 2023

managed service providers (MSP)

Organizations of all sizes rely on their IT infrastructure to run effectively and maintain competitiveness in the modern technology-driven business environment. With the increasing complexity of IT environments and the growing threat of cyber-attacks, businesses often seek external assistance to manage their IT needs effectively. Two common types of service providers that cater to different aspects of IT support are Managed Service Providers (MSPs) and Managed Security Service Providers (MSSPs). While both MSPs and MSSPs offer valuable services, they serve distinct purposes and play different roles in ensuring the stability and security of an organization’s IT ecosystem.

Understanding Managed Service Providers (MSPs):

Managed Service Providers (MSPs) deliver businesses comprehensive IT management and support services. They act as external IT departments, taking responsibility for maintaining and operating their client’s IT infrastructure. MSPs are designed to be proactive in their approach, focusing on preventing IT issues before they arise and addressing them promptly when they do arise.

Key Features of Managed Service Providers:

  • IT Infrastructure Management: MSPs handle various aspects of IT infrastructure management, including servers, workstations, networks, storage, cloud services, and more. They ensure that all systems are up-to-date, secure, and optimized to avoid downtime and disruptions.
  • Help Desk and Technical Support: MSPs provide help desk support to end-users, addressing IT-related inquiries and resolving technical issues promptly. As a result, businesses can maintain productivity while minimizing downtime brought on by IT problems, and this decreases the amount of downtime caused by IT problems.
  • Proactive Monitoring: MSPs employ monitoring tools to closely monitor their client’s IT environments. They use proactive monitoring to detect potential problems, identify performance bottlenecks, and take preventive actions to avoid service interruptions.
  • Regular Maintenance and Updates: MSPs perform routine maintenance tasks, such as software updates, security patches, data backups, and system optimizations. These activities are crucial to ensuring the reliability and security of the IT infrastructure.
  • Strategic IT Planning: MSPs often collaborate with businesses to develop long-term IT strategies aligned with their goals. They help organizations leverage technology effectively to achieve their objectives and stay competitive.
  • Predictable Billing: MSPs typically work on a fixed-fee or subscription-based model, providing predictable and budget-friendly IT support with clear service level agreements (SLAs).
  • Scalability: MSPs can scale their services based on the changing needs of their clients. Whether a business is growing or downsizing, MSPs can adjust their support accordingly.

Understanding Managed Security Service Providers (MSSPs):

Managed Security Service Providers (MSSPs) are specialized providers that focus exclusively on cybersecurity services. Their primary objective is to protect their clients’ IT systems from security threats, such as cyberattacks, data breaches, and unauthorized access. With the rising frequency and sophistication of cyber threats, businesses increasingly rely on MSSPs to fortify their security defenses and enhance their overall cyber resilience.

Key Features of MSSPs:

  •  Cybersecurity Expertise: MSSPs employ skilled cybersecurity professionals with expertise in threat detection, analysis, and response. These experts are well-versed in the latest cybersecurity trends and technologies.
  • Security Monitoring and Incident Response: MSSPs continuously monitor their clients’ networks, applications, and devices for potential security breaches. If any suspicious activity or threat is detected, the MSSP responds immediately to contain and remediate the incident.
  • Security Tools and Technologies: MSSPs use various security tools and technologies, including firewalls, intrusion detection systems (IDS), intrusion prevention systems (IPS), antivirus software, and encryption. These tools are deployed and managed to safeguard against various cyber threats.
  • Vulnerability Assessments and Penetration Testing: MSSPs conduct regular vulnerability assessments and penetration testing to identify potential weaknesses in a client’s IT environment. These assessments help proactively address vulnerabilities before attackers can exploit them.
  • Compliance and Regulatory Support: MSSPs often specialize in helping businesses comply with industry-specific regulations and data protection standards. They assist in meeting requirements set forth by laws like GDPR, HIPAA, PCI DSS, etc.
  • Security Reporting and Analytics: MSSPs provide regular security reports and analytics to their clients, offering insights into security incidents, threat trends, and overall security posture. This information helps businesses make informed decisions to strengthen their security measures.
  •  24/7/365 Security Operations Center (SOC): Many MSSPs operate a dedicated SOC to monitor their clients’ security around the clock. This ensures that potential threats are detected and addressed promptly, even outside regular business hours.

Key Differences between MSPs and MSSPs:

  •  Focus: The primary focus of MSPs is on managing and maintaining IT infrastructure, while MSSPs specialize in delivering cybersecurity services to protect against cyber threats.
  • Scope of Services: MSPs offer a broader range of IT management and support services, including infrastructure management, help desk support, and strategic IT planning. In contrast, MSSPs focus solely on cybersecurity services like monitoring, incident response, and compliance assistance.
  • Skillset: MSPs typically possess expertise in various IT domains, whereas MSSPs have specialized cybersecurity skills and knowledge to detect, prevent, and mitigate security threats.
  • Business Model: MSPs often work on fixed-fee or subscription-based models, providing predictable service billing. MSSPs may charge based on the level of security services required or the number of protected devices.
  • Collaboration: MSPs work closely with their clients to optimize IT operations and align technology with business goals. MSSPs collaborate with businesses to understand their security needs and customize solutions to protect against specific threats.
  • Depth of Security Services: While MSPs may provide some basic security measures, their primary focus is not cybersecurity. In contrast, MSSPs offer a comprehensive suite of security services dedicated to safeguarding against cyber threats.

When to Choose MSPs or MSSPs:

The decision to engage either an MSP or an MSSP depends on an organization’s specific needs and objectives. Here are some considerations for selecting the right service provider:
Choose an MSP if:

  • Your primary concern is managing and maintaining a complex IT infrastructure.
  • You require help desk support and technical assistance for your employees.
  • You need strategic IT planning and consultation to align technology with business objectives.
  • Your focus is on overall IT efficiency, reliability, and optimization.

Choose an MSSP if:

  • Your main priority is strengthening cybersecurity defences and protecting against cyber threats.
  • You need 24/7 security monitoring and incident response capabilities.
  • You want to comply with industry-specific security regulations and standards.
  • You seek expertise in threat detection and response, which is not a core competency within your organization.

Consider Both:

In some cases, organizations might benefit from engaging both an MSP and an MSSP. This hybrid approach allows businesses to leverage each provider’s strengths while ensuring comprehensive IT management and security coverage. For instance, an MSP can manage day-to-day IT operations, while an MSSP provides specialized security services to safeguard against cyber threats.


Managed Service Providers (MSPs) and Managed Security Service Providers (MSSPs) play vital roles in supporting businesses in the fast-paced digital landscape. MSPs focus on providing general IT management and support services, optimizing overall IT infrastructure efficiency, and driving productivity. On the other hand, MSSPs specialize in cybersecurity services, working diligently to protect against evolving cyber threats and ensure the security and privacy of sensitive data.

Organizations must assess their specific IT requirements, security needs, and budget constraints to decide whether to engage an MSP, an MSSP, or both. Regardless of the choice, partnering with the right service provider can empower businesses to focus on their core competencies, enhance operational efficiency, and strengthen their security posture in an increasingly interconnected world.

Peter Paul

Technology Consultant

About the Author:

Peter has over 20+ years of experience in managing and delivering enterprise applications and IT infrastructure. He served several IT companies in the US and Canada before joining Velan. He is instrumental in deploying, managing and delivering latest technologies at Velan. He can be reached at


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