What is an MSSP (Managed Security Service Provider)?

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Oct 01, 2019

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What is an MSSP?

As the IT Channel continues to evolve, so do our industry acronyms including the term "MSSP." The question then becomes what is the difference between a Managed Service Provider (MSP) and a Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP). An MSSP in general could be considered as an "organization who provides outsourced security services to other organizations." This definition is very vague and somewhat obvious. So, what is an MSSP?

In my opinion, an MSSP offers Security-as-a-Service, ensuring organizations, end users, and systems are safe, secure and meet necessary compliance requirements.

MSSPs have actually been around before the "dot.com era," but have recently gained more attention and focus as the cybersecurity landscape continues to evolve at a rapid rate. End users are more aware of the threats and consequences they face if they are not proactive. If customers outsource their IT needs to a MSP, they by default expect you to be responsible for their cybersecurity needs as their trusted technology advisor.

The evolution of cyber threats continues to cause havoc in the SMB channel. In response, MSPs need to invest in the resources and technology to transition their business to a security-first approach, or work with an existing MSSP to enhance their existing IT business in order to stay relevant.

IT Channel continues to see an increasing amount of merger and acquisition activity that includes MSSPs which could be an early indicator of the success some of MSSPs are experiencing. In addition, several large security providers have noted significant growth and major success being driven by MSSP partners.

What is the difference between a MSP vs. MSSP?

There is a blurred line between what you could consider an MSP and an MSSP that comes with no clear definitions, different opinions, many questions and a lot information. In my opinion, an MSSP takes a security-first approach while maintaining user experience, while traditional managed services takes a user-experience first approach while maintaining necessary security measures.

An MSP offers IT solutions securely, whereas an MSSP offers secure IT solutions.

What is Managed Security Services?

MSSPs also use technology and expand management/monitoring of environments that is not usually part of managed services. For example, 24x7 network operation centers (NOC) is standard, and many MSSPs are building/buying or partnering to offer 24x7 security operation centers (SOC). In addition, you are seeing some advanced technology become integrated into the security solution such as utilization of artificial intelligence or endpoint detection and response.

Image Above: Generalization of managed security services offering of an MSP and MSSP.
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One other common area that MSSPs are emphasizing more than MSPs is compliance. Not only does MSSP's technology, processes and procedures focus on assisting their end customers’ security needs, but also their compliance needs as these areas typically go hand-in-hand. Many MSSPs are offering complimentary services that aid their end customers during their compliance audits such as security awareness training, vulnerability scanning, cyber threat insurance and breach response services.

Why Managed Security Services? What are the benefits of Collaborating with an MSSP?

As the demand for cybersecurity continues to increase from end users, so does the opportunity for MSSPs to thrive. In a recent survey, only 18% of service providers currently identified themselves as an MSSP (July 2019).

If business owners want to evolve their managed services business with cybersecurity, they have the option to build, buy or partner. Depending on their strategic vision, timeline and resources, it may make sense to collaborate with an MSSP to enhance their existing managed services. Some benefits to working with an MSSP could include:

  • Speed to market – As an MSP, you are able to leverage existing cybersecurity processes and vetted technology.
  • Expanded services – Many MSPs lose customers or prospects because they did not have a particular cybersecurity product/service. Working with an MSSP is a great way to expand your IT offering without as much investment.
  • Access to cybersecurity experts – Many MSPs struggle to hire and retain cybersecurity experts and leveraging an outsourced SOC is a great way to combat this.

If you are looking to learn more about the state of managed security services, join our upcoming webinar with GreatAmerica to discuss opportunities to grow your business faster an as MSSP.

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About The Author

Corey Kerns

Corey Kerns, Vice President and General Manager, is responsible for the overall vision at Collabrance, and oversees sales, marketing, operations, strategic leadership and financial performance. In 2015, Corey joined Collabrance as the Senior Finance and Operations Analyst. In this role, Corey was responsible for developing and monitoring key performance indicators, as well as assisting in the evaluation of profitability, efficiency and automation strategies. Prior to joining Collabrance, Corey started at GreatAmerica in 2011 and served as the Senior Business Unit Analyst for the Connected Technology Group. In this role, Corey led all activities with respect to financial controls and evaluating the financial implications of the business unit’s operating strategy. Corey received his B.A. in Business Administration from Wartburg College and earned an M.B.A. from the University of Iowa.