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MSP vs. MSSP: Is There Still a Difference? Blog Feature

Managed IT services Cybersecurity

By: Collabrance LLC on December 5th, 2023


MSP vs. MSSP: Is There Still a Difference?

Most business owners today understand how critical cybersecurity is to their livelihood – and to ensure they’re adequately protected, they may choose to partner with a team of IT specialists. When considering options for outsourced IT, two choices will surface: A managed services provider (MSP) or managed security service provider (MSSP). MSPs and MSSPs both provide security solutions, but there are distinctions to be considered between the two. Let’s examine the similarities and differences between an MSP and MSSP to better understand each offering.  

Defining MSP and MSSP 

An MSP delivers network, application, database, and other general IT support. It fulfills a critical business need by delivering a wide range of IT services primarily focused on supporting the administration of their customer’s systems, databases, and applications to facilitate smooth day-to-day operations. An MSP can supply baseline security solutions and provide companies with an affordable and efficient way to store and manage their data.  

An MSSP, by comparison, specializes in additive, supplementary security services that can protect the infrastructure an MSP lays in place. The MSSP focuses on layered cybersecurity and advanced solutions to protect companies from cyberattacks. While an MSP provides general IT services with essential security measures, an MSSP provides comprehensive security products designed to reinforce and protect the core IT structure. 

The distinction between an MSP and MSSP doesn’t necessarily mean a business needs both, and there’s not one choice that’s fundamentally better than the other. To determine the best solution – and to provide the right guidance for your customers – it's important to understand the similarities and differences between an MSP and MSSP. 

The key similarities between MSPs and MSSPs 

Managed services providers (MSPs) and managed security service providers (MSSPs) share several similarities: 

1. Outsourced providers: Both MSPs and MSSPs are third-party vendors that offer their services to other businesses.

2. Area of focus: Both providers operate in the technology sphere. 

3. Service model: Both MSPs and MSSPs typically use a fixed per-device or per-user pricing model to sell and deliver services. 

4. Cybersecurity services: Both MSPs and MSSPs provide cybersecurity services. However, MSPs provide baseline cybersecurity solutions while MSSPs cybersecurity offerings are much more robust. 

Many modern MSPs perform MSSP duties – or aim to get there. This gives an MSP’s customer more value with fewer vendors, but it can also create confusion between the terminologies. 

The key differences between MSPs and MSSPs 

The primary distinction between an MSP and MSSP is the level of security solutions provided. In today’s era of advanced cybercrime, MSPs must continuously evolve their security capabilities to ensure their customers are protected. An MSSP provides deeper cybersecurity expertise. 

Managed services provider (MSP) 

MSPs typically provide broad IT operations and infrastructure management services. These services focus on improving day-to-day business efficiency and productivity while focusing on maintaining the health of the network and systems.  

MSPs usually operate out of a Network Operations Center (NOC) – a centralized location where computers, telecommunications, or satellite network systems are monitored and managed – acting as the first line of defense against network disruptions and failures. The key functions of a NOC include: 

  • Monitoring and management  
  • Incident response 
  • Preventative measures  
  • Continuous connectivity  
  • Network optimization  

 With an efficiently running NOC, the end user will have a seamless experience free from issues like poor network functionality. Other common MSP offerings include technical support, remote work monitoring, end user management, help desk services, and more. While many MSPs also provide baseline cybersecurity solutions (which are still vitally important and should not be overlooked), an MSSP’s security service is much more robust. 

Managed security service provider (MSSP)  

While MSPs aim to improve day-to-day business efficiency and productivity, MSSPs focus exclusively on cybersecurity. An MSSP aims to: 

  • Stop breaches 
  • Minimize risk  
  • Ensure systems are up to date
  • Meet compliance standards
  • Monitor and protect infrastructure
  • Respond to system intrusions

An MSSP typically operates out of a Security Operations Center (SOC) – a centralized function or team responsible for improving cybersecurity and preventing, detecting, and responding to threats. A SOC proactively addresses vulnerabilities before attackers have the chance to exploit an organization; it also uses the latest intelligence to stay current on threat groups and gain insights into attacker behavior, infrastructure, and motives.  

How can MSPs and MSSPs set themselves up for success? 

While it may seem like MSSPs are simply MSPs with a security focus, the distinction is evident. An MSSP’s specialized focus on cybersecurity allows for a level of protection that MSPs, with their broader focus, may not be able to match. 

However, this does not mean that one is inherently better than the other. The choice between an MSP and MSSP depends on the specific needs of a business. If a business has little IT support to begin with and requires a wide range of IT services along with basic security, an MSP might be the better choice. If a business has an internal IT team but needs resources specialized in advanced security, an MSSP would be more suitable. 

A cautionary notice to MSPs: The typical MSP customer – a smaller, less mature business – will often shop and buy on price, and, to cut costs, may forego some of the security components they legitimately need. MSPs should be prepared to walk away from prospective customers who aren’t willing to pay for the appropriate security services. If a customer isn’t purchasing the solutions needed to adequately protect their business, they are at risk – and so are you. In the event of a security incident, your MSP could face reputational risk and even financial liability.  

Watch: Cyber Insurance for MSPs – a GreatAmerica webinar with FifthWall Solutions 

In conclusion, while MSPs and MSSPs share much in common, their differences are meaningful. Understanding the specifics will help buyers and sellers make informed decisions about their IT services needs and offerings. 

How to enhance your MSP or MSSP with Collabrance  

Collabrance offers solutions to help both MSPs and MSSPs strengthen their product portfolio, including à la carte security solutions to help MSPs expand their security offering.  

Collabrance outsourced IT services for Managed it: 
  • NOC services 
  • NOC + service desk  
  • Basic user support  
  • IT security solutions including email security, endpoint security, UTM, and BDR
  • Project work 
  • Office technology support  

And more! To learn how Collabrance can enhance your MSP or MSSP, click below to view all services.

 IT Services for Technology Providers