Outsourcing non-core business operations to an external company is a familiar concept to most businesses, especially SMBs. It allows business owners to save money and leverage professional expertise without hiring full-time employees. The trend of companies hiring MSPs (Managed Service Providers) to handle their IT infrastructures has been gaining traction for quite some time. In fact, the MSP market is expected to reach over $329 billion by 2025.
The acronym MSSP (Managed Security Service Provider), on the other hand, has only recently started surfacing and is not as widely recognized. MSP and MSSP both offer IT-related services, but there are major differences in their areas of expertise and focus. Continue reading to find out how they’re both different types of providers and if you should be hiring one over the other.
What is an MSP?
A managed service provider, or an MSP, is there to make sure that your IT infrastructure is operating optimally, your LOB applications are serving the intended purpose, and all of your technology needs are being met. MSPs can operate on per-diem, per-user, or per-device pricing models.
Typically, MSPs have their own back-end infrastructure and provide network and infrastructure resources to the end-users through remote access. Their primary focus is IT administration tasks such as hardware maintenance, software updates and patches, NOC(Network Operations Center) services, help desk support, data and access management, backups, and much more.
What to Look For In An MSP
When it comes to the IT needs of businesses, there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution. But luckily, not all MSPs are equal in that each can offer a different set of services, target different industries, and have different core values. So, there are no pre-built checklists that can help you find the perfect MSP for your business. And choosing an MSP solely based on their technology stack and the list of the services they provide won’t cut it. You’ll have to deeply evaluate your business requirements first, and then create a custom checklist for yourself.
However, here are a few points that can make it easier for you to decide:
1. Industry-specific Expertise:
Industry-specific expertise is critical for industries that are technologically advanced or subjected to stringent regulations. For instance, an MSP who has a proven track record of working with pharmaceutical companies will better understand the compliance landscape surrounding the pharma and healthcare sectors and can leverage the knowledge to form a suitable IT strategy.
2. Onsite services:
Not all MSPs offer onsite services, and not all companies need them. However, most of the companies will need at least a few, fixed visits to the physical office. Especially if you plan to fully outsource your IT department or rely heavily on your legacy infrastructure, you’ll need a provider that can visit your office as needed for onsite technical support, check-up visits, and installing IT projects and hardware on-site.
3. Customer service:
The last thing you want during a server outage is having to deal with inconsiderate support technicians or an MSP that takes ages to respond. Your MSP should have well-established procedures for issue escalation and resolution. Make sure that the specified response times for various support levels meet your business requirements.
Also, if you don’t want to dread contacting your MSP every time you need to, invest time in learning about the core values of your potential MSPs. Opt for a provider with a customer-centric approach and an empathetic staff.
Switching MSPs while your business undergoes an expansion can be complex, expensive, and chaotic. So, make sure that you choose a suitable one from the get-go. An MSP that relies on automation and tools more than people and teams and supports scalable infrastructure can support you during growth spurts and unexpected demand hikes.
What is an MSSP?
Unlike MSPs that basically provide operations and administration, MSSPs, or Managed Security Service Providers, are there to ensure the safety and security of an organization’s people, data, and information systems. MSSPs also offer a few different pricing models to suit various business needs.
By partnering with an MSSP, even small to medium-sized organizations can benefit from 24×7 SOC (Security Operations Center), sophisticated cybersecurity tools, and industry-leading security analysts and compliance experts. From firewall management and penetration testing to threat detection, analysis, and remediation, an MSSP can address all of your security concerns.
What to Look For In An MSSP?
While MSPs can also provide basic cybersecurity services like remote management and monitoring of network infrastructure, MSSPs’ security services are much more extensive and all-inclusive. MSSPs have advanced knowledge of emerging cybersecurity trends like ZTNA (Zero Trust Network Access), SASE (Secure Access Service Edge), and XDR (Extended Detection and Response). They can provide access to cybersecurity tools and technologies like SIEM (Security Information and Event Management) and IAM (Identity Access Management).
When choosing an MSSP for your business, here’s all that you should be looking for:
1. Access to Advanced Technologies
Here’s what sets MSSPs apart from MSPs that offer basic RMM(Remote Monitoring and Management) services: purpose-built technology for managed security services. Don’t hesitate to learn about the proprietary and third-party tools your potential MSSP will be using and their criteria for evaluating and selecting those. Any MSSP worth its salt will be able to provide satisfactory insight into their technology stack.
2. Appropriate Alert Quality
The accuracy of cybersecurity tools and the quality of alerts generated are also paramount. You wouldn’t want to exhaust your resources trying to address hundreds of false-positive alerts every day. Learn about MSSP procedures to prioritize, investigate, validate, and escalate alerts generated by tools. You can also ask for a sample event alert to ensure that the alert includes the context of the event and offers relevant recommendations for taking the next steps.
3. Compliance Awareness
States and industries continue tightening the regulations around how and where sensitive user information can be stored. Make sure that your potential MSSP has the knowledge and technology to help you comply with data privacy and security regulations applicable to your business and industry. Even if a security incident occurs, your MSSP should be able to provide evidence that there was no lack of effort on their part to protect clients’ data and infrastructure.
4. Tailored Security Architecture
Instead of an MSSP offering standard security services for all clients alike, consider a provider that first conducts an assessment of your company’s current security posture and offers tailored security services based on that. Most data breaches occur due to user negligence. Based on the current security awareness of your staff, you should also consider if your MSSP offers end-user training and cybersecurity awareness workshops.
Can an MSP Be an MSSP?
The average cost of a data breach in 2020 was $3.92 million, and SMBs were a lucrative target for cybercriminals because of their limited cybersecurity funds. Thanks to strict regulations such as GDPR, CMMC, PCI, HIPAA, FISMA, SOX, SOC, and CCPA, not having enough security controls in place can cost you your business. Ironically, investing in comprehensive, in-house cybersecurity can also cause your business to shut down because of the sheer expenses of supporting a cybersecurity team. Outsourcing IT operations and security does seem to be a viable solution, but do you really need to hire separate companies for managing operations and security?
MSSPs invest in training their security analysts to keep them up-to-date with emerging threats and security technologies. Their holistic and proactive approach means better compliance management, ransomware planning, and incident response. And the difference also lies in practices and procedures such as documenting incidents and response strategies. MSSPs make sure that you can defend your data privacy and cybersecurity measures in front of the law should a breach occur.
About 75% of MSPs have incorporated security services within their offerings. However, not all of them can bring the level of experience, tools, and technologies that MSSPs bring to the table. For an MSP to truly become an MSSP, the provider must first set up a high-availability SOC for providing round-the-clock security services. They must also include offerings such as RMM, SIEM, IDPS(Intrusion Detection and Prevention System), and IAM in their services. Alternatively, they can outsource security services to a dedicated MSSP as well. So, if you decide to choose a single provider for both jobs, make sure that you choose a provider that’s capable enough to provide security services that are at par with MSSPs.