MSP vs MSSP: Key Differences, How to Choose and Examples

5 min read
09 February 2024

In an era where digital security is not just a luxury but a necessity, understanding the roles of Managed Service Providers (MSPs) and Managed Security Service Providers (MSSPs) is more important than ever.  

As cyber threats grow in complexity, the distinction between MSP and MSSP becomes crucial for businesses striving to safeguard their digital landscapes.  

This article will demystify these roles, highlighting the key differences and guiding you in choosing the right service for your cybersecurity needs.  

Understanding MSPs and MSSPs 

MSPs and MSSPs, while overlapping in certain areas, have distinct roles and services that cater to different aspects of IT and security needs. In this section, we'll outline what each type of provider offers and how evolving cybersecurity fears affect them. 

Definition and Roles 

MSP - Definition and Services 

MSPs Defined (3)


MSPs play a critical role in the IT infrastructure of many businesses. Their services are diverse, catering to various aspects of technology management and cybersecurity: 

  • IT Security: Developing and implementing comprehensive IT security strategies 
  • Network Security: Safeguarding data transmission over networks to prevent unauthorized access 
  • Managed Antivirus: Providing advanced antivirus solutions to protect against malware and other cyber threats 
  • Cybersecurity: Offering a wide range of cybersecurity services tailored to protect businesses from online threats 
  • Security Services: Involving regular monitoring and management of a business's IT environment to ensure ongoing protection 

MSSP - Definition and Services 

MSSPs Defined


MSSPs specialize primarily in comprehensive cybersecurity services. They offer a focused suite of services aimed at fortifying businesses against a variety of cyber threats: 

  • Advanced cybersecurity: Delivering solutions to protect against sophisticated cyber attacks 
  • IT Security: Providing specialized IT security services that complement a company's existing IT infrastructure 
  • SOC: Offering Security Operations Center (SOC) services, where they monitor and analyze an organization's security posture on an ongoing basis 

Evolution in the Cybersecurity Landscape - How it affects MSPs and MSSPs 

The cybersecurity landscape is in constant flux, driven by the rapid evolution of technology and the sophistication of cyber threats. This dynamic environment significantly influences the roles and services of both MSPs and MSSPs.  

For MSPs, it means continuously adapting their service offerings to include the latest technology and security measures. For MSSPs, it necessitates staying ahead of the curve regarding threat intelligence, advanced threat detection, and response capabilities. 

Understanding how these roles adapt and evolve is vital for businesses looking to stay secure in an increasingly digital world. 

MSP vs MSSP: The Key Differences 

When selecting a provider for your cybersecurity needs, understanding the critical differences between MSPs and MSSPs is crucial. This section delves into each offer's distinct approaches and services, providing clarity to make an informed decision. 



Key Differences in the Services They Offer 

While intersecting, the services offered by MSPs and MSSPs have fundamental differences that cater to specific IT and security management aspects. 

MSP Services: 

  • General IT support and management 
  • Regular software updates and patch management 
  • Network management and performance monitoring 
  • Data backup and recovery services 
  • Basic cybersecurity measures and protocols 

MSSP Services: 

  • Advanced and comprehensive cybersecurity solutions 
  • Real-time threat monitoring and incident response 
  • Security risk assessments and compliance management 
  • Tailored cyber defense strategies against sophisticated threats 
  • Training and awareness programs for staff on cybersecurity best practices 

How They Approach Cyber Security 

MSP Approach: MSPs integrate cybersecurity into their broader IT management services. They focus on preventive measures like firewalls and antivirus solutions, ensuring a secure IT infrastructure. 

MSSP Approach: MSSPs specialize in advanced cybersecurity, offering proactive and reactive measures. They provide detailed security analysis, continuous monitoring, and rapid response to incidents, focusing on cyber threats. 

Types of MSPs and MSSPs with Examples 

The spectrum of MSPs and MSSPs varies widely, each specializing in different facets of IT and security services. 

Types of MSPs: 

  • Traditional MSPs: Offering general IT support, network management, and essential security services 
  • MSPs with Security Focus: These MSPs have a stronger emphasis on cybersecurity, providing enhanced security services 
  • Cloud Service MSPs: Specializing in cloud-based services and solutions 

Types of MSSPs: 

  • Pure-play MSSPs: Focused solely on cybersecurity services 
  • Compliance-focused MSSPs: Offering security services tailored to specific regulatory compliance needs 
  • Integrated MSSPs: Combining traditional MSP services with an advanced security focus 

Understanding the types and services offered by MSPs and MSSPs is fundamental in choosing the right partner to safeguard your business's digital assets. 

Choosing Between an MSP and an MSSP 

Choosing between an MSP and an MSSP can be pivotal for your business's cybersecurity posture. This decision hinges on understanding your needs and evaluating each option's benefits. 

Assessing Your Business Needs 

Understanding the level of cybersecurity your business requires is likely to be the determining factor here. MSPs will offer much broader IT assistance but only basic cyber-attack protection levels. Look into your data and ensure you're protected with your future in mind. 

MSP vs MSSP Questions


MSP vs Internal IT: Determining Your Needs 

  • MSP Benefits: Access to a broad range of IT expertise, cost-effective resource management, and proactive technology solutions 
  • Internal IT Pros: Direct control over IT processes, in-house expertise tailored to your specific business needs 
  • Decision Factors: Consider the complexity of your IT needs, the scale of your operations, and the level of in-house expertise available 

Assessing the Cybersecurity Risks to Your Company 

  • Identify Potential Threats: Understand the types of cyber threats your business may face 
  • Evaluate Impact: Assess how a security breach could impact your operations, reputation, and finances 
  • MSP Cyber Insurance Considerations: Determine if MSP-provided cyber insurance aligns with your risk assessment 

MSP vs CSP (Cloud Service Provider) and Other Alternatives 

  • MSP vs CSP: MSPs offer comprehensive IT services, while CSPs focus on cloud-based solutions. Choose based on your reliance on cloud services. 
  • Other Alternatives: Consider factors like scalability, the need for specialized services, and the required support level when evaluating other options like in-house IT or hybrid models. 

Choosing between an MSP and an MSSP requires carefully evaluating your business's unique needs, the potential risks you face, and the value each service provider brings.

The Future of MSP and MSSP in Cybersecurity 

As the cybersecurity landscape evolves, so do the roles and services of Managed Service Providers (MSPs) and Managed Security Service Providers (MSSPs). Keeping pace with emerging trends is crucial for businesses to secure their digital assets effectively. 

Emerging Trends 

  • SOC as a Service: Security Operations Center (SOC) as a Service is gaining traction as a cost-effective solution for businesses needing advanced security monitoring without the overhead of a complete in-house SOC. It offers real-time analysis of security alerts generated by applications and network hardware, which is particularly beneficial for small to medium-sized businesses. 
  • Umbrella MSP: An emerging concept, Umbrella MSPs provide a comprehensive suite of IT services, encompassing traditional MSP offerings with added layers of security services, often in partnership with specialized MSSPs. This approach ensures businesses can access general IT support and advanced security solutions under one roof. 

The future of MSP and MSSP in cybersecurity is shaping up to be more integrated, focusing on providing comprehensive, all-encompassing services to address the increasingly complex cyber threat landscape. 

Key Takeaways – MSP vs MSSP 

As we said at the outset of this blog, understanding the fundamental differences between MSPs and MSSPs is crucial. This knowledge will empower you to make informed decisions that suit your business's unique needs. 

  • MSPs focus primarily on overall IT services, ensuring your technology infrastructure runs smoothly and efficiently. They provide a broad range of services, from network management to data backup and recovery. 
  • MSSPs, on the other hand, specialize in comprehensive cybersecurity. They offer services like continuous monitoring, advanced threat detection, and incident response, which are crucial for protecting against sophisticated cyber threats. 

Choosing between an MSP and an MSSP isn't just about selecting a service provider; it's about aligning your organization's needs with the right expertise. Whether enhancing your existing IT infrastructure or fortifying your defenses against cyber threats, the decision requires careful consideration. 

Evaluate your current cybersecurity posture, understand the unique threats you face, and consider the scale of your IT requirements. A well-chosen MSP or MSSP can streamline your operations and significantly enhance your cybersecurity resilience. 

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