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Managed detection and response GLOSSARY

What is an MSSP vs MDR?

Despite global efforts to mitigate cyber threats, the frequency and sophistication of cyberattacks are increasing. Malicious hackers are finding vulnerabilities in the software and systems. Also, the shortage of cybersecurity skills and constrained resources has made 24/7 surveillance at the required level difficult and expensive. 

So, it’s no surprise that Managed Detection and Response (MDR) is gaining popularity in the current threat landscape. 

Several leading organizations are outsourcing security capabilities to a third-party cybersecurity provider, with managed security service providers (MSSP) and Managed Detection and Response providers (MDR) as their preferred managed service providers . While there is overlap between the two cybersecurity services, each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

What is an MSSP and what do they do?

In the 2023 Gartner® Market Guide for Managed Security Services, Gartner states that “Managed security services (MSSP) providers offer an array of security services that vary from provider to provider. This breadth of service offerings provides wide choice but increasingly overlaps with capabilities offered by other market segments.” MSSPs are typically best used for threat prevention given that they deliver continuous security monitoring and asset management. MSSPs also rely on the use of SOAR technologies to arm their SOC analysts with automation and orchestration.

An MSSP remotely monitors network security events and sends alerts if they notice any anomalies. It also protects your internal systems from potential cybersecurity incidents through services like managed firewalls, intrusion detection, and vulnerability scanning.

With an MSSP, you get the benefits of the latest monitoring technology without having to acquire, configure, and monitor it yourself. This allows you to focus your internal cybersecurity resources on cyber threats more likely to become legitimate security incidents.

MSSPs augment your internal security team's efforts by ensuring they detect cybersecurity incidents as they occur, reducing the impact and cost to your company. In many cases, this may even increase alert fatigue for your security team. Moreover, MSSPs rarely respond to and remediate a threat. They typically alert on a detected threat and leave the incident response and subsequent remediation to the customer. Traditional MSSPs don't investigate the anomaly to eliminate false positives, nor do they respond to security threats, expecting the organization (you) to take the required action instead.

What is MDR and what does it do?

Gartner describes MDR as “a service that provides customers with remotely delivered modern security operations center (SOC) capabilities allowing organizations to rapidly detect, analyze, investigate and actively respond through threat mitigation and containment” in the 2023 Gartner® Market Guide for Managed Detection and Response Services.

A strong MDR provider will ingest multiple signals to provide 24/7 threat detection, investigation, containment, and complete response to their customers. Additionally, they leverage machine learning and AI-powered XDR platforms to deliver rapid detection and automatically disrupt threats.

MDR providers have 24/7 Security Operations Center (SOC) Cyber Analysts and a team of Elite Threat Hunters to conduct in-depth investigations into potential cyber threats, going beyond the abilities of endpoint detection and response (EDR) solutions. This includes eliminating false positives, pinpointing real security threats, and developing incident responses in real-time. In addition, there are three ways to measure the breadth of response capabilities:

  • Response speed: Your MDR provider should be able to instantly and continuously detect and block threats. Alongside advanced automated technology, they should also have professional IT analysts on guard round the clock to protect you when human intervention is necessary.

  • Response coverage: From a response perspective, your MDR provider should have coverage across your complete attack surface. They should always be one step ahead by engaging 24/7 threat hunters, global SOC support, and multi-signal intelligence to protect you whenever a hacker strikes.

  • Response expertise: Your MDR provider should send you security alerts and take real ownership of protecting your business. They should contain and remediate cyber threats as part of their response capabilities, ensuring your business continues to run smoothly.

MDR providers also perform proactive threat hunting to prevent future cyberattacks or remediate intrusions that are undetected by your existing security solutions. This kind of deep visibility and control across your entire attack surface makes MDR service providers more likely to identify and respond to potential cyber threats that aren’t typically detectable using perimeter-based defenses and protect employees working remotely.

eSentire Managed Detection and Response (MDR)

At eSentire, we stand with you, every moment of every day, and push boundaries to keep you ahead. Learn what makes eSentire MDR stand out from our competitors and how we can help you put your business ahead of disruption.


What are the Pros and Cons of an MSSP?

Pros of an MSSP

Cons of an MSSP

  • 24/7 security monitoring: MSSPs are designed to enhance existing on-site IT security capabilities and provide 24/7 monitoring.
  • Security expertise: Developed by experienced security experts, MSSPs can identify cyber threats and send alerts as soon as they detect any anomalies.
  • Meets network security skills gap: With MSSP, you’ll have a team of vetted IT professionals to ensure your network is as protected as possible. This is a big advantage as organizations are having a hard time finding experienced IT security professionals—and if they do, they cannot always afford them.
  • Compliance management: MSSP providers are experts in risk management and compliance programs and help ensure your company is always in cybersecurity compliance with regulations like HIPAA, PCI, GDPR, and more.

Cons of an MSSP

  • Reactive: MSSPs have a reactive approach to cybersecurity, meaning they don’t take proactive measures like threat hunting and threat intelligence for rapid threat detection and response.
  • Automated communication: A faceless portal is the main communications interface with MSSPs. This may not be enough for companies who want more human involvement and expertise from their outsourced IT security service.
  • Lack of hands-on response: With MSSPs, you have to investigate and remediate incidents by yourself as the service just sends alerts. They also don't eliminate false negatives.

What are the Pros and Cons of MDR?

Pros of MDR

Cons of MDR

  • Multi-signal ingestion: Gain deeper correlation and investigation capabilities by ingesting high-fidelity data sources from endpoint, network, log, cloud, insider threat, assets, and vulnerability data to see the complete picture of your attack surface and contain cyber threats faster.
  • Human involvement and expertise: MDR solutions have dedicated security analysts team up with your IT team to alert, investigate, and respond to cyber threats.
  • Swift, timely response: MDR improves your organization’s response time to data breaches. Case in point—the average time taken to identify and contain a data breach in 2022 was 207 days. MDR can reduce that to mere hours, significantly minimizing the impact of a security breach.
  • Access to threat intelligence: MDR offers proactive cyber defenses and threat intelligence, including research and protection against unknown threats, that help organizations mitigate potential attacks.
  • Guaranteed, uninterrupted service: MDR has got your organization covered whenever and wherever it detects a new cyber threat, thanks to its 24/7 cybersecurity support.
  • Solves the cybersecurity skills gap: MDR gives you a vetted team of highly qualified and experienced IT professionals with skills and knowledge of cybersecurity professionals, without needing to recruit, train and retain those security professionals.

Cons of MDR

  • No remote device management: MDR vendors may not offer security controls for managing remote devices like firewalls, virtual private networks, and web gateways.
  • Limited reporting: Most MDR services have reporting features limited to security-related functions. Only a few provide compliance reporting.
  • Not the cheapest solution: Real, effective MDR providers may not be the cheapest solution, which can make it harder for you to get buy-in from your CFO.


When it comes to choosing the right security solution for your organization, there are a variety of options available. Although the two most popular solutions are Managed Detection and Response (MDR) and a Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP), some organizations choose to implement a Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) tool for a more cost-effective solution. However, since a SIEM is a technology platform, not a managed security solution, it is limited in use.

What is a SIEM?

Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) is a security solution that provides organizations with real-time insights into their IT environment. SIEM solutions are designed to collect and analyze, cybersecurity incidents to quickly detect potential cyber threats and help organizations respond quickly and effectively. Additionally, SIEM tools offer a variety of features including log management, anomaly detection, and user behaviour analytics, that can help organizations identify threats and take swift action to mitigate potential cyberattacks.

Unfortunately, given that SIEM is not a managed solution that only collects data sources from log signals, in-house security teams may not be able to gain full telemetry required to conduct a thorough threat investigation. As a result, security analysts may miss key attacker movements across their IT environment, resulting in weak or slow threat response. That being said, many MSSPs and MDR providers may leverage SIEM technology.

Before you commit to anything, learn about the various security postures within MDR and MSSP. Discover how they work with a SIEM platform and if that can help lighten the load for your internal IT security team.

MSSP vs. MDR: What should you choose for your organization?

The dividing lines between the managed security providers aren’t as clear as MSSP vs. MDR. Some MDR providers offer preventative services, and some MSSPs offer incident response and analysis of anomalies to remove false positives. 

Before making a decision, you should understand the different security postures within MDR and MSSP—and how they work with a SIEM platform to shoulder a few responsibilities of your internal IT security team.

Here are some general guidelines to help you decide between the two.

An MSSP may be the right solution if you:

  • Have broad general security needs that don’t need extensive security expertise
  • Don't have adequate internal security monitoring systems and passing programs
  • Require sufficient knowledge on how to use cybersecurity tools efficiently

An MDR provider may be the right solution if you:

  • Need rapid, robust response capabilities with the ability to disrupt, isolate, and stop the most advanced threats so that your business is never disrupted. You’ll be able to trust your MDR provider to respond to cyber threats on your behalf — before your team even knows there was a threat in the first place.
  • Require complete threat visibility and investigation so your security team can see the complete picture of your entire attack surface with multi-signal cyber threat intelligence that enables deeper data correlation and threat investigation capabilities.
  • Lack highly-skilled in-house security resources and want to benefit from 24/7 proactive threat hunting and disruption. Instead, you can engage an MDR provider with a team of highly skilled security experts who will rapidly investigate, contain and shut down threats when an automated response isn’t possible.
  • Want to leverage an XDR platform so your team can stay ahead of new and emerging threats with high fidelity threat detection and automated real-time cyber threat disruption powered by unique intelligence from across the MDR provider’s global customer base.
  • Need curated, original threat intelligence with access to world-class threat researchers who hunt the most advanced undetected threats. These researchers will develop, and deliver, original research, curate new cyber threat intelligence, and build advanced detection models to ensure your organization stays ahead of cyberattackers.

How to choose the right MDR provider for the organization

At its core, a best-in-class managed detection and response provider should demonstrate efficiency and effectiveness in improving your organization’s security posture across the threat landscape. They should be a direct extension of your in-house IT team and integrate seamlessly with your existing technology stack.

Here are the general criteria to determine the right option for your organization:

Consider the Mean Time to Contain

Given that the most aggressive ransomware attacks can take less than 45 minutes to deploy, speed is of the essence when it comes to threat containment. Look for an MDR security provider willing to commit to a Mean Time to Contain malicious activity. In addition, you should understand the length of time it takes to limit a threat to a single host within your environment and ensure the provider can follow through with the commitment.

Size of customer base matters

Because a Managed Detection and Response provider’s customers serve as the source for the data set used to train the XDR platform’s ML models, it’s important to choose a well-established company. After all, the more clients the provider has, the richer their data set. The richer the data set, the more accurate the detections, the quicker the investigations and the faster the containment will be.

Look for a Managed Detection and Response Provider that Customers Trust

One of the primary benefits of leveraging MDR services is that the provider can take containment and remediation actions on your behalf. However, you’ll have to give them permission to do this, which may mean ceding control over business-critical systems and processes. A provider that’s well-versed in performing incident response and remediation activities on behalf of multiple other clients in your industry will have the contextual awareness and experience to earn your trust.

In addition, a Managed Detection and Response provider who does a great deal of end-to-end containment and remediation will be able to incorporate information on those activities into its XDR machine learning training data. This means that its models will be able to operate on the basis of information that’s much richer and more extensive — encompassing the whole of the incident lifecycle — than those belonging to companies that primarily perform monitoring only.

Don’t Underestimate the Value of Integrations with Best of Breed Technology Providers

You’ll save money if you don’t need to rip and replace everything in your existing security technology stack. Even more importantly, however, operating across multiple vendors’ tools and solutions can enable complete cyberattack surface visibility and actually improve detection accuracy.

With that said, deep integration with a few key security tools is more important than broad integration with every tool. It’s more important to obtain full endpoint detection and response (EDR) telemetry and response integration than to integrate with every security toolset in existence.

If you need more help, see our 20 Questions To Ask When You’re Evaluating an MDR Service Provider guide to pick the most appropriate MDR provider that can actively help secure your business.

Stop Threats Before They Disrupt Your Business Operations With eSentire Multi-Signal Managed Detection and Response

With 24/7 threat detection and response and a 15-minute mean time to contain, your organization can rest easy knowing that our Managed Detection and Response service helps you build a world-class security operation.

We provide complete visibility and coverage of your cyberattack surface which we deliver through our multi-signal approach to managed detection and response. Our machine-learning Atlas XDR platform ingests network, cloud, log, endpoint, and insider threat signals to automatically detect, respond, and disrupt cyber threats.

eSentire Managed Detection and Response

Our MDR service combines cutting-edge Extended Detection and Response (XDR) technology, multi-signal threat intelligence and 24/7 Elite Threat Hunters to help you build a world-class security operation today. Our threat protection is unparalleled in the industry - we see and stop cyberattacks other cybersecurity providers and technologies miss, delivering the most complete response and protection.

Learn how eSentire Multi-Signal Managed Detection and Response stops threats before they impact your business.