The Difference Between an MSP vs. an MSSP – Which is Better?

What is an MSP?

A managed service provider (MSP) is when a business outsources particular services to a specialist company. Many people understand that outsourcing has become a cost-saving move for businesses. MSP mainly focuses on its outsourced IT services. A managed service provider usually takes care of:

  • Offering technical support to staff
  • Managing IT infrastructure
  • Offering fully managed hardware outsourcing
  • Adding cybersecurity hardening to IT systems
  • Managing user access accounts on clients’ systems
  • Managing software inventories

MSPs can provide software-as-a-service or offer remote storage and servers. Some MSPs also offer their expertise in IT to help prevent problems on a client’s system and assist users with usage difficulties. Many people partner with an MSP so they can provide them with a single niche service, or because they could replace an entire company’s IT department entirely. As the technology industry continues to evolve so does the expertise of MSPs. 

What is an MSSP?

A managed security service provider (MSSP), provides IT expertise in security-as-a-service offerings for customers. An MSSP main focus is on their security services. MSSPs usually specialize in one or several main areas, however, they can also offer a wide range of general security services also. Here are a few examples MSSPs can offer security technology offerings include deploying, configuring, or managing:

  • Anti-virus (AV)
  • Firewalls (UTMs, NGFWs, etc.)
  • Data loss prevention (DLP)
  • VPN
  • Intrusion prevention systems (IPS)
  • Threat Intelligence
  • Identity access management (IAM)
  • Privileged access management (PAM)

History of MSSP

While MSPs have been around for over twenty years, MSSPs have only recently gained popularity. The use of MSSPs is gaining momentum in today’s IT security industry, with many businesses seeking to get ahead, by partnering with an MSSP. 

The concept of an MSSP began in the late 1990s with Internet Service Providers (ISPs). At the time, ISPs were offering users firewall appliances and also offered the ability to manage that firewall for them. This sparked the idea of separating that service out of the ISP’s general domain of services and introducing protection as a separate service offering – a managed security service provider. Over time, as security breaches and cyber threats began to grow, so did the need for protection against these threats. Companies needed help from outsourced experts, as bad actors, hackers with malicious intent are becoming more and more sophisticated. Just like technology continues to evolve, so did the services offered by MSSPs. MSSPs has evolved into a full-service security provider. 


Both MSP and MSSP are third-party service providers. However, each of these providers focuses their efforts on different services. An MSP offers a general overview of network and IT support. Their services may include managed telecommunications (telco), Enterprise applications, or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platforms. As for an MSSP, their main focus is strictly providing security services. 

MSPs utilizes their own Network Operation Center (NOC) where they monitor and manage customer operations. On the flip side, an MSSP utilizes a Security Operations Center (SOC), which is responsible for protecting infrastructure (servers, applications, databases, networks, etc.) SOC provides 24/7 security monitoring and incident response. 

NOC is a centralized technology operations center. Its main focus is on the day-to-day tasks helping businesses with their IT needs. Here is a break down of NOC:

  • Network communications
  • Reporting of trend identification
  • 24/7 network, hardware, and software optimization
  • Roadmap recommendations
  • Alert management and reduced downtime
  • Constant monitoring 
  • Patch management and updates
  • Data backup management

SOC performs a cost-effective analysis of your network, and cloud-based infrastructure to identify and resolve issues before they become an issue. Here is a break down of SOC:

  • Research and analysis: Logs and records security data of regular and irregular trends.
  • 24/7 network monitoring
  • Security policies: Ensure all services are up-to-date and compliant with the latest laws and regulations
  • Risk mitigation and threat detection
  • Comprehensive investigations: Preventing future attacks by understanding how and why a breach happened

When You Should Choose an MSSP

To put it simply, a managed service provider focuses their efforts on offering services such as software and product development, project management, and can help your enterprise holistically from an applications perspective, but a managed security service provider offers specific and complete security ensuring all IT infrastructures and team members are safe, secure, and compliant. How you decide which one you need to retain is up to you. Do note, however, that an MSSP can provide a much more focused level of security than MSPs, as that’s all they do. 

Some benefits of partnering with an MSSP include:

  • Specialized expert help: If a breach or incident occurs, companies want to know they have access to specialized cybersecurity expertise. For example, a forensic specialist can investigate the situation, assess where it started, and provide services to stop the situation. An MSSP has the expert skills required to perform these services as needed.
  • Fill all skills gap positions: Filling vacant roles for a company’s internal security team can be strenuous and costly. Many company’s internal teams do not have the expertise or skills to provide proper cybersecurity. That’s why companies decide to partner with an MSSP, to fill skill gaps internally or replacing it entirely. 
  • 24/7 security protection: Be prepared for a cyberattack to occur at any time. An MSSP can provide continuous analysis and detection 24/7 in a SOC, responding quickly to all potential cyber threats. 
  • Increased security maturity: Businesses of all sizes, but especially SMBs, do not have the proper required security maturity. By partnering with an MSSP, businesses have access to fast solutions for constructing mature cybersecurity.
  • Security solutions and management: The best way to configure and manage cybersecurity solutions is help from an expert.  Partnering with an MSSP can save you money by providing expert help of security management without the costs of establishing an in-house talent team. 
  • Massive savings on ownership: Cybersecurity solutions can offer multi-tenant architecture support and versatility. MSSPs implement the same solution that they can use across multiple clients, keeping costs low and protection high. 
  • Compliance Support: As new data protection laws and regulations emerge, so does the need for compliance support. An MSSP can provide compliance after a potential threat or incident by collecting data and generating reports during regulatory audits.

A huge factor when it comes to choosing between an MSP and MSSP is employee and customer security protection. Both need different levels of access to your company’s data. An MSSP has the capabilities to customize security for all individuals involved. To ensure your business security, MSSP grants access to individuals with whom you want to share data. They will make sure to protect against unauthorized users, further enhancing the protection of your sensitive data. 

How K2 Managed Solutions can help you

We know that protecting your customer and company data is one of your most top priorities and concerns. It can be very challenging and even add extra stress to your plate. That’s why, when faced with needing both application and development help, and then security services to keep that safe, especially in this climate of remote work, we’d suggest going with both. MSPs and MSSPs work best in tandem and keep each other accountable. Your IT projects get delivered by specialist teams, while your cybersecurity is monitored by experts.

K2 Managed Solutions wants to work with you as your trusted managed service provider. Step by step we will be there for you, meeting your technology infrastructure and security needs. Our main priority is keeping your business up to date and safe, and we will work with you and an outsourced MSSP to ensure the sanctity of your networks. Contact us to find out more. 

Marketing Team