MSP vs MSSP: Differences and Paths to Collaboration


Managed services are at the crossroads of safeguarding digital assets and ensuring the continuity of operations in the face of the complexity of digitalization and cyber threats. No wonder the global managed services market is expected to grow at a 13.6% CAGR from 2023 to 2030, per Grand View Research. 

With the boundaries between IT management and cybersecurity becoming increasingly blurred, organizations need to move away from an MSP vs MSSP approach and aim to strike a harmonious partnership. This collaboration creates a holistic cybersecurity strategy that manages IT infrastructure and fortifies it against an evolving threat landscape.

What Is an MSP?

A managed service provider (MSP) is a company that proactively manages and maintains its clients’ IT infrastructure and end-user systems. At its core, MSPs handle the seamless day-to-day operation of client technologies, a task that often spans multiple locations and intricate network structures.

The MSP takes charge of managing servers – whether on-premises or in the cloud – overseeing access permissions and mitigating downtime. They are also responsible for bolstering security measures, such as addressing indicators of compromise.

Typical offerings of an MSP include:

  • Administering IT infrastructure components such as network routing, network rules and configurations for web proxies
  • Supervising access, maintenance and use of applications and databases
  • Delivering support services through a help desk for end users
  • Managing user access accounts on clients’ systems, including tasks such as active directory management
  • Facilitating software provisioning, including deployment, maintenance and upgrades
  • Offering strategic direction through comprehensive plans to guide clients in optimizing their technology investments

Due to limited budgets and resources, businesses often find it more valuable to outsource these IT functions to an MSP instead of hiring and training their own internal IT team.

What Is an MSSP?

MSSP stands for managed security service provider — a type of company that offers outsourced monitoring and management of security systems. The global cybersecurity workforce gap is roughly 4 million people, per ISC2. To meet this scarcity and demand, managed security service providers help businesses enhance their security posture.

MSSPs actively monitor clients’ networks and systems for security events and anomalies such as business email compromise (BEC) and brute force attacks. They use advanced security information and event management (SIEM) tools to proactively detect and respond to security incidents promptly.

Key MSSP offerings include:

  • Conducting planning and testing scenarios to assess a customer’s environment and evaluate procedures for responding to intrusions
  • Implementing preventative solutions like antivirus programs, firewalls, web gateways and various tools designed for data protection and minimizing vulnerabilities
  • Continuous monitoring and assessment of vulnerabilities across a client’s endpoints, SaaS applications, workloads and systems
  • Providing cybersecurity training and ensuring compliance with industry-specific requirements

MSSP vs MSP: Key differences 

Here are the key differences between MSP and MSSP functions:

Aspect Managed Service Provider Managed Security Service Provider
Focus Primarily handles IT infrastructure management and maintenance to ensure smooth functionality and efficiency of a client’s IT environment Specialized in delivering comprehensive cybersecurity services, centered around a security operations center (SOC) to monitor and manage security events
Services IT infrastructure management, help desk support, network maintenance, general IT support and basic security measures such as data loss prevention Specialized cybersecurity services, including security event monitoring, threat detection and response, vulnerability management, penetration testing and compliance management
Security expertise While MSPs are not exclusively focused on cybersecurity, they may provide basic cybersecurity services Specialized expertise of skilled professionals, advanced security tools and a SOC dedicated to continuous monitoring and incident response
Scope of operations Concerned with the overall performance of an organization’s IT infrastructure, extending beyond security Targeted and specialized focus on cybersecurity, specifically geared towards protecting clients against security threats such as data breaches

How MSPs and MSSPs Collaborate Together

Comparing MSPs vs MSSPs can be misleading because the two often work in tandem.

The collaboration between both vendors combines holistic IT management with specialized cybersecurity expertise, creating a proactive and adaptive security posture and comprehensive risk mitigation.

Let’s explore the paths to collaboration between MSSP and MSP vendors.

Coordinated Service Delivery

Both MSPs and MSSPs operate as separate entities but work in a coordinated manner to meet the client’s needs. They maintain their distinct service offerings and interfaces but collaborate on the back end to ensure a seamless experience for the client.

Clients interact separately with both providers but experience a well-coordinated and integrated set of services. This model allows clients to benefit from specialized IT management and security monitoring services without a fully merged service interface.

Integrated Service Packages

Integrated packages involve bundling services from both providers into a cohesive offering. Rather than operating as distinct entities, the MSP and MSSP create unified service packages covering IT management and cybersecurity.

Clients receive a consolidated solution that addresses both their IT infrastructure needs and cybersecurity requirements in a seamless, integrated manner. This approach provides clients with a one-stop shop for comprehensive IT and security services, simplifying the overall service delivery.

Referral Partnerships

Referral partnerships involve a collaborative arrangement where an MSP and an MSSP refer clients to each other based on their respective expertise. In this scenario, when the MSP encounters cybersecurity and data protection needs beyond its scope, it refers the client to the MSSP and vice versa.

This collaboration is built on trust and the recognition that each partner brings unique strengths to the table. Referral partnerships allow clients to access specialized services when needed while maintaining a network of trusted providers. It also ensures that clients receive the most relevant and expert assistance, even if it involves collaborating with multiple service providers.

SaaS Alerts: The Best Security Partner for Both MSP and MSSP Vendors

Whether you’re an MSP or MSSP, SaaS Alerts is the bridge that brings it all together for a robust and comprehensive security posture.

By seamlessly integrating with your IT and cybersecurity efforts, SaaS Alerts offers a unified defense strategy. Our continuous monitoring capabilities, coupled with automated remediation, ensure a proactive approach for secure business continuity.

Start your free trial to see how SaaS Alerts helps MSP and MSSP vendors.

Get Started

Request a Demo