MDR vs. MSSP: Comparing Managed Cybersecurity Services

If you’re in the market for managed security services, you’ve probably come across terms like MSSP and MDR. What’s the difference? Is either of them the right fit for you? In this post, we will examine MDR vs. MSSP, what each purports to solve, and how they deliver these services so you can make the right decision on whether they will provide the security outcomes your organization is looking for.

Defining Managed Services


According to Gartner, “a managed security service provider (MSSP) provides outsourced monitoring and management of security devices and systems. Common services include managed firewall, intrusion detection, virtual private network, vulnerability scanning and anti-viral services.”

An MSSP will monitor your devices 24/7 and deliver a digest of the alerts that come up. If you’re looking for a minimalist solution that ticks the “we have someone watching our systems” box, an MSSP might fit the bill.

However, it is important to note that an MSSP does very little actual detection and analysis of threats, if any. When they pass over that alert digest, it’s completely devoid of context or analysis, so it’s up to you and your team to decipher what’s going on. Response is entirely in your hands as well, as MSSPs don’t perform that function either.

MSSPs also tend to work based on service-level agreements (SLAs), which means they don’t adapt to changes over time.


Managed detection and response (MDR) is essentially an outsourced security operations center (SOC), or SOC-as-a-Service (SOCaaS). Like an MSSP, an MDR manages and takes responsibility for your security ecosystem 24/7/365, but adds on detecting and investigating threats. While a few MDR providers also respond to threats, most just give you the information you need to respond yourself.

Most MDR providers also come with tools in hand to help you fill any gaps you might have. MDRs usually have a predefined technology stack that includes things like a security information and event management (SIEM) system and an endpoint detection and response (EDR) platform. Traditionally, they’ll present their services in a turnkey format, packaging their particular tools, out-of-the-box detection and analysis capabilities, and data sources.

Learn about ReliaQuest’s approach to MDR ➞

What Is the Difference Between MSSP vs. MDR?

MSSP is a very basic service that provides 24/7 monitoring and collects alerts from your ecosystem. While MDR providers also cover those bases, they add additional support for the later stages of the security operations lifecycle, helping your team detect and investigate events.

How to Choose Between MDR and MSSP

It’s pretty simple. If you just need basic monitoring and little else, an MSSP might be a good option. If you want to up your game a little more and bring in detection and analysis, or if you need additional tooling, you could consider an MDR provider.

If you want to go beyond that and get help with response, measurement, or prevention? Well… MDR might not work. Here’s why.

  • They are cookie-cutter, meaning you might not get all the capabilities or expertise for your unique business needs.
  • They don’t often update their detection and response playbooks, meaning your best line of defense could be behind the times.
  • Their detection capabilities are rudimentary, often relying on out-of-the-box content that only focuses on known threats.
  • They lack investigation proficiencies and the best practices to reduce noise levels.
  • They often don’t support your tool stack, prompting you to either rely on their black-box approach or make more expensive purchases.
  • Their incident response isn’t always robust, leaving you to take on some of the legwork.
  • Most MDRs work as a “black box,” meaning your team has no transparency into what work is being done in your own environment.

If you want to go beyond the minimal features of an MSSP, or need additional support in incident response that most MDRs don’t provide, there is a great option.

Go Beyond MDR with ReliaQuest

ReliaQuest goes beyond traditional MDR to ensure you reach the security outcomes you’re looking for. We make security possible for our customers by force-multiplying their security operations teams so they can focus on higher-priority initiatives.

Learn more about ReliaQuest ➞

How ReliaQuest Does It Better


Unlike a lot of MDRs, transparency is at the top of our list. You have a right to know what we’re doing with your security stack, so we give you the same view as our analysts through our GreyMatter platform. We’re also big on actionable reporting, so you know where you stand and what you need to do to improve.

You not only see what we see—but you can also participate in detection, analysis, hunting, and response alongside our analysts. You can decide where, when, and how much you want to participate.


Over a decade of experience managing global customers has helped us codify best practices in our cloud-native technology platform to ensure consistent service delivery. We can reduce your noise level by 90% with automated, contextual threat enrichment.

We focus on going beyond out-of-the-box detection content. Our view into our global customer base affords us the ability to deliver detection and hunt content packages that are field-validated, consistently helping you be aware and ready against a dynamic threat landscape.


Taking a technology-first approach, we automate across the security lifecycle, including data collection, threat detection and hunting, contextual enrichment for investigations, and response.

Because we prioritize speed and efficiency, we can help you reduce false positives and drive faster time-to-insights and quicker remediations.

ReliaQuest: A trusted partner.

Our clients say it best: “ReliaQuest gives us hours back in our day, every single day. Since the beginning of our partnership, they’ve been right by our side, walking with us every step of the way.”

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