Detection and response solutions are crucial for organizations to detect and remediate cyber threats within their security environment, enabling them to keep pace with the overwhelming cybersecurity challenges of today’s digital landscape.  

Among the tools that can provide these capabilities, two of the most common are managed detection and response (MDR) and extended detection and response (XDR).

Although they share similarities, there are several key differences. Choosing the right solution for your organization depends on understanding their specific capabilities and aligning them with your organization’s needs. 

What Is MDR? 

Managed detection and response (MDR) is an outsourced approach to cybersecurity involving technology and human expertise from a third party to provide continuous monitoring, detection, and response within an organization’s environment. Essentially, MDR providers offer remote, “turnkey” Security Operations Center (SOC) services, according to Gartner.

Unique Selling Point  

By leveraging the outsourced SOC and technology an MDR offers, organizations can extend their security capabilities without extensive internal resources, helping them detect and respond more quickly and effectively to threats. 

However, it is important to note that not all MDRs perform response. While some can just recommend responses, others can respond without additional steps or escalation.  

Business Model 

MDR leverages a predefined technology stack that extends to all major enterprise environments, including cloud, logs, networks, and endpoints. An off-site team of specialists oversees, recommends, and can respond to security events, often operating 24/7. MDRs typically work within a software-as-a-service (SaaS) subscription model. 

How Organizations Benefit 

An MDR solution is most helpful for organizations with limited in-house security capabilities that would prefer their security operations to be managed for them. Organizations that outsource their security can focus more on core business functions, while also ensuring around-the-clock protection against cyber threats.  

Organizations also benefit from the advanced technologies employed by MDR providers, including machine learning, advanced analytics, and threat intelligence, without the direct investment and management challenges. 

In summary, the benefits of MDR include: 

  • Outsourced team of experts 
  • Ready-to-go technology stack that’s upkept by the provider 
  • 24/7 monitoring and management 
  • Potential ability to respond to threats in real-time, not just deliver alerts 

What Is XDR?

An XDR solution is a technology-driven approach that integrates with various products for improved threat detection, investigation, and response across an organization’s environment. Its focus is to consolidate security data from multiple data sources—such as endpoints, servers, email, cloud workloads, and networks—to enable a more unified and streamlined approach to security operations.

Automation is a core feature of XDR, helping security teams improve efficiency, reduce response times, and minimize the potential for human error in detecting and responding to cyber threats.

Unique Selling Point 

XDR combines data from different security tools across the enterprise into centralized location where security analysts can perform investigations and initiate responses. This integrated approach improves an organization’s visibility, helping to detect multifaceted threats more efficiently than would be possible if all security tools were operating in silo.   

XDR vs. Open XDR 

Although an XDR solution offers improved visibility, achieving a holistic view requires “openness.” While open XDR providers can integrate with tools from multiple vendors, traditional XDR providers may force a degree of vendor lock-in. Open XDR solutions provide a flexible and adaptable security environment where organizations can tailor their security architecture to their specific needs and challenges. 

Business Model 

An XDR solution can be deployed on-premises or delivered as a SaaS offering. Ultimately, the choice between the two for an XDR solution depends on a variety of factors, including the organization’s size, industry, regulatory requirements, IT capabilities, and strategic priorities. 

How Organizations Benefit 

XDR is especially useful for organizations that have complex environments and the resources to support an in-house security team. It’s also beneficial to those organizations with strict regulatory and compliance requirements, as they allow for greater control over data and security processes—an advantage not always available with MDR services. XDR is also useful for teams that wish to automate routine security tasks, allowing them to focus on more complex challenges. 

XDR’s ability to provide a full attack story and automate repetitive security tasks enhances the efficiency of security operations and helps organizations improve the maturity of their security program. 

In summary, the overall benefits of XDR include: 

  • Improved visibility across complex IT environments 
  • A unified, cohesive attack story  
  • An all-in-one tool for small teams who want to “do it themselves.” 
  • Automation of time-consuming security tasks 


When considering an MDR or XDR for your organization, the most appropriate choice depends on your specific needs. Here’s a concise overview to help determine which solution may align best with your organization’s needs: 

MDR is better for…

  • Teams that lack technical expertise and want to leverage outside subject matter experts (SMEs) 
  • Organizations that want access to an enterprise-level security stack 
  • SOCs that require outside help to achieve 24/7 coverage 
  • Smaller teams that want additional analyst resources 

XDR is better for…

  • Gaining big-picture visibility over complex IT environments 
  • Getting the full attack story in context 
  • Making sense of data from multiple security layers 
  • In the case of open XDR, the Flexibility of not being locked into a vendor stack or using old tools 

There are benefits that both an MDR and XDR provide, such as the comprehensive coverage across all major attack vectors, including email, cloud workloads, endpoints, servers, networks. Depending on the provider, both solutions can also remediate, not just identify, attacks in progress. Additionally, they also help reduce the stress and potential burnout among security teams when managing security operations. 

Organizations should be transparent when assessing their in-house resources’ security strengths and needs and strategically choose which tool is best– or which to start with. 

ReliaQuest GreyMatter Open XDR  

Beyond the conventional MDR and XDR, our security operations platform, GreyMatter, offers a tailored fit for your organization’s security needs. Built on an open XDR architecture, GreyMatter provides both technological and human aid by combining technology with security expertise. With its vendor-agnostic approach, it’s able to seamlessly integrate with any technology in your tool stack. This integration centralizes data from multiple security layers, including endpoints, servers, emails, cloud, workloads, and networks—providing comprehensive monitoring any time of the day, anywhere in the world. 

With its bi-directional APIs, GreyMatter can ingest data from security tools and stitch it together to provide a unified detection, investigation, and response process, ultimately empowering security teams with the comprehensive understanding they need to swiftly respond to threats. It also provides the ability to automatically respond to threats in real-time.