A managed security service provider (MSSP or security MSP) is a company that provides outsourced monitoring and management of security devices and systems. Security MSPs use advanced technologies and security experts to manage, monitor, and enhance the security postures of their clients on an ongoing basis.
Some key questions when evaluating security MSPs include:
- What security services and solutions do they offer?
- How do they monitor and respond to security threats?
- What is their client support model and response time?
- How do they help improve security programs over time?
What services do security MSPs provide?
Security MSPs provide a range of services to help organizations manage risk, comply with regulations, and protect against cyber threats. Typical services include:
- Security device management – Installation, configuration and 24/7 monitoring of firewalls, intrusion detection/prevention systems, endpoint security, and other security tools.
- Vulnerability scanning – Regular external and internal vulnerability scans and risk assessments.
- Policy and compliance audits – Assess security policies and procedures to identify potential compliance gaps.
- Security information and event management – Log analysis and correlation to identify threats.
- Incident response and forensics – Expert incident response and support when a breach occurs.
- Awareness training – Security awareness training for employees.
- Threat intelligence – Research and reporting on emerging threats targeting the client’s industry.
Larger security MSPs may also offer services like penetration testing, security engineering and architecture design, and even fully outsourced SOC (security operations center) services.
The core benefits of partnering with a security MSP include:
- Advanced technology – Access to enterprise-grade security tools and threat intelligence that would be costly for most organizations to acquire and manage themselves.
- Specialization – Deep security expertise from professionals who focus exclusively on information security.
- Efficiency – Security is their core business, so they can typically deliver services more efficiently than an in-house team.
- Cost savings – No need to hire, train and retain specialized security staff.
- Scalability – Ability to scale security services up or down as needs evolve.
How security MSPs monitor threats
Security MSPs utilize advanced technologies and proven processes to provide 24/7 monitoring, detection and response capabilities:
- Log analysis – Collect and analyze log data from security devices, servers, databases, etc. using SIEM and analytics tools. This enables them to identify behavioral anomalies, policy violations, attacker reconnaissance activities and more.
- Threat intelligence – Research and monitor threat feeds from both private and open sources to stay on top of new attacker tools, tactics and targets.
- Baseline analysis – Establish a baseline of normal network, user and device behavior so deviations can be rapidly flagged as potential threats.
- Vulnerability scanning – Regular external and internal vulnerability scans pinpoint areas of potential weakness that need to be addressed.
- Correlation analysis – Link together various alerts and events to identify multi-stage attacks spanning networks, endpoints and cloud environments.
- Visual analytics – Present information visually to enable rapid identification of suspicious patterns and response prioritization.
These capabilities allow the MSP to function as an extension of the client’s team, providing complete visibility and rapid detection of any anomalous activity that may represent a security risk.
Capabilities by service type
Monitoring and response capabilities vary depending on the type and level of managed security service:
- Device management – Continuous monitoring, log collection and configuration management for security tools.
- SOC services – All of the above plus correlation analysis, threat intel, visual analytics and dedicated analyst support.
- Incident response – Emergency incident containment, eradication and recovery delivered on an on-demand basis.
How security MSPs support clients
Leading security MSPs provide responsive, high-touch support to help clients optimize their security posture and achieve maximum value from their services. Typical support models include:
- Named support contacts – Direct access to and coordination with engineering, analyst and account management resources.
- Technical support – Around-the-clock helpdesk and troubleshooting assistance.
- Emergency response – Guaranteed response times when a significant threat or breach occurs.
- Strategic guidance – Regular consultation on security roadmap development, budgeting and program effectiveness.
- Security portal – Self-service client portal for access to reporting, analytics and program documentation.
- Business reviews – Quarterly or annual account review to discuss service optimization, roadmap and renewals.
This high-touch engagement model enables clients to get maximum strategic and technical value from the MSP partnership.
Service level considerations
When vetting security MSPs, key service criteria to evaluate include:
- Support channels – Phone, email, chat, client portal, etc.
- Response time SLAs – For different priority levels of incidents and support requests.
- Reporting frequency and depth – Daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly reporting.
- Business review cadence – Quarterly or annually.
- Technical support skill level – Tier 1 up to senior engineers.
- Client success program – Onboarding, optimization and growth planning.
How security MSPs evolve client security
The most effective security MSPs become trusted advisors that help improve and evolve client security over time. They provide guidance and expertise to:
- Continuously tune and optimize the security environment – Devices, configurations, controls, policies, processes.
- Keep pace with the evolving threat landscape – Identify new risks and ensure appropriate safeguards are in place.
- Maintain alignment to standards and regulations – Ensure compliance with relevant mandates and best practices.
- Support business initiatives – Cloud migrations, new applications, M&A activity create new security considerations.
- Improve cybersecurity maturity – Develop stronger risk management, strategic planning and in-house expertise over time.
This enables clients to get maximum long-term value from the partnership, with the MSP effectively functioning as the client’s IT security department.
Evolution planning process
Mature security MSPs follow a continuous improvement methodology that includes:
- Quarterly program reviews – Assess current state and progress on objectives.
- Annual planning workshop – Revalidate strategy, risks, roadmap and budgets.
- Monthly or quarterly reporting – Metrics on program effectiveness, risk reduction and return on investment.
- Ongoing recommendations – Tactical and strategic guidance based on latest threats, technologies and client needs.
This provides structure and guidance to systematically strengthen and evolve security over time.
What to look for in a top security MSP
When evaluating security MSPs, key criteria include:
- Comprehensive capabilities – A full spectrum of security services covering technology optimization, detection, compliance, training, and strategic services.
- Top talent – Highly experienced staff including seasoned security analysts, engineers, compliance experts, and consultants.
- Mature processes – Proven and documented systems for all aspects of service delivery and support.
- Advanced tech stack – Utilization of leading technologies for SIEM, analytics, threat intelligence, endpoint security, and more.
- Industry expertise – Experience securing companies in your specific industry or vertical.
- Client focus – Dedicated client success teams and white glove service approach.
- Partnerships – Tight integration with top security technology vendors.
- Thought leadership – Ongoing research and publication of valuable security insights and benchmark data.
Vetting MSPs across these criteria helps identify the ideal partner to protect your organization and maximize the value of your security program over time.
Security MSP Pricing and Contracts
Security MSPs typically price their services based on some combination of the following models:
- Per device/user – Monthly fee for each endpoint, server, or employee account managed.
- Service tiered – Packaged offerings such as gold, platinum, diamond with increasing levels of services.
- A la carte – Custom bundle of services selected and priced individually.
- Value-based – Pricing incorporates business value metrics like revenue, data value, and risk reduction.
Contracts are generally 1-3 years in length, with discounts for longer terms. Key contract considerations include:
- Length of initial term
- Pricing locks for renewal terms
- Minimum commitment levels
- Service level agreement financial credits
- Termination provisions
Typical cost range
Costs for security MSP services vary based on scope, scale and service levels. Typical ranges include:
|Monthly Cost Per User/Device
|$1 – $5
|Next-gen endpoint security
|$5 – $15
|$7 – $20
|$10 – $25
|$15 – $100+
Larger organizations can negotiate discounts based on volume. All costs should be compared to internal staffing and solution requirements to identify the most economical option.
Key Benefits of Partnering with a Security MSP
The benefits of working with a security MSP include:
- Cost savings – Reduces capital outlay and staffing costs for security tools and personnel.
- Improved capability – Adds advanced technology, skills and 24/7 monitoring very difficult to achieve internally.
- Better coverage – Holistic security for hybrid cloud, on-premises and virtual environments.
- Reduced risk – Continuous monitoring and response capability lowers risk profile.
- Flexibility – Can scale services up or down as needs change.
- Focus – Allocates scarce internal resources on core business goals versus security management.
- Access to expertise – Benefits from MSP staff with deep security domain expertise.
- Improved compliance – Ensures adherence to security regulations and mandates.
Organizations in highly regulated industries like finance, healthcare, retail, and technology or firms with sensitive data benefit the most from a security MSP.
Security MSPs provide a flexible, economical pathway for organizations to achieve enterprise-grade cybersecurity. Partnering with an MSP can enable robust protection, continuous monitoring, rapid threat detection, and access to high-end security talent and technology difficult for most companies to attain on their own. With cyberattacks growing in frequency and sophistication, organizations should strongly consider the benefits of working with a trusted security MSP. Taking this step can provide peace of mind by securing critical systems and data against constantly evolving threats.