Cyber Security Showdown: MSSP vs MSP

Rate this post

MSSP vs MSP: how do you choose blog header

Should my business engage an MSP or an MSSP?

Brief: With the latest flurry of cyber attacks, businesses here in Canada are taking a closer look at MSSP vs MSP. In this article we define each of them, look at their comparative strengths, and help you determine which is best for your unique needs.

“Your overconfidence is your weakness.”

Emperor Palpatine — Return of the Jedi

Are you trying to get a handle on your cyber security and IT needs, and not sure if you need an MSP or MSSP?

Are you overly confident in the services your partner is providing?

Given the current state of cyber attacks here in Canada (they even hit The Royal Canadian Mounted Police), new attacks happening practically daily, employee data showing up on the dark web, and it all made worse by AI, many Canadian companies are starting to take cyber security seriously.

You might believe that your MSP has you covered, but are you really covered?

MSPs don’t always provide the level of cyber security protection necessary to help you manage these evolving threats.

That’s where MSSPs come into play.

Watch the video, and then read on. We’re going to break down the MSSP vs MSP debate, define what each is, explore their differences, and help you decide which is best for your situation (spoiler alert: MSSPs often offer the same tech services as MSPs with layers of cyber security solutions, and your MSP might actually be putting you at risk).



Let’s get right into it, but let’s begin by exploring the differences through a short story.

Do you like scifi?

We sure do.

So, as an intro to the MSP vs MSSP debate, let’s take a momentary virtual voyage to explore the differences between the two together.  

A Tale of Two Planets: Mechanica and Shieldara

In the galaxy of Technotopia, there were two planets that provided essential services to the interstellar communities: Mechanica and Shieldara.

The citizens relied heavily on the expertise of the planet Mechanica for their technological needs and upkeep. The Mechanicans, or MSPs (Managed Service Providers), were renowned for their ability to keep the systems running, the machines humming, and the technology seamlessly integrated into daily life. 

They were the unsung heroes who ensured that life went on without a hitch, fixing problems as they arose and maintaining the technological status quo.

However, on the outskirts of Technotopia, another planet called Shieldara orbited quietly. The Shieldarans, or MSSPs (Managed Security Service Providers), were the skilled warriors of the realm, dedicated to protecting the galaxy from unseen cyber threats. They often sent emissaries to Technotopia, warning the citizens of potential vulnerabilities and pleading with them to adopt more robust security measures. 

“It’s not enough to just keep your machines running,” they would say. “You must ensure they’re protected from threats you cannot see.”

But the citizens of Technotopia, so accustomed to the immediate and tangible results of Mechanica’s work, found it hard to grasp the invisible risks described by the Shieldarans. They believed their existing defences were sufficient, and they continued to invest their trust and resources in Mechanica, ignoring the silent guardians of Shieldara.

Then, the unthinkable happened. 

A sinister group of intergalactic pirates launched a surprise attack on Technotopia, exploiting vulnerabilities that had gone unnoticed by the MSPs but had been long forewarned by the MSSPs. 

Systems faltered, data was compromised, and the smooth operation of daily life was brought to a standstill. 

“But we have cyber insurance!” cried the people. 

Yet insurance didn’t protect them from the attack. 

Insurance didn’t protect their data. 

And as they learned in the months following the attack, since they weren’t compliant with intergalactic cyber insurance policies, their insurance company denied their claims. 

In the midst of chaos, the citizens realized the critical mistake they had made. The MSPs were essential for maintenance and repair, but they were not equipped to foresee or combat such a sophisticated threat.

In the aftermath, the people of Technotopia learned to value the silent vigilance of the MSSPs as much as they did the everyday reliability of the MSPs. 

They realized that true protection required a balance between maintenance and security, between the visible and the invisible threats. The citizens now understood that while MSPs kept their world turning, MSSPs ensured it would never stop due to threats from the shadows.

And in fact, they learned that an MSSP could deliver the services that MSPs provided, so in the end, they only needed one partner. 

Understanding Managed Service Providers (MSP) and Managed Security Service Providers (MSSP)

Definition of MSP and MSSP

Managed Service Providers (MSPs), simply put, are organizations that manage your IT infrastructure remotely. On the other hand, Managed Security Service Providers (MSSPs) are a specific subtype of MSPs that specialize in enterprise-level security. 

Both MSPs and MSSPs utilize cloud technologies to provide services lending flexibility and dynamism to customer’s IT needs. An MSP can shift an organization away from reactive IT support to a more proactive approach, while an MSSP adds the key element of advanced security, offering peace of mind and protection in the face of ever-evolving cyber threats. 

MSP vs MSSP: Taking a Closer Look

Though MSSPs are an extension of MSPs, their distinguishing feature lies in their focus on security, providing comprehensive managed security solutions. Both, however, provide valuable IT support, the difference being the level and complexity of security expertise offered.

Core services offered by MSPs

MSPs provide a multiple array of services ranging from network management, system administration, to professional services such as disaster recovery planning. Furthermore, MSPs also offer support services such as help desk and technical support. 

The core benefit of hiring an MSP is having access to a full team of IT professionals who can handle all your technical issues. Some even offer scalability and customization of services in line with your business’s specific needs, offering a more personalized touch.

MSP – Beyond IT Support

A distinctive feature of many MSPs lies in their role as strategic partners, guiding businesses in aligning their IT strategy with their overall business objectives, effectively becoming a significant extension of your team. 

Core services offered by MSSPs

MSSPs deliver a wealth of security-related services, from risk assessments, incident response, security audits, to providing both security software and hardware solutions. 

But most importantly, MSSPs provide an around-the-clock security monitoring service, adding an additional layer of protection. As you face increasing cyber threats, this continuous surveillance and rapid response to any security threats can be invaluable.

MSSPs: Your Cyber Security Protectors

In addition to offering advanced security services, an MSSP may also aid in regulatory compliance and offer security training for staff, ensuring the organization as a whole is prepared for potential threats. 

As we get into deeper detail, it becomes clear just how vital both MSPs and MSSPs can be in the modern corporate landscape where IT infrastructures and security measures are in constant flux. 

So, when considering MSP vs MSSP, the decision is often not ‘either-or’ but might be ‘which-and-when’, based on the particular IT needs and security expectations of the company.

However, there’s another question to consider: 

What benefits does an MSP offer in the specific context of companies here in Canada? 

Let’s dig in. 

The Benefits of MSP in Canada

Cost-effectiveness of MSPs

Cost advantages are perhaps the most compelling argument for Canadian businesses to adopt MSPs. With Managed Service Providers taking on the role of your IT department, businesses can lower the investment needed for hiring, training, and maintaining an in-house IT team.

Instead, companies pay a flat fee for a comprehensive range of IT services that encompasses everything from network security to system updates and monitoring. This predictable pricing model eases the burden of budgeting while ensuring that critical IT functions are taken care of.

Expertise and Experience of MSPs

One aspect often overlooked in favour of the cost savings factor is the wealth of expertise and experience that Managed Service Providers offer. MSPs employ a team of skilled technicians with extensive experience across various IT domains. 

This depth and breadth of knowledge mean that they are equipped to handle complex IT challenges that may be beyond the capability of capacity of your in-house team. By leveraging the expertise of MSPs, businesses can gain access to the latest technology solutions and strategic IT direction that helps them stay competitive in their respective fields.

Scalability and Flexibility of MSPs

Scalability and flexibility are important for any business, especially in today’s AI-powered cyber threat world. MSPs offer scalable solutions that can adapt with your business as it grows or contracts. The ability to quickly scale up or scale back services in line with business needs ensures efficiency and saves costs. Similarly, the diverse range of services offered by MSPs offers flexibility, allowing businesses to select only those services that they need at any given time.

A Strategic Partner

In addition to the previously mentioned benefits, MSPs can also serve as a strategic partner for your business. With their finger on the pulse of the latest IT trends, they can guide your IT strategy, helping you stay ahead of the curve. Furthermore, their deep understanding of your IT infrastructure puts them in a unique position to make tailored recommendations that align with your business objectives.

Therefore, the decision to choose an MSP is more than a cost-based one. It’s about partnering with a team of experts who can foresee and navigate the complexities of IT, allowing your business to focus on its core competencies.

The Advantages of MSSP in Canada

Enhanced Security Measures of MSSPs

Managed Security Service Providers (MSSPs) are experts in their field. They employ cutting-edge technologies to protect your sensitive data from cyber threats. 

Rather than worrying about handling your IT security, MSSPs take the reins, shielding your business from vulnerabilities such as data breaches, malware, and phishing attempts. They’re armed with the latest knowledge and techniques to tackle emerging threats swiftly and efficiently. Moreover, they generally offer a more comprehensive level of protection than most businesses could deliver internally.

Proactive Threat Monitoring and Response by MSSPs

Proactive Threat Monitoring

Unlike traditional IT services, which are frequently reactive, MSSPs operate on a proactive model. They constantly monitor your systems for unusual activities or potential vulnerabilities, identifying threats before they can cause harm. This type of ongoing vigilance reduces downtime, protecting your business operations, and ultimately, your bottom line.

MSSP Response Capabilities

In situations where a threat does breach your defenses, MSSPs have pre-planned response systems ready to quickly rectify the situation. Their response times are usually much faster than what a business could accomplish in-house, meaning less disruption and potential revenue loss. Moreover, their immediate and effective action can help to protect your business’s reputation in the face of a potential security incident.

Having covered the enhanced security measures, the support in navigating complex compliance and regulatory demands, and the proactive threat monitoring and responses offered by MSSPs, it’s clear that they provide a comprehensive and robust security solution. Their advantages may make them the ideal choice depending on the specific needs and context of your business.

Choosing Between MSP and MSSP in Canada

Assessing Your Business Needs and Risks

To make an informed decision between an MSP (Managed Services Provider) and an MSSP (Managed Security Services Provider), it’s important to assess your IT needs clearly and concisely. 

Here’s a straightforward set of key questions to help you review and assess your IT needs:

1. Identify Your Core IT Requirements

  • Infrastructure: Do you need support in managing servers, networks, and endpoints?
  • Cyber Security: How critical is advanced security monitoring, threat detection, and response for your business?
  • Software Management: Is there a requirement for managing licenses, updates, and deployments of software applications?
  • Cloud Services: Are you looking to implement or manage cloud computing services (e.g., storage, applications)?
  • Data Management: Do you need help with storing, processing, and analyzing data effectively?
  • Compliance: Is your business subject to regulatory standards that dictate specific IT security and data handling practices?

2. Evaluate Your Current IT Challenges

  • Skill Gaps: Are there areas in your IT operations that require specialized skills you currently lack?
  • Resource Constraints: Do you have sufficient IT staff to manage day-to-day operations and strategic IT planning?
  • Security Concerns: Have you experienced security breaches, or do you feel inadequately protected against cyber threats?
  • Operational Efficiency: Are IT issues causing disruptions in your business operations?

3. Determine Your Strategic IT Goals

  • Growth and Scalability: How important is IT scalability in supporting your business growth?
  • Innovation: Are you looking to leverage IT to drive innovation within your business (e.g., adopting new technologies, improving customer experience)?
  • Risk Management: Is minimizing IT-related risks (e.g., data breaches, compliance penalties) a top priority?
  • Cost Management: Are you aiming to optimize IT spending while ensuring you meet all your IT needs?

Evaluating the Capabilities: MSSP vs MSP

A comprehensive evaluation of the capabilities of MSSP vs MSP is critical to making an informed decision. MSPs typically offer everyday IT services, such as helpdesk, server, network, and user management. 

On the other hand, an MSSP will focus on advanced security needs. It’s your responsibility to align your organization’s needs with the capabilities of the provider.

Aligning Your Needs with Provider Capabilities

Both MSPs and MSSPs have distinct capabilities. For instance, MSPs are exceptional at providing network management, software updates, data backup, and cloud services among other services. Conversely, MSSPs provide enhanced security services, which includes 24/7 security monitoring, threat intelligence, and incident response. 

Which aligns with your needs?

Ultimately, understanding MSP and MSSP capacities arms you with invaluable knowledge to make a sound choice.

Considering Cost and Value of MSSP vs MSP

Cost is always a significant factor in the decision-making process. However, it’s equally important to focus on the value you’ll derive from these services. Carefully analyzing the cost-benefit ratio will allow you to ascertain the value of investing in either.

Understanding Cost Implications

A basic rule is, MSPs charge from a broader perspective, including service provision and maintenance, while MSSPs may have additional costs related to their enhanced security provision. 

Assessing Value Proposition

Aside from cost, it’s vital to weigh what your investment with MSSP vs MSP will yield concerning efficiency, productivity, and business growth. 

How does their proposed service package further your company’s objectives? 

Investing in the provider that matches your needs can yield significant returns over time.

In addition to the financial cost and advantages, factors such as the expertise of the workforce, response time, and the standard of customer service can impact the overall value a provider offers.

After considering the above factors, you will be well-equipped to make a choice between an MSP or an MSSP that aligns perfectly with your business needs.

MSSP vs MSP: Regulations in Canada

Overview of IT Service Regulations in Canada

Canada’s IT landscape is shaped by several regulations that aim to maintain the integrity, confidentiality and availability of information. With the increasing pace of digital transformation, organizations are faced with the task of ensuring that they meet these regulations. Key among them is the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), which stipulates how businesses should handle personal information in the course of commercial activity.

Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA)

PIPEDA, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, is a Canadian law that governs how private sector organizations collect, use, and disclose personal information in the course of commercial business. 

Enacted in 2000, PIPEDA sets out the principles for the protection of personal information, emphasizing the need for consent from individuals before their data is collected, used, or disclosed. It applies to personal information handled by organizations across Canada, except in provinces that have their own privacy laws deemed equivalent to PIPEDA. 

The act aims to balance an individual’s right to privacy with the need of organizations to use personal information for legitimate business purposes.

MSSPs vs MSPs: Compliance Showdown

When focusing specifically on IT and cyber security legal compliance, an MSSP (Managed Security Services Provider) is generally better equipped than an MSP (Managed Services Provider). 

Here’s why:

Specialization in Security: MSSPs are specialized in cyber security services, including compliance with legal and regulatory requirements. They stay up-to-date with the latest cyber security laws, regulations, and standards to ensure that your organization adheres to them.

Risk Assessment and Management: MSSPs conduct thorough risk assessments to identify vulnerabilities within your IT infrastructure and recommend measures to mitigate these risks. This is crucial for compliance with various cyber security frameworks and regulations.

Incident Response and Reporting: MSSPs offer specialized incident response services to quickly address security breaches or violations, minimizing their impact. They also provide detailed reporting, which is often required for compliance with cyber security regulations.

Continuous Monitoring and Threat Detection: With their focus on security, MSSPs implement continuous monitoring and advanced threat detection systems. This proactive approach is essential for meeting the stringent monitoring and reporting requirements of many compliance frameworks.

Guidance and Consultation: MSSPs offer expert guidance on navigating the complex landscape of IT security laws and regulations. They can help your organization develop policies and procedures that comply with these legal requirements.

While MSPs provide valuable IT services and support, including some aspects of cyber security, their offerings are typically broader and less focused on the specificities of cyber security compliance. 

If legal compliance in IT and cyber security is your primary concern, partnering with an MSSP will likely provide you with the expertise and services necessary to meet these requirements effectively.

Still Unsure About the MSSP vs MSP Debate? 

We can help. 

While MSPs and MSSPs both play pivotal roles in the IT ecosystem, the distinction between them could be the deciding factor in safeguarding your business against the ever-evolving threats of cyber attacks. 

As an MSSP, we specialize in tailoring robust cyber security solutions that not only align with your unique business needs but also ensure compliance with critical regulations. Understanding the nuances between these services is key to making an informed decision for your IT strategy.

If you’re looking to bolster your defences and manage the complexities of cyber security with ease, we invite you to take the first step with us. 

Contact us today for a FREE Comprehensive Cyber Security Gap Analysis. Let’s identify your vulnerabilities and fortify your defences, ensuring your business is resilient against threats.


Managed Security Service Providers (MSSPs) are crucial for businesses looking to strengthen their cyber security posture. 

These FAQs cover the basics of what businesses need to know about working with MSSPs. Given the rising complexity and frequency of cyber threats, partnering with an MSSP can be a strategic move to enhance cyber security defences. 

1. What Services do MSSPs Provide?

MSSPs offer a range of cyber security services, including but not limited to, 24/7 monitoring and management of security devices and systems, threat intelligence and analysis, incident response and forensics, vulnerability management and assessment, compliance management, and security consulting.

2. How do MSSPs Differ From Traditional IT Service Providers?

While traditional IT service providers focus on the overall IT infrastructure, offering support, maintenance, and management services, MSSPs specialize in cyber security services. Their focus is on protecting businesses from cyber threats and ensuring compliance with relevant regulations.

3. Why Should My Business Consider Using an MSSP?

Businesses might choose to work with an MSSP for several reasons, including the need for specialized cyber security expertise, the ability to scale security needs quickly, cost-effectiveness compared to building an in-house team, and the need to comply with industry regulations and standards.

4. Can MSSPs Help with Compliance Requirements?

Yes, MSSPs can help businesses meet various compliance requirements by ensuring that their cyber security practices align with industry standards and regulations such as GDPR, HIPAA, PCI-DSS, and more. They can provide audits, reporting, and management services to maintain compliance.

5. How Do MSSPs Manage Incident Response?

MSSPs typically have dedicated teams for incident response that can quickly react to security breaches or incidents. They can provide forensic analysis, mitigate the damage, and help recover data and systems, often working around the clock to resolve issues.

6. How Does Working with an MSSP Impact My Existing IT Team?

An MSSP can complement your existing IT team by taking on the specialized task of managing cyber security threats, allowing your IT team to focus on core business operations and strategic projects. Collaboration and clear communication between the MSSP and your IT team are essential for success.

7. What Should I Look for in an MSSP?

Key factors to consider when choosing an MSSP include their expertise and experience in your industry, the range and flexibility of their services, their ability to scale with your business, their reputation and customer reviews, and how they handle data privacy and compliance.

8. How do I Transition to an MSSP?

Transitioning to an MSSP involves assessing your current cyber security posture, identifying gaps and needs, selecting an MSSP that aligns with your requirements, and then working closely with them to integrate their services into your operations. A thorough onboarding process, clear communication, and setting expectations are key to a successful transition.