What Is a Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP)?

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An MSSP is a third-party provider that manages a company’s day-to-day security operations. An MSSP takes care of security rather than a standard managed service provider (MSP) that takes care of infrastructure, email, and general cloud services. Usually, MSSPs specialize in cybersecurity to provide strategies and monitoring around protecting corporate data.

History of MSSPs

Most small businesses cannot afford a full-time security staff member, but having the right security is critical to business continuity and disaster recovery. The 1990s introduced security-related support for small businesses and individuals. A small business could sign up for internet service, and the internet service provider (ISP) would set up a firewall, email security, and some IT support should a user or business have problems connecting to the internet.

As more people struggle with data protection, an MSSP solution was introduced to help businesses implement the right cybersecurity and user training. Many small businesses must adhere to strict compliance regulations introduced in more recent years, so they can’t disregard the importance of cybersecurity that follows standards. An MSSP will implement the right cybersecurity infrastructure to protect data and keep a business compliant.

What Is an MSSP Used For?

A business that engages with an MSSP gets entire strategies customized for its particular environment. Every business has its own infrastructure setup, so the MSSP reviews current infrastructure, security controls, user training, and any other environment variable that could affect the security of the business.

Businesses mainly use MSSPs for security, but there is a bit of infrastructure support as well. Cybersecurity infrastructure integrates with cloud and on-premises hardware, so the MSSP will often help configure and support standard IT equipment to ensure that the business gets full support of all its infrastructure. The MSSP might be the only business IT support, or the MSSP works directly with the corporation’s own IT people to work together to protect data.

Large organizations also use MSSPs for cloud support. As more people work from home, enterprise businesses move their infrastructure to the cloud. An MSSP secures the cloud environment by implementing security controls, user management, backups, configurations, and other necessary support for cloud migration.

Why Use an MSSP?

On-site security staff is expensive, but it’s still necessary to roll out security infrastructure for any business environment. Whether you have 5 or 500 users, you need security to protect your data. New cyber threats are introduced every day, so it’s not enough to add cybersecurity infrastructure and leave it unmaintained. An MSSP continues to update and add new controls as your business grows and as new threats are introduced in the wild.

Most MSSPs have several people who work together to review the cybersecurity landscape and research the latest in cybersecurity threats and best practices. Businesses in specific industries must stay compliant with regulations (e.g., HIPAA or PCI-DSS), so an MSSP can identify where the corporation could be violating regulations and define a plan to bring the environment to standards.

With on-site staff, your organization needs people to monitor your environment all day and night. An MSSP works as a team to fully monitor the entire environment and take necessary steps to stop a cyber-attack, regardless of the time of day. They do this by having a full-time staff available globally or available during off-peak business hours. A quick response is necessary for limited damage after a compromise, but it also helps limit the amount of time the business is down.

Typical MSSP Offerings

Every MSSP has their own offerings, but most of them have standard services regardless of the one you choose for your business. As you search for the right MSSP, look for one that offers:

  • 24/7 monitoring and intrusion detection and prevention
  • Web content filtering
  • User management and identity management
  • Access controls
  • Security scanning against the infrastructure to detect vulnerabilities
  • Patch management to stop vulnerabilities in outdated software


A lot of offerings overlap between an MSP and an MSSP, but MSSP focuses mainly on cybersecurity. An MSP will also help migrate your services to the cloud and manage email and cloud infrastructure, but it will not mainly focus on cybersecurity. Cybersecurity controls are a part of an MSP offering, but it might be basic to protect data stored on cloud resources.

Benefits of an MSSP

Aside from lowering your staff costs, an MSSP has several other benefits. The main benefit is getting a full staff of cybersecurity experts and professionals that specialize in protecting your data. They give administrators the ability to focus on growing the business and working with users to improve IT resources to better support scale.

Small businesses can mainly benefit from an MSSP, but large enterprises also work with third-party MSSPs for some services. For example, it’s important to quickly update firmware and software when security patches are released by developers. An MSSP will update firmware and software to ensure that the business isn’t vulnerable to known security issues.

Hosting IT resources in the cloud lowers IT costs, so an MSSP will migrate costly infrastructure to the cloud and management at a fraction of the cost. Using the cloud also benefits the organization where at-home workers must access business data. The cloud offers advanced technology too expensive to host on-premises, so the organization also gets the benefit of newer technologies without the real estate and staff to install it.

How to Select an MSSP Vendor?

The best MSSP vendor for your business will evaluate your current infrastructure and customize a plan to improve your security. Look for an MSSP with a long history of success with staff that can answer questions. Some MSSPs offer security awareness training programs for business employees, and training can be useful for organizations with little cybersecurity knowledge.

If your business must follow compliance standards, find an MSSP with specific people trained to follow compliance standards and identify vulnerabilities associated with non-compliance. One slip-up, and your organization could be paying millions in fines for non-compliance issues. An MSSP will ensure that your organization is covered.

How Proofpoint Can Help

Proofpoint was recognized as one of the top MSSP tool providers for monitoring, modeling, and microsegmentation. Proofpoint can help MSSPs, MSPs, and businesses with monitoring and necessary cybersecurity infrastructure to protect data and allow businesses to grow. Scalable solutions work with on-premises and cloud environments, and our tools will make it easier for MSSPs to identify threats, contain them, and manage customers so that even advanced threats are stopped before they suffer from a data breach.

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