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What are Managed Security Services? Why Organizations Hire Managed Security Service Providers

by Nate Lord on Tuesday September 11, 2018

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More organizations are turning to managed security services to gain security expertise and lessen the workload of their in-house security staff. Learn more about this option in Data Protection 101, our series on the fundamentals of information security.

A Definition of Managed Security Services

Third-party providers offer managed security services for the oversight and administration of a company’s security processes. Managed security service providers (MSSPs) conduct services either in-house or remotely, typically via the cloud. MSSPs offer a wide range of security services, from setting up infrastructure through security management or incident response. Some managed security service providers specialize in certain areas while others offer full outsourcing of an enterprise’s information security program.

Organizations choose to work with MSSPs for a variety of reasons; often this decision is driven by a lack of in-house resources or expertise for certain areas of security or the need for security monitoring and management outside of normal operating hours. In other cases, organizations will hire managed security service providers to conduct security audits or respond to and investigate incidents.

Benefits of Hiring a Managed Security Service Provider

The primary benefit of managed security services is the security expertise and additional staffing they provide. The ability for MSSPs to manage security processes from an off-site location allows enterprises to conduct business as usual with minimal intrusion due to security initiatives, while the MSSP interface maintains a constant line of communication and seamless reporting to the business. MSSPs ensure that enterprise IT is always up-to-date with the status of security issues, audits, and maintenance, enabling the hiring organization to focus on security governance rather than administrative tasks.

There are a wide range of security services being offered by MSSPs today, from full outsourcing of security programs to specialized services that focus on a specific component of the enterprise’s security (such as threat monitoring, data protection, management of network security tools, regulatory compliance, or incident response and forensics). By outsourcing security, enterprises are often able to realize cost savings by eliminating the need to maintain a fully staffed, full-time, on-site IT security department. Many organizations also turn to MSSPs for faster deployment times and improved time-to-value on security investments.

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Reasons to Use Managed Security Services

Despite an increasing awareness of the need for proactive security measures, many enterprises continue to put off implementing sound security initiatives until they’ve suffered a loss as a result of a data breach. The number of cyber threats is growing, and it is crucial that enterprises prioritize IT security as a result. Whether an organization is lacking in security program maturity or simply wants to expand their security capabilities, managed security service providers are a valuable option because:

  • Managed security services offer continuous oversight, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year. Choosing to handle enterprise security in-house, without the help of an outsourced vendor, requires a large investment in manpower and technology.
  • Cyber attacks evolve at an incredibly fast pace, leading to one new threat after another. Without the proper security tools and resources, keeping up with evolving threats, addressing threats as they arise, and recovering from incidents detected too late can consume substantial resources.
  • Most MSSPs have operations across the globe, and their focus on monitoring the threat landscape means they often have a distinct advantage over enterprises with a core business function unrelated to security and technology. In other words, MSSPs specialize in early threat detection and protection, so enlisting the services of an MSSP allows the enterprise to focus on core business activities while leaving security concerns to the experts.

Some of the other major advantages to enlisting the assistance of an MSSP is that these vendors can conduct vulnerability and penetration testing, perform security scans routinely, and take care of other security management functions for the enterprise, freeing up enterprise IT to shift their focus to security program oversight and other activities that advance enterprise goals.

Best Practices for Selecting a Managed Security Service Provider

There are a wide range of managed security services and MSSPs on the market today, so it is important to identify your organization’s needs and engage the best MSSP to address them. Before evaluating MSSPs, IT and security teams should carefully plan around which functions are to be outsourced, then meet with business unit leaders and management to determine the budget and processes that will be required for the partnership. Once your organization has mapped out its requirements for the MSSP, it is important to research your potential options and develop a short list of vendors to engage for an evaluation. Meeting with these vendors and checking customer references should be the final step in deciding which MSSP will be best for your business needs.

Tags: Data Protection 101, Managed Security Services

Nate Lord

Nate Lord is the former editor of Data Insider and is currently an account manager covering the southeast, Great Lakes, and Latin America regions at Digital Guardian. He has over 7 years of experience in the information security industry, working at Veracode prior to joining Digital Guardian in 2014. Nate enjoys learning about the complex problems facing information security professionals and collaborating with Digital Guardian customers to help solve them.