What is a Managed Service Provider (MSP)?

February 14, 2024

Managed service providers (MSPs) offer a wide range of IT and cybersecurity services to help organizations manage and optimize their technology infrastructure. In recent years, MSPs have become integral to the smooth and secure operation of IT systems, applications, and infrastructure, playing a crucial role in safeguarding sensitive data and maintaining entire security environments.

In this post, we’ll explore key services offered by MSPs. Then, we’ll provide guidance for how you can assess the security posture of your MSP and select the right MSP for your business.

Before diving in, let’s consider the basic question more deeply: What are managed service providers?

Managed service providers defined

MSPs specialize in providing skilled human expertise to manage, maintain, and protect enterprise IT infrastructure. They offer wide-ranging service portfolios with prepackaged offerings that  essentially provide customer organizations with their own part- or full-time external IT department to enable businesses to focus on their core activities without the burden of managing complex IT systems.

Given the similarities in business models and naming conventions, it’s important to distinguish between MSPs and managed security service providers (MSSPs). Though both offer vital IT services, their areas of focus and specialization can differ significantly.

MSPs primarily concentrate on the overall management of IT infrastructure, ensuring that systems are running smoothly and efficiently. In contrast, MSSPs specialize in managing an organization’s security needs. They focus on protecting businesses from cyber threats, offering services like real-time monitoring, threat detection, and incident response.

This distinction is crucial for businesses when deciding whether an MSP or an MSSP is best suited to meet their specific IT and security requirements.

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Key services offered

MSPs offer a wide array of services so that they can cater to the diverse needs of businesses. These services are designed to not only maintain and optimize IT infrastructure but to provide robust security measures. Here’s a look at some of the key services MSPs provide:

  • Network security management: Implementing and maintaining robust security measures to protect against cyber threats.
  • Regular software updates and patch management: Ensuring that all systems are up to date with the latest software versions and security patches.
  • Continuous monitoring and threat detection: Providing 24/7 IT system surveillance, identifying and responding to potential security threats.
  • Data backup and disaster recovery: Implementing backup solutions and disaster recovery plans to safeguard data integrity and availability.
  • Compliance and regulatory assistance: Helping businesses adhere to relevant regional and industry standards and regulations.
  • IT infrastructure management: Overseeing infrastructure components and the network that connects them. This includes overseeing network routing, network rules, and web proxy configurations, thereby ensuring efficient and secure operations.
  • Application and database management: Handling the access, sustainment, and use of various applications and databases.
  • Help desk support: Offering support services to staff for IT-related issues and queries.
  • User access account management: Managing user access accounts on customer systems, such as Active Directory management.
  • Software provisioning: Overseeing the deployment, maintenance, and upgrades of various software applications.

These examples of services demonstrate the vital role an MSP plays in ensuring that a business’s IT environment is functional, efficient, and secure.

Do MSPs offer managed detection and response?

Managed detection and response (MDR) is a cybersecurity service that combines technology and human expertise to perform threat hunting, monitoring, and response. For example, CrowdStrike Falcon® Complete MDR is a comprehensive managed security service that provides organizations worldwide with 24/7 security expertise and continuous threat monitoring, investigation, and surgical remediation to stop breaches and eradicate advanced adversaries across every attack surface. Ultimately, MDR services help close the cybersecurity skills gap that often exists in organizations.

Because of the growing demand for effective, around-the-clock cybersecurity expertise, MSPs often partner with MDR providers to enhance their service offerings. CrowdStrike Falcon® Complete for Service Providers is a program for MSPs to license and build upon Falcon Complete MDR with their own extensive IT service offerings. By integrating Falcon Complete into their offerings, MSPs can maintain their client relationships while expanding their security offerings with industry-leading MDR protection — all sourced through the same seamless MSP experience.

Assessing the security posture of your MSP

For organizations evaluating MSP options, it’s important to bear in mind that the MSP’s own security proficiency will also directly impact the security of your business and IT infrastructure. It’s now critical to regularly evaluate the strength of your MSP’s security capabilities to ensure that the appropriate cyber safeguards are in place and compliance standards are met.

During your selection process, be sure to assess the MSP’s security standards in the following areas:

  • Network security measures, including firewalls, encryption protocols, and intrusion detection systems
  • Data protection measures, including data encryption, backup procedures, and data privacy policies
  • Compliance with industry standards, adhering to standards such as the GDPR, HIPAA, or PCI-DSS, as applicable

During deeper inspection, you should also:

  • Inspect security audit reports and certifications: Review the MSP’s audit reports and check for certifications (such as ISO 27001 or SOC 2 Type II).
  • Review incident response plans: Examine their plans for handling and mitigating security breaches.
  • Evaluate customer testimonials and case studies: Seek feedback on the MSP’s performance in managing security issues.

How to select the right MSP for your business

Selecting the right MSP is a critical decision for businesses, particularly for small and medium-sized businesses looking for cost-effective and comprehensive IT and security solutions. When looking for an MSP, look for one that aligns with your current business needs and has the capability to scale as you grow.

Security expertise is a crucial factor. Your MSP should have a strong track record in cybersecurity and should be equipped with the latest tools and knowledge to protect your organization against emerging threats. An MSP’s commitment to security can be gauged through its partnerships, its certifications, and the technologies it employs. Check out CrowdStrike’s partner ecosystem and the Accelerate Partner Program to see which MSPs partner with CrowdStrike.

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Conclusion: enhancing cybersecurity with MSPs

MSPs provide critical IT services to businesses, from basic IT management to powerful cybersecurity solutions. In doing so, MSPs provide the expertise and technical resources necessary to ensure businesses operate securely and efficiently. By offloading these concerns to a trusted MSP, companies can focus on their core objectives, fostering growth and innovation.

Falcon Complete MDR enhances an MSP’s service offerings by bringing capabilities for intelligent threat hunting, monitoring, and response. When MSPs partner with CrowdStrike to offer these services, the combination of an MSP’s IT management proficiency with the specialized security expertise behind CrowdStrike Falcon Complete MDR creates a robust defense mechanism for businesses of all sizes.

To find out more about how to join CrowdStrike’s Accelerate Partner Program, read more or reach out to become a partner today.