SOCaaS vs MDR: What’s the difference? (And what’s right for an MSP?)


Today’s MSPs must address cybersecurity to meet market demands and stay competitive. There are several ways to add security services to your offerings without reinventing the wheel — with SOCaaS and MDR being the most popular ones. So what are they, how do they differ, and how to choose one right for your MSP/MSSP? Let’s take a look.

What Is SOC as a Service?

SOC in SOCaaS stands for Security Operations Center. When you partner with a third-party SOC as a Service provider, it sets up, operates, and maintains a SOC on your behalf via the cloud for a fixed monthly fee.

SOC as a Service gives MSPs access to the latest cybersecurity tools and threat intelligence. Your vendor can help you monitor and manage the security of your systems and your clients’ infrastructure without the cost of purchasing hardware and software, setting up processes, or hiring a security team.

What is MDR in cybersecurity?

MDR stands for Managed Detection and Response, a category of Security as a Service. Besides detecting threats and sending alerts, MDR providers typically investigate incidents, triage alerts and implement remediation actions. Some of these services also cover proactive threat hunting.

SOCaaS vs MDR: What are the differences?

Should you use MDR or SOCaaS to augment your security services? You need to know how they differ to make the right choice for your MSP/MSSP.

1. Scope & Focus

A  SOC as a Service company monitors and manages the security of a client’s entire IT infrastructure, including networks, endpoints, servers, applications and data. Besides accessing a team of security experts, you can tap into the latest cybersecurity tools and threat intelligence without buying any software upfront.

A SOCaaS vendor identifies and addresses security threats and incidents, performs threat intelligence analysis, offers risk assessment reports and vulnerability management, and provides proactive security recommendations to improve their clients’ security postures.

MDR has a narrower scope. A provider detects and responds to advanced threats, including those that may have already breached a client’s network. Today’s MDR technologies and techniques often involve machine learning software and behavioral analysis to provide real-time responses to threats.

2. Technology & Processes

Managed SOC as a Service providers use various tools, including firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention systems, security information and event management (SIEM) platforms, vulnerability scanning tools, endpoint security software, etc, to monitor a client’s IT infrastructure, analyze potential intrusions, and respond to incidents.

Combining multiple software and techniques, a SOCaaS vendor can respond to threats and incidents based on each client’s business requirements, threat tolerance, and context. It also has end-to-end processes to handle various security challenges — critical in today’s threat environment where systems and networks are interconnected.

When you work with an MDR provider, you can access specialized security tools for endpoint detection and response (EDR), network traffic analysis (NTA) and advanced threat-hunting. These MDR technologies can detect and respond to advanced threats that may evade traditional security defenses.

3. Service Level Agreements (SLAs)

When you partner with an enterprise-grade SOC as a Service provider, you get an SLA that guarantees specific levels of availability, responsiveness, and resolution time for security incidents. It typically covers all security services, including incident response, threat intelligence, and security recommendations.

The SLA gives you visibility into the vendor’s incident response timeline, so you can communicate confidently with your clients about the process to build trust and increase customer satisfaction.

SLAs from MDR providers cover a narrower scope, focusing on response time and incident resolution. These vendors typically guarantee specific levels of speed and accuracy in detecting and responding to threats. However, these SLAs won’t give you a complete picture of the overall response timeline because the vendors aren’t involved in the entire process.

4. Reporting & Communication

A reputable SOCaaS vendor doesn’t just take care of all the technologies and processes you need to deliver top-notch cybersecurity services. We also help you build trust and relationships with your clients by providing weekly vulnerability management and risk assessment reports to demonstrate how you have improved their cybersecurity posture.

Additionally, we provide different report types for specific audiences. For example, you can send the Threat Assessment Summary to C-level executives and the actionable Remediation Plan to the IT team without doing all the legwork yourself. 

On the other hand, reports from MDR vendors only cover the specifics of detecting and responding to threats. They don’t give you a holistic picture of a client’s security posture — you still need to stitch together various pieces to create reports, which is a time-consuming and labor-intensive process for many MSPs and MSSPs.

SOCaaS or MDR: Which one is right for you?

SOCaaS has a broader scope and focuses on overall security management. Intrusion detection and incident response are often included in a soup-to-nuts service package. In fact, MDR should be part of a SOCaaS plan from a reputable provider.

The right service will depend on the needs of your MSP/MSSP. If you already have a SOC in-house and need to augment its detection and response capabilities with advanced technologies and skillsets, MDR may just be what you need. 

If you don’t already have a SOC and need to provide comprehensive security services to your clients, a SOCaaS solution is your best bet to cover all the bases. It includes everything from an MDR vendor and much more to get your cybersecurity practice up and running quickly. 

Additionally, our weekly vulnerability management and reports help you take proactive action, educate your customers about the value you bring to the table, and upsell and cross-sell relevant services to boost your revenue.

See what inSOC’s SOC as a Service packages cover and get in touch to see how we can help you augment your cybersecurity services without reinventing the wheel.

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