How You Can Transition from MSP to MSSP
In recent times, there has been a greater demand for security services, especially as the cybersecurity landscape continues to evolve and grow more dangerous. Adding managed security services to your MSP offerings is a great way to generate more revenue and provide additional value to your clients.
(You might also want to read our Providing Managed Security Guide for a better understanding of the concept of managed security services.)
MSSP vs. MSP
While MSPs typically adhere to security best practices when deploying IT services, they don’t really offer security as a managed offering. MSSPs, on the other hand, actively provide clients with active threat detection, response, and remediation services.
With growing demands for managed security services, MSPs should review their business model and capacity to see if they can fill this market gap. Although the specialized nature of security services makes it difficult for most MSPs to deliver MSSP offerings, the rewards are well worth it. Your clients only have to interface with one IT provider (one-stop shopping for all their IT needs) while you benefit from the additional revenue and improved customer satisfaction.
Keep in mind that adding security-focused services to your suite of MSP offerings isn’t a walk in the park. Your team should be made up of technicians with years of experience in delivering core MSSP services as well as complementary security offerings such as monitoring and incident response.
How to Transition from MSP to MSSP
Some MSPs already offer MSSP-like services to their clients without realizing it. As such, all they need do is rebrand their identity and expand their resources to deliver a full suite of MSSP services to a larger client base.
On the other hand, traditional MSPs will have to bring onboard security analysts or cybersecurity consultants, set up SOCs, and invest in the technologies required for real-time monitoring of clients' IT infrastructure. Let’s take a look at the three major ways you can transition to an MSSP.
If you provide IT infrastructure deployment/maintenance, storage configuration, and network management services as an MSP, you can offer managed security services in these areas. To do this, you’ll need to build your MSSP operations from the ground up and this involves
- Purchasing the right set of tools
- Hiring experienced staff and technicians with the right skill sets
- Building a security operations center
- Updating procedures and protocols
- Optimizing your entire business model to reflect your focus as an MSSP.
Purchasing the right tools
Some MSPs think that purchasing an MSSP tool and reselling them to clients is all it takes to become an MSSP. The transition isn’t quite that easy because security isn’t a product or just any other kind of managed IT service.
If you poorly deploy or configure a router, the fallout is limited to unstable connectivity. A misconfigured server means that your client may temporarily lose access to files. However, if you don’t properly secure your client’s IT infrastructure, they could lose everything and be legally liable for any repercussions.
Although you must undertake extensive due diligence before choosing an MSSP tool to assist you on your journey towards offering managed security services, this is just the first step.
Acquire security skillsets
Aside from choosing the right tool for your client’s unique business needs, your team must have the skills and expertise to properly configure the tool, continuously monitor logs, conduct threat analysis, identify anomalies, escalate issues, remediate active threats, and execute the right responses to mitigate fallout in the event of a successful breach.
As such, you’ll need to acquire new skill sets and knowledge...particularly in the areas of incident response and remediation, penetration testing, forensics, and threat mitigation.
Build a security operations center
As an MSSP, you’ll also need to set up high-availability security operation centers to provide round-the-clock security of your clients’ IT devices, systems, and infrastructure. Also known as a security analytics center (SAC), a SOC is a combination of people, processes, and technologies that handle the task of protecting clients’ networks, data centers, servers, databases, applications, websites, endpoints, and other technologies.
Other resources you’ll need include
- Security information and event management (SIEM) tool
- A host of intrusion detection and prevention systems
- A team of security analysts
- Threat remediation processes
Buy an MSSP
Building an in-house security operations capability is a great way to offer MSSP services. However, it is time-consuming for MSPs that lack the skill sets, processes, and operational maturity required to provide effective managed security offerings. Buying an MSSP is a viable option for MSPs that don’t want to take the time to build an in-house security operations environment from scratch.
Although it can be very costly to buy an MSSP that is operationally mature enough to complement MSP offerings, it’s a good option for large, successful MSPs or those with investors willing to cough up the cash.
Partner with an MSSP
An easy way to offer managed security offerings is by partnering with a well-established MSSP. Managed Security Services Providers focus on one thing, and one thing alone: Security. With this option, you don’t need to come up with the capital outlay for building, running, and maintaining a SOC center and SIEM solution.
By partnering with a reliable MSSP company, you gain access to the experience, intellectual talent, enterprise-grade tools, and all the resources you need to provide managed security services to your client base.
However, care should be taken when choosing an MSSP to partner with. Partnering with an MSSP that requires you to redesign your business processes and replace technology investments is a no-no. Ensure you choose an MSSP that fits your environment and provides flexible options (not pre-built packages) that integrates your organization’s offerings with the MSSP’s team and processes.
Further reading MSSP Is a Hard Nut. Think About the Alliance
Other factors to consider when transitioning from MSP to MSSP include
Determine Your Readiness Level
Before making the transition to an MSSP, MSPs should review how well they deliver managed services. If you struggle to deliver managed services profitably and efficiently, adding managed security offerings to your portfolio isn’t in your best interests.
Delivering effective managed security services requires high levels of process maturity. Less mature MSPs without established, documented procedures or sound processes shouldn’t take on MSSP offerings. Rather than increasing revenue and raising profit margins, such a transition can adversely impact your bottom line and client base.
It’s much easier for MSPs with superb financial performance, high levels of operational maturity, and the ability to continuously deliver valuable and high-quality services to an existing customer base to become an MSSP. This is because they have a stable business base, standardized and well-documented processes, and the resources to hire qualified and experienced engineers and establish high availability SOCs.
Also, obtaining industry-leading security certifications is a sure way to know if your MSP is ready to start offering MSSP services.
Further reading Must-Have Security Certifications for MSSPs
While the profit margins on managed security services can be huge, you must understand exactly what you’re signing up for an MSSP. You are accountable for meeting both clients' expectations and legal accountability, meaning that the stakes are much higher.
Not only are we witnessing a rise in the number and sophistication of cyber threats but also the number of devices vulnerable to attacks. Hackers are continually evolving new ways to steal data and execute ransomware attacks and this is precipitating the increased demand for managed security services — a role that more and more MSPs are taking on.
To fully become an MSSP, you must be willing to invest upfront in standardizing your operations and procedures and acquiring the right tools and human capital. While such investment may be significant (depending on your current business model and resource pool), the ROI can be enormous, if done right.