Finding the Right IT Security Company for your Business

Unless your organization is the last business on U.S. soil that does not require computers, applications, or the Internet, IT security has become your new cost of doing business. Reliance on technology has made IT security essential in keeping your organization free from disruption. 

However, confronting the need for cybersecurity in whatever shape it takes can be intimidating and off-putting. Without someone to advise you, most small organizations have no idea where to look and what type of firm they need to protect their business from cyber threats.

A Google search for “cybersecurity companies” in Maryland alone will serve up 4,740,000 results. How about “IT support companies in Washington DC”? You’ve narrowed the search to 201,000,000 choices.

Ignoring the fact that there aren’t that many adults, much less businesses, in either location, you need to cast a narrower net. The job is much easier if you know two terms: Managed Services Provider (MSP) and Managed Security Services Provider (MSSP).

Yes, the word “security” would appear to be a dead giveaway, but there can be considerable overlap between the two, and one may be a better fit than another. The following explanation may save you a lot of time and confusion.

MSP vs MSSP: What’s the Difference?

MSPs and MSSPs may provide some of the same services, but their focus and goals are different. MSPs ensure your systems and data are available to everyone who needs them; MSSPs seek to ensure your IT systems are NOT available to anyone else.

MSPs cover your basics. They are your help desk for staff IT support. They ensure your network and systems are always up and running. While they may apply security patches, antivirus software and basic security controls, their main job is to keep your IT infrastructure running.  

Think of MSPs as highly trained mechanics. Instead of paying a dealer to repair or replace the entire engine once it’s destroyed, you pay a mechanic to replace the oil and filters to avoid a breakdown in the first place.mechanic

Not all MSPs are created equal.

Like service stations, not all provide the same level of service. Some MSPs may only purchase and maintain hardware. Larger, more diversified MSPs, like Summit, have a team of engineers experienced and certified in all the technologies that must be configured and integrated to form a network, from computers, servers and applications to printers and phone systems.  

Full service MSPs monitor the performance of IT networks and systems 24/7 and provide clients with detailed reports and recommendations that can assist clients with planning and budgeting. They also offer services for a flat fee per month, on a project basis or when problems arise or things break—a penny-wise, pound foolish approach that can cost more than a service agreement.

MSP services to expect:

  • 24/7/365 maintenance and support
  • Priority response for clients with managed service agreements
  • Remote Help Desk support
  • Customized, organization-specific tools & solutions
  • IT inventory management
  • Cloud & backup servicesto prevent data loss and ensure quick system recovery
  • Disaster recovery
  • Virtual CIO services, available at some MSPs
  • A team of highly trained and experienced IT engineers skilled at problem solving

Managed Security Service Providers (MSSP)

Managed Security Service Providers do just that: they manage security services for your organization. Instead of having an expensive, in-house IT security team, MSSPs focus on security monitoring, threat detection and analysis, and reducing your overall risk of a cyber intrusion. They provide more layered and consultative cybersecurity solutions based on each client’s specific environment.

MSSPs should have a dedicated security team schooled in security best practices who can integrate numerous defenses to reduce your risk. Typical services provided by MSSPs include sophisticated firewall services, advanced threat protection, encryption, and IT policies and procedures to help ensure organizations’ systems are used as intended. Larger MSSPs like Summit also have 24/7 Security Operations Centers (SOCs) that follow and mitigate cyber threats, and security awareness training to teach employees how to identify and avoid phishing emails and online scams.

Why choose an MSSP?

The IT security industry is one that demands a lot of human and technical resources to maintain. IT security analysts and engineers command high salaries and advanced technology to support their skills.

Even if an organization has a skilled IT staff, simply ensuring the systems are operational, keeping up with new advances in technology, and constant support calls leave the staff overworked and with limited time to protect against vulnerabilities.

The MSSP’s main focus is security, allowing clients to better combat the cyber threat landscape, stay compliant with changing regulations, and increase customer trust by protecting their confidential information. A competent vendor will provide you with a complete solution at a manageable reoccurring rate.

How do you assess the qualifications of a Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP)

There is no one standard for a company to proclaim itself an IT security expert; however, there are rigorous training and certification programs that ensure IT engineers have the knowledge, skills and abilities to secure your IT infrastructure.

Asking the right questions is key, not only to assessing their qualifications, but how they communicate and think.

Here are a few to get started:

  • What is their scope and diversity of services?
  • What indicators are being monitored to detect potential cyberattacks?
  • Do they provide an initial security assessment? How is that used to tailor services to the risks?
  • How can your provider meet your IT security compliance requirements?
  • Do they have a 24/7 Security Operations Center to assess and defend against threats?
  • What certifications do their security analysts and engineers hold?
  • Can they articulate their risk management and breach remediation plans?
  • Do they provide security awareness training services for your staff?
  • Do they have experience in developing security policies and procedures? Can they help you meet compliance requirements like NIST, ISO, SOX, or HIPPA?

Choosing a trusted advisor

While there are a vast number of technical cybersecurity solutions available, the difference is in the people. A MSSP’s power to protect client organizations isn’t always about the power of the technology, but the power of the people learning about the client organization and being a trusted advisor. The more information, analysis and dedication your MSSP has to your business can be the difference between spotting the gap in your system or missing that key vulnerability.

To demonstrate our dedication to security, Summit is offering a FREE fundamental security risk assessment for organizations in our geographic reach of MD, DC and Northern VA.  We’ll take the time to learn about how your business operates and the key information you need to protect and provide tailored recommendations for cost-effective solutions.

Request your Free Security Risk Assessment


Marjorie Valin

Marjorie Valin, our VP of Marketing, brings 25 years of marketing and communications expertise to Summit and our clients, across multiple industry sectors including cyber security, associations and nonprofits, higher education, healthcare, financial and legal services. She helps define, direct and implement marketing strategy, content development, social media and communications based on business and branding objectives. From Fortune 500 companies to startups, Marjorie provides our clients with a depth of consulting expertise that extends well beyond IT and security.

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