The Difference Between an MSP, MSSP, and SSP: Choosing the Right Service Provider for Your Business 1

The Difference Between an MSP, MSSP, and SSP: Choosing the Right Service Provider for Your Business

In the ever-evolving world of technology and business strategy, organizations often seek external support to enhance their operations. Managed Services Providers (MSPs) and Managed Security Services Providers (MSSPs) are a common and popular choice, but for many organizations Strategic Services Providers (SSPs) can be a better fit. Understanding the differences between these two service providers is crucial for organizations to make informed decisions that align with their specific needs and goals. In this blog post, we will explore the distinctions between MSPs, MSSPs, and SSPs, and delve into why an SSP can accelerate strategic innovation within a business.


What are MSPs and MSSPs and who typically needs one?

Managed Services Providers (MSPs) are tailored for smaller organizations that lack technical expertise or dedicated security measures. MSPs offer a standardized program to manage various aspects of IT infrastructure, such as network maintenance, cybersecurity, and data backups. Small businesses or startups with limited resources often benefit from the cost-effective and hassle-free services provided by an MSP. MSSPs provide a similar value proposition, but have deeper cybersecurity credibility and capability.


What is an SSP and what type of company can benefit from one?

Strategic Services Providers (SSPs) are more aligned with mid-sized and larger organizations that have specific strategic objectives to fulfill. Unlike MSPs, SSPs offer a more bespoke and flexible approach to service delivery, while ensuring that strategic business direction, regulatory compliance, governance, and cybersecurity needs, as well as data as a source of truth, are always part of the conversation. A strong SSP will cater to innovative organizations seeking a cross-disciplinary approach that integrates data, AI/ML, cybersecurity, technology, and business strategy. Companies with established internal technology and security structures can leverage an SSP's expertise to enhance strategic decision-making and innovation.


What makes an SSP the right answer for certain types of companies?

SSPs provide several advantages over MSPs or MSSPs for companies with specific needs:

  1. Flexibility: Unlike MSPs or MSSPs, SSPs offer tailored solutions that align with the unique requirements of each organization. This flexibility allows for customized strategies and services that can adapt to changing business dynamics.
  2. Experts-on-demand: SSPs provide access to a diverse pool of experts across various disciplines. This allows organizations to tap into specific skill sets as needed, enabling them to tackle complex challenges and implement innovative solutions.
  3. Strategy: SSPs not only address immediate technological needs but also contribute to long-term strategic planning. By understanding a company's objectives, an SSP can align technology, data, and AI initiatives with business goals, driving innovation and growth and planning.
  4. Innovation: SSPs stay ahead of the curve when it comes to emerging technology: AI/ML, Copilot, ChatGPT/OpenAI, etc. are all examples of the ‘right now’ cutting edge technology that SSPs will guide clients on to enhance, add efficiencies, and partner with business leaders on how to stay at the forefront of their industry.
MSP vs MSSP vs SSP – Comparison Chart





Primary Focus

IT administration and standardization

Cybersecurity tools, monitoring, and risk mitigation

Strategic alignment of technology and innovation to organizational objectives


Ensure a functional and productive technology ecosystem

Ensure security of information systems

Ensure organizational initiatives can be delivered upon securely and scalably


Handles break-fix, system design and deployment, and systems administration

Deal with the deployment, controls, alerting, and responses to cybersecurity concerns

Collaborates with the client to ensure that the right technology, security, data, AI, and related technology and security decisions are being made

Security Practice

Reactive, with bug fixes and updates often performed after threat detection

Proactive and predictive approach to cybersecurity

Focused on the overarching strategy, best practices, regulatory guidance, and recommendations


Little to none

Usage of innovative tooling, but limited to the realm of cybersecurity

Innovation becomes a center of excellence and cultural element to the organization


Little to none, heavy use of templating and SOPs across client base

Little to none, heavy use of templating and SOPs across client base

Bespoke solutioning, as long as it meets regulatory and cybersecurity requirements


Limited C-Suite engagement

Limited C-Suite engagement

C-Suite engagement and strategic planning is critical

Deciding Between an MSP, MSSP, and an SSP

When it comes to choosing between an MSP (Managed Services Provider), an MSSP (Managed Security Services Provider), and an SSP (Strategic Services Provider), a company's decision often relies on several factors. First, the size of the company plays a significant role. Small to medium-sized businesses may opt for an MSP to handle their overall IT needs, including infrastructure management and support. Larger enterprises with complex security or regulatory requirements may need an MSSP regardless, as they specialize in providing robust cybersecurity solutions and monitoring services.

The internal IT and cybersecurity maturity and capabilities of a company also influence the decision-making process, as may the industry or vertical in which a company operates. Industries that handle sensitive customer data or operate in highly regulated sectors, such as finance or healthcare, may prioritize the expertise and compliance offerings of an MSSP to ensure data protection and regulatory compliance.

For some mid-sized and larger organization, the choices may not be mutually exclusive. A company's desire to innovate and be flexible may steer them towards an SSP, who then helps manage the decisioning around an MSP and/or MSSP for certain deliverables. A Strategic Services Provider can offer a more consultative approach, assisting the company in developing and executing strategic IT initiatives, implementing new technologies, and driving innovation.

Working with an SSP to help determine the requirements around whether an MSP is useful or an MSSP is required, is a sub-engagement, while driving strategic innovation being an overarching goal.  The choice of vendors and partners is a strategic decision that requires consideration to select the most suitable service provider that aligns with the company's unique needs and objectives.


What can an SSP do to accelerate strategic innovation within a business?

SSPs play a crucial role in helping organizations achieve strategic innovation:

  1. Cross-disciplinary Approach: An SSP integrates various areas of expertise to develop comprehensive strategies that align with business objectives. By considering technology, data, AI, security, and business strategy collectively, SSPs ensure that innovation initiatives are holistic and effective.
  2. Data-driven Insights: SSPs leverage data analysis to provide actionable insights and recommendations. By harnessing the power of data, organizations can make informed decisions and drive innovation that is guided by evidence and trends.
  3. Collaboration and Partnerships: SSPs often have extensive networks and partnerships, enabling access to cutting-edge technologies and industry thought leaders. These collaborations foster an environment of innovation by bringing in fresh perspectives and novel solutions.

Choosing between an MSP or MSSP and an SSP depends on the specific needs and goals of an organization. While MSPs and MSSPs excel at providing smaller businesses without any cybersecurity or information technology formality a standardized set of services, SSPs offer tailored solutions and strategic expertise for mid-sized and larger organizations. By partnering with an SSP, companies can accelerate strategic innovation, leverage cross-disciplinary approaches, and tap into experts-on-demand to stay ahead in an increasingly competitive landscape.


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