EDR vs. MDR: Key Differences and How to Choose

David Gilad Maayan
Published 04/30/2024
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Differences Between EDR and MDRWhat Is EDR?

Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) is a cybersecurity technology that continuously monitors and collects data from endpoint devices to identify, investigate, and prevent potential security threats. EDR solutions are typically used to provide visibility into activities happening on endpoints, which can be any device connected to an organization’s network, such as computers, mobile devices, or servers.

EDR works by installing agents on each endpoint, which then monitor and report on all activities. These data are then analyzed to identify patterns and behaviors that could indicate a security threat. Once a potential threat is identified, the EDR solution can take action to isolate the affected endpoint and prevent further damage.

The power of EDR comes from its ability to provide real-time monitoring and response. It’s not just about detecting threats but also responding to them in a way that minimizes the potential impact. An effective EDR solution can stop attacks in their tracks, minimizing disruption and reducing the risk of data loss.


What Is MDR?

Managed Detection and Response (MDR) is a cybersecurity service that combines technology, human expertise, and threat intelligence to identify, analyze, and respond to security threats. Unlike traditional managed security services, MDR provides a more proactive and comprehensive approach to cybersecurity.

MDR providers use a combination of technologies, including EDR, to monitor and analyze security events in real time. They also leverage threat intelligence to understand the latest tactics, techniques, and procedures used by cyber criminals. This allows them to identify threats more accurately and respond more effectively.

One of the key benefits of MDR is that it provides a team of security experts who can manage and respond to security incidents on an organization’s behalf. This addresses the cybersecurity talent shortage and allows even smaller organizations, or those that do not have in-house security expertise, to achieve a high level of protection.


EDR vs. MDR: 5 Key Differences


1. Definition and Scope

EDR is a technology that focuses on endpoints, providing visibility and control over activities happening on these devices. Its primary goal is to detect and respond to threats, with a particular focus on real-time monitoring and response.

MDR is a service that encompasses a broader range of cybersecurity activities. It combines technology, human expertise, and threat intelligence to provide a more comprehensive approach to security. MDR not only focuses on detection and response but also includes proactive threat hunting and incident management.


2. Level of Management

EDR solutions require a certain level of internal management. While they provide valuable tools for threat detection and response, they still require skilled security professionals to operate them effectively. This often means having a dedicated security team in place, which can be a challenge for smaller organizations.

In contrast, MDR offers a fully managed service. This means that the day-to-day management of your cybersecurity is handled by a team of experts from the MDR provider. This reduces the burden on the internal team and ensures security is managed by highly experienced security professionals.


3. Detection and Response Capabilities

EDR excels at detecting and responding to threats in real-time. It provides detailed visibility into endpoint activities, allowing for quick identification and isolation of threats. It provides both automated response measures, such as disconnecting endpoints from the network to prevent threats from spreading, and supports manual response by security teams with remote access to endpoint devices.

MDR takes this a step further by incorporating threat intelligence and human expertise. This allows for more accurate detection of threats, as well as a more effective response. In addition, MDR providers often engage in proactive threat hunting, which involves actively searching for signs of compromise that may have been missed by traditional detection methods.


4. Integration and Implementation

When it comes to integration and implementation, EDR solutions can be complex to deploy and manage. They require a deep understanding of the organization’s IT environment, as well as the ability to configure and maintain the solution effectively. This can be a challenge for organizations with limited IT resources.

MDR services are easier to implement. The MDR provider takes care of the deployment, configuration, and ongoing management of the solution, reducing the burden on the organization’s IT team. Furthermore, MDR providers have experience integrating with a wide range of technologies, making it easier to align the service with the organization’s existing IT infrastructure.


5. Cost and Resource Implications

EDR solutions can be expensive to implement and maintain, particularly for smaller organizations. They have a significant software licensing cost, which grows with the number of endpoints in the organization, and also require skilled security professionals to operate effectively, which adds to the cost.

MDR services also represent a significant expense, but they represent an operating expense, without requiring a significant upfront investment. It is easier to plan and budget for MDR services because the service cost includes everything—from software licenses to technology integration, manpower, and maintenance costs. However, it is important to calculate the total cost of ownership (TCO) of MDR services and compare it to the cost of operating EDR in-house.


How to Choose Between EDR and MDR


Assessing Your Organization’s Security Needs

Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) is a solution that monitors and collects data from endpoints (like laptops, mobile devices, and servers) to identify, investigate, and prevent potential cyber threats. EDR is a proactive approach, enabling businesses to detect and respond to threats before they cause significant damage. It’s ideal for organizations with a robust internal IT team that can manage and interpret the data the EDR system provides.

Managed Detection and Response (MDR) is a more comprehensive service provided by external cybersecurity experts. MDR providers not only offer detection and response capabilities but also add an extra layer of protection by actively managing and monitoring your organization’s security. This service is particularly beneficial for businesses without a dedicated IT team or those looking for an extra layer of security.


Resource Availability

EDR solutions require human resources. Your IT team must monitor and interpret the data, respond to threats, and continuously update and maintain the system. This requires a dedicated, experienced, and knowledgeable IT team. For smaller organizations or those with a limited IT team, managing an EDR solution can be challenging.

MDR solutions require less in-house resources. These solutions are typically offered as a service by external providers, meaning you don’t need an internal team to manage the system. Instead, you’ll need financial resources to pay for the service, which can be substantial, depending on the service offering and the size of the organization.


Desired Level of Control

Your preferred level of control over your organization’s cybersecurity also plays a significant role in deciding between EDR and MDR.

With an EDR solution, your organization maintains full control over the security processes. Your IT team will monitor the system, respond to threats, and make necessary adjustments. This level of control can be beneficial, as it allows you to tailor your security measures to your specific needs and preferences.

With MDR, much of the control is in the hands of the service provider. While you can usually specify your requirements and preferences, the provider will handle most of the security tasks. This can be a good thing if you prefer to focus on your core business functions and leave the security to the experts. However, it might not be ideal if you have specific security requirements.


Compliance and Regulatory Requirements

Compliance and regulatory requirements are another crucial factor to consider when choosing between EDR and MDR. Depending on your industry, you might be subject to specific regulations regarding data protection and cybersecurity.

EDR solutions, with their focus on internal control and management, can be tailored to meet specific compliance requirements. However, this requires a thorough understanding of the regulations and the ability to implement appropriate security measures.

MDR providers, on the other hand, often have extensive experience in dealing with compliance issues. They can help ensure that your security measures are in line with relevant regulations. However, it’s essential to choose a provider that understands your industry’s specific requirements.


Long-Term Security Goals

If your organization aims to build a robust in-house IT team and maintain control over your security measures, an EDR solution might be the better choice. It allows for an in-depth understanding of your system and the ability to tailor your security measures to your specific needs.

However, if your goal is to ensure comprehensive security without devoting a significant amount of internal resources to it, MDR might be more suitable. It provides continuous monitoring and management of your security, allowing you to focus on your core business functions.

Choosing between EDR and MDR requires a thorough understanding of your organization’s security needs, resource availability, desired level of control, compliance and regulatory requirements, and long-term security goals. By considering these factors, you can make an informed decision that best aligns with your resources and your organization’s security needs.


About the Author

Gilad David Maayan is a technology writer who has worked with over 150 technology companies including SAP, Imperva, Samsung NEXT, NetApp and Check Point, producing technical and thought leadership content that elucidates technical solutions for developers and IT leadership. Today he heads Agile SEO, the leading marketing agency in the technology industry.


Disclaimer: The author is completely responsible for the content of this article. The opinions expressed are their own and do not represent IEEE’s position nor that of the Computer Society nor its Leadership.