Managed Detection and Response (MDR) in cyber security: Best practices & drawbacks

As cyber threats become more advanced, you may be on the lookout for the best ways to protect your critical digital assets. After all, you want the best investment in exchange for the most effective defence.

Managed Detection and Response (MDR) has gained more traction in the past few years as a cyber security measure because it benefits various industries and companies. Especially those with high regulatory and security demands or lack of IT resources.

Here’s everything you need to know about MDR, its workings, best practices, along with drawbacks, and how it differs from similar cyber security tools like Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) and Extended Detection and Response (XDR). We'll also explain why MDR might be a good choice for organisations with limited IT or security resources.

This article covers:


What is Managed Detection and Response (MDR)?

Managed Detection and Response (MDR) is an outsourced cyber security service providing comprehensive protection against cyber threats through advanced detection, incident response, and ongoing monitoring capabilities.

MDR differs from traditional, often in-house cyber security approaches that primarily focus on preventative tools. MDR offers a dynamic method to address security threats. This is achieved using technology, expert human analysis, and effective processes.

Think of these services as an extension to your organisation’s IT and security team, delivering 24/7 expertise and coverage—something that can be cost-prohibitive to develop internally, especially in building a full-scale Security Operations Centre (SOC).


How Managed Detection and Response works

Operating from a Security Operations Centre (SOC), MDR combines cutting-edge technologies and human expertise. The typical process consists of:

Threat detection

MDR uses state-of-the-art tools to continuously monitor networks, endpoints, and systems for signs of malicious activity or anomalies. Now, it even leverages AI and machine learning to process vast data volumes in a way that wasn’t possible before.

Incident analysis

Combining AI with human expertise is powerful; MDR analysts perform deep forensic investigations to distinguish between false alarms and natural threats, understanding each incident's nature and potential consequences.

Incident response

Quick incident response measures are implemented to isolate and neutralise threats before they have longer-lasting impacts. This is then followed by recovery actions to restore affected services or data. Post-incident, MDR teams assist in understanding the breach to prevent future occurrences.



Continuous monitoring and improvement

The MDR team regularly updates tools and response tactics based on the latest threat intelligence and evolving security trends to stay ahead of potential threats. The top threat vectors constantly change, so improvement measures are critical.


Best practices: The do's and don'ts of MDR

Managed Detection and Response requires specific actions and avoidances to be effective. Here are the main do's and don'ts for managing MDR services:


  • Proactively engage: Maintain regular communication with your MDR provider to stay informed about threats to your industry and infrastructure. This ensures the MDR service is finely tuned to your specific security needs.
  • Ensure integration and customisation: Make sure your MDR services are seamlessly integrated with your existing tech stack and customised to enhance your security protocols effectively.
  • Maintain compliance focus: Partner with MDR providers who are well-versed in the regulatory standards relevant to your industry. This is important for maintaining compliance, particularly in sectors like healthcare and finance.


  • Overlook engagement: Outsourcing to an MDR provider doesn't mean you should disengage from your cyber security responsibilities. Stay involved and informed about your cyber security posture.
  • Neglect documentation: Proper documentation of incidents and responses is critical for compliance and improving security strategies. You’ll need it to conduct thorough audits and refine defensive measures.
  • Dismiss alerts: Even though MDR services manage to monitor, remain alert to notifications and understand their implications for timely and effective responses.

MDR vs EDR vs XDR: What’s the difference?

EDR, XDR, and MDR aim to improve threat detection and response, but they achieve this differently. While they aim to enhance cybersecurity, their methods and scopes vary.

Let’s start with Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR). EDR monitors and responds to threats at the endpoint level. This means you track and address suspicious activity on devices like laptops, desktops, and servers. Using EDR, you catch and handle potential security issues directly on these devices before they spread further into your network.


Extended Detection and Response (XDR) goes beyond just endpoints. It covers networks, cloud services, and applications as well. It combines different security tools to give you a complete view of your IT environment. With XDR, you see and respond to threats across your system, making your security efforts more coordinated and effective.

Finally, Managed Detection and Response, or MDR, blends advanced XDR-like technology with outsourced expert analysis, delivering a comprehensive, full-service security solution.

When you use MDR, you get sophisticated threat detection and a team of professionals who analyse threats and give you recommendations. This service ensures a strong security setup, even if your in-house team is limited, letting you focus on your business while staying protected against cyber threats.


What businesses benefit the most from MDR?

Businesses in environments with limited IT resources or high regulatory and security demands stand to gain the most from MDR services. Here’s a more detailed look at the businesses that benefit the most from MDR:

Small to Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs)

Resource constraints: SMEs often operate with limited budgets and cannot afford a full-scale, in-house cybersecurity team. MDR services provide access to top-tier security expertise and technologies without the need for extensive capital investment.

Scalability: As SMEs grow, their security needs evolve. MDR services can scale accordingly, providing flexible and adaptive security measures that match the changing landscape of the business.

Focus on core business: By outsourcing cybersecurity to MDR providers, SMEs can focus on their core business activities without the distraction of managing complex security operations.

Critical industries


  • Sensitive data protection: Healthcare organizations handle vast amounts of sensitive patient data, which is a prime target for cyberattacks. MDR services ensure that this data is protected through constant monitoring and advanced threat detection.
  • Compliance: The healthcare sector is heavily regulated (e.g., HIPAA in the United States), and non-compliance can result in severe penalties. MDR helps maintain compliance by implementing necessary security controls and providing audit-ready reporting.


  • Financial data security: Financial institutions manage large volumes of sensitive financial data and transactions. MDR services protect this data against breaches, fraud, and other cyber threats.
  • Regulatory requirements: The financial sector is subject to stringent regulatory requirements (e.g., GDPR, PCI DSS). MDR ensures compliance by continuously monitoring and updating security measures to meet regulatory standards.
  • Risk management: MDR helps financial institutions manage and mitigate risks associated with cyber threats, thus preserving customer trust and maintaining market reputation.


  • Payment information protection: Retailers process numerous payment transactions daily, making them a target for cybercriminals seeking credit card information. MDR services safeguard this data through proactive threat detection and response.
  • Customer data security: Protecting customer personal information is critical in the retail industry to prevent identity theft and maintain customer confidence.
  • Compliance: Retail businesses must comply with various regulations (e.g., PCI DSS) to protect payment card information. MDR ensures that the necessary security controls are in place to meet these standards.

Additional beneficiary sectors


  • Industrial Control Systems (ICS) Security: MDR can protect the critical infrastructure and operational technology systems that are vital to manufacturing processes.
  • Intellectual Property (IP) Protection: Manufacturers often have valuable IP that needs protection from industrial espionage and cyber theft. MDR services can safeguard this proprietary information.

Related: Cybersecurity in Industry 4.0: Why manufacturing bears a quarter of all cyberattacks


  • Student and faculty data security: Educational institutions store vast amounts of personal data. MDR helps protect this data from breaches and unauthorized access.
  • Network security: Schools and universities often have extensive and diverse networks that require robust monitoring and threat detection.

Energy and utilities

  • Critical infrastructure protection: Energy and utility companies manage critical infrastructure that must be protected from cyberattacks that could disrupt services.
  • Regulatory compliance: These sectors are subject to regulations such as NERC CIP (North American Electric Reliability Corporation Critical Infrastructure Protection). MDR helps ensure compliance and secure operation.


Are there any drawbacks to using MDR?

Managed Detection and Response (MDR) has gained significant traction as a cyber security solution, but it has its drawbacks. Here are a few critical takes on MDR:


MDR services can be expensive and potentially unaffordable for businesses with limited security budgets. The costs include service subscriptions, integration, and ongoing operational expenses.

Dependency on third-party vendors

Outsourcing to MDR providers means giving up some control over security operations. This dependency can be risky if the provider experiences a breach or fails to meet service expectations.

Integration challenges

Integrating MDR services with existing IT infrastructure and security tools can be difficult. Compatibility issues may arise, leading to potential security gaps or inefficient operations.

Privacy and data security concerns

Sharing sensitive data with an external provider can raise privacy concerns. Your organisation must trust that the MDR provider will handle their data securely and comply with relevant regulations.


Do you need MDR in your cyber security strategy?

Managed Detection and Response goes a little beyond basic cyber security measures and is seen more of a strategic approach designed to combat the complex and dynamic cyber threats we see today.

Do you need MDR in your cyber security strategy? That depends on how well you know your risks. Having an integrated security platform might be a good start. Talk to us if you could use more insights:


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the simple definition of MDR?

Managed Detection and Response (MDR) is a cyber security service that combines advanced threat detection with human expertise to respond to and mitigate cyber threats.

What does the MDR do?

MDR continuously monitors networks, detects potential threats, analyses incidents, and provides swift response and remediation to protect against cyberattacks.

Why is managed detection and response important?

Managed Detection and Response (MDR) is important because it provides continuous, expert-led monitoring and response to cyber threats, ensuring that organizations can quickly detect and mitigate attacks, even if they lack in-house security resources. This helps protect critical data and maintain business continuity.

What is the difference between EDR and MDR?

EDR focuses on detecting and responding to threats at the endpoint level, while MDR offers a broader service that includes comprehensive monitoring, threat analysis, and incident response managed by external experts.

What is MDR in management?

In management, MDR refers to outsourced cyber security services that help organisations detect, respond to, and manage cyber threats effectively, often supplementing in-house IT teams.

What is a managed EDR?

A managed EDR is a service where an external provider handles the deployment, monitoring, and management of Endpoint Detection and Response tools, ensuring effective threat detection and response at the device level.

About the author

Kyle Tackley Kyle Tackley
Kyle Tackley

Senior Principal - Global Corporate - InfoSec

Kyle is a Senior Principal at DataGuard and talks all things Information and Cybersecurity. With over 12 years experience in IT, Privacy and Information Security roles, he has implemented and operated a multitude of Security frameworks across enterprise businesses. Ensuring world-class service delivery of DataGuard’s Hybrid Information Security and Privacy as a service solutions to customers, and building a dynamic and successful teams are some of Kyle’s top priorities.

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