Understanding the Differences Between EDR, MDR, and XDR

EDR, MDR, XDR: Which is right for you?

Detecting, mitigating, and eliminating cybersecurity threats must be a top priority for modern businesses. As many organizations have embraced a hybrid, dispersed workforce, many employees are using personal devices to perform daily work tasks that are often connected through unprotected networks. This shift has led to a surge in the number of ransomware attacks, data breaches, and online scams. In turn, businesses are looking for modern and holistic security monitoring, and detection and response solutions that provide coverage well beyond traditional malware protection software.

As many companies and executives begin to explore the world of cybersecurity solutions, they are finding themselves overwhelmed by the broad spectrum of technologies, solutions, and services that are available. In this blog, we’ll discuss the difference between three leading types of security monitoring, detection, prevention, and response solutions: EDR, MDR, and XDR. 

EDR, MDR, XDR: Decoding the Differences

Understanding your unique business, IT, and regulatory compliance requirements and comparing that to the differences between endpoint detection and response (EDR), managed detection and response (MDR), and extended detection and response (XDR) will help you navigate through the technology and security provider selection process.

Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR)

EDR is software designed to help organizations identify, stop or prevent, and react to threats or attacks that manifest through endpoint devices (mobile, laptops, desktops, tablets, etc) that have bypassed other defenses. Like other endpoint security software, EDR is deployed by installing agents on endpoints and can be managed through locally deployed software (on premise) or via a cloud-based portal (software as a service).

EDR solutions can detect threats that are designed to evade regular antivirus software. They’re ideal for companies that have a remote workforce or that have a critical need to constantly protect and monitor distributed endpoints. According to Gartner, more than 50% of enterprises1 will replace legacy security software with EDR solutions and endpoint protection platforms (EPP) by the end of 2023. 

The majority of EDR offerings that are being sold in the market today can only ingest logs and security events from the devices that their software agents have been deployed on. This means the EDR platform’s ability to detect, protect-stop, and respond to attacks and threats across the entire network is limited to endpoints. This results in partial security monitoring, detection, and response and can leave other areas of the IT network open to attack. 

Managed Detection and Response (MDR)

MDR is an advanced managed security service that includes 24/7 monitoring, alerting, and threat or attack response support provided by highly trained, experienced, and certified security operations center (SOC) staff.  These resources typically leverage a security information and event management (SIEM) platform that ingests and correlates log files from various IT devices across the network, including mission critical applications and 3rd party cloud environments. The SIEM enables the security operations team to discern between what is a real threat and what is not (a false positive). This is accomplished by integrating third party threat intelligence and feeds (from the industry and federal agencies) into the SIEM, where the indicators of compromise (validated threat and attack intelligence) is combined and compared to the log files being generated from within the client’s environment. The underlying hardware, SIEM and ticketing software, and operational processes and procedures are outsourced (at a fraction of the cost of building this capability internally) and is typically maintained by a managed security services provider (MSSP), like Vertek

Advanced MSSPs like Vertek go beyond basic monitoring, alerting, reporting and response services and can provide advanced threat research, forensic analysis, proactive threat hunting, customized reporting, analytics, intelligence, and incident analysis and response support to help remove risk from the client’s environment or to recover from an attack or breach.

MSSPs offer a diverse assortment of cybersecurity tools, including intrusion detection systems, network traffic analysis, SIEM, endpoint detection, and more. MDR services are suitable for organizations that lack a dedicated cybersecurity team, or wish to outsource the security operations function and allow their internal team to focus on more strategic activities.

Even if your company already has an in-house security team, MDR solutions can prevent your employees from being diluted or buried with threat research and analysis tasks or tuning, managing, and maintaining the SIEM and ticketing platforms. Advanced MDR providers like Vertek can also help prevent alert fatigue and burn out, something that over 84% of security teams are reporting.  Finally, advanced MDR providers like Vertek will tailor their services according to a client’s cybersecurity goals and requirements.

Extended Detection and Response (XDR)

XDR is a term developed by analysts such as Gartner and vendors within the industry to describe SaaS-based threat detection and incident response platforms that leverage analytics and automation to detect, hunt, and validate current and future threats across your network and systems. XDR is often a vendor-specific platform that integrates numerous security software platforms and services that brings all of those components together under a single solution.

These XDR solutions take you beyond just EDR and other typical detective controls by providing a full view of threats across your organization. They use a combination of automation and machine learning to provide security teams with reliable, context-rich alerts. 

A Word of Caution

Research and over 15 years of experience in this industry has shown us that not all MSSPs are created equal. Some MSSPs only offer limited monitoring, detection, and threat or incident response services, and many do not provide advanced analytics and actionable intelligence that an organization can leverage to build out or improve their overall cybersecurity capability and program. 

Also, if you are seeking an MSSP, organizations should take note that some EDR providers boast that they can provide MDR capabilities, yet they are delivering those services through an EDR platform – not a fully functional SIEM platform that has robust logging, threat correlation, intelligence, and reporting capabilities. 

This tactic by many EDR providers is confusing the market. Many EDR providers are overpromising and setting the wrong expectation in terms of what threats they can actually monitor and detect and how they can respond to those threats. They are actually providing a less holistic and comprehensive version of SIEM and SOC-based MDR. This leaves an organization susceptible to attacks and risks because the monitoring coverage is minimized. Based on our review and experience, many EDR solutions that boast MDR capabilities do not provide XDR.

Choosing the Right Threat Monitoring, Detection, and Response Security Solution for Your Business

Selecting a security solution depends on a number of factors, including your business and financial goals and objectives, your company’s IT and security budget, the maturity and capability level of your IT and security team and program, and lastly, your current IT and operations priorities, initiatives, and projects.  

EDR solutions appear to add more value to companies that require superior or modern threat monitoring, detection, and response of their endpoint devices – not their entire corporate network and mission critical business applications. Many EDR solutions include managed services and maintenance support from MSPs and MSSPs, so organizations that are looking to outsource these functions due to limited internal staff are often early adopters of EDR technologies. If organizations are looking to deploy, manage, and maintain EDR solutions in house, they will need additional training, education, expertise, and potentially third party support, as the types of threats, incidents, and remediation situations that will be experienced by the internal team often require a certain level of expertise in the cyber domain. 

XDR platforms and services are still evolving and adoption of XDR is still in the early stage.  XDR adoption is definitely not mainstream, but the majority of security vendors and managed security or services providers are touting or promoting XDR. In our opinion, XDR solutions appear to be better suited for more mature IT and security teams and programs that are well established and experienced with deploying, managing, and maintaining EDR, MDR, and other advanced technologies and services. Because XDR offers companies a centralized platform and integrated stack of services around threat detection and response, the team that architects, deploys, and manages this stack of technology and services needs to be highly experienced and trained. 

Advanced MDR offerings such as those provided by Vertek are perfect for organizations that are looking for enterprise-wide threat monitoring, detection, and response (including coverage of endpoint devices) provided by a highly experienced, trained, and certified group of U.S.-based security operations professionals. Vertek provides a fully managed SIEM platform as part of their MDR service and can offer enhanced analytics, reporting, and business intelligence on top of their core MDR service through their managed threat intelligence (MTI) offering. 

If you are looking to proactively defend and protect your employees, systems, and data while you improve your security program and posture, get in touch with us to explore how our MDR and MTI services can reduce your risk and protect your organization.



  1. https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2020-09-15-gartner-survey-finds-the-evolving-threat-landscape-is-top-priority-for-security-and-risk-management-leaders