EDR vs MDR: what’s the difference?

EDR (endpoint detection and response) and MDR (managed detection and response) are two security solutions that are used to detect, respond to, and prevent cyber threats and cyberattacks. EDR and MDR tools differ and are suited for separate scenarios in the MSP world.

EDR focuses on the endpoint environment by collecting data from it and analyzing it, which is used to detect, contain, and remediate threats as quickly as possible. By contrast, MDR provides a comprehensive view of the entire network, including the endpoint, by collecting data from multiple sources such as logs, events, and activities. It uses analytics and machine learning to detect and respond to threats in real time.

The two solutions and specific EDR and MDR tools share many commonalities, but also some crucial differences. In this article, we’ll look at similarities between EDR and MDR, the key differences between the solutions, and consider which protocol is the right one for your business.  

What is EDR?

EDR is an organizational security tool that monitors, detects, and responds to malicious activity on enterprise networks. It collects data from endpoints such as desktops, laptops, and mobile devices, which it then analyzes for suspicious activity likely to come from hackers. It responds to this suspicious activity by blocking it, alerting users, or taking other actions. EDR detects a range of activity, such as malicious code, malicious files, and network intrusions, and works by collecting system and network data, such as log files, network traffic, and memory dumps. 

This data is then analyzed to detect anomalies, such as unauthorized access or suspicious activity. Many organizations level up endpoint detection and response capabilities to better protect from sophisticated threats and incidents, and secure their crown jewel assets. By turning to these tools to support your clients, you can help them reap similar benefits.

Benefits of EDR for MSPs

There are several benefits of EDR for MSPs. These include:

Improved visibility: EDR provides you with improved visibility into client networks by collecting and analyzing data from multiple sources – including network traffic, endpoints, and user activity.

Reduced false positives: Through the use of machine learning and AI, EDR solutions can accurately detect malicious activity, while simultaneously reducing the number of false positives. 

Machine learning: EDR uses machine learning algorithms to build up a picture of common threats. This capability is one of the reasons MSPs opt for EDR in the EDR vs antivirus debate. 

Compliance: EDRs provide you with detailed audit trails of user activity, allowing your team to identify any potential compliance issues quickly. 

Log aggregation: Significant amounts of data is collected by EDR from endpoints, which build up valuable data and insights over time. MSPs can use this both for their own reference as well as to put together reports for clients.

What is MDR?

MDR is a cloud-based security-as-a-service offering that enables organizations to outsource some of their security operations to a third-party provider. MDR provides comprehensive solutions which allow MSPs to investigate, respond to, and remediate network threats. 

At the core, MDR services combine several other useful cybersecurity offerings, including EDR, but also a security operations center (SOC). Combining EDR and SOC to create an MDR service cuts down on alert and reporting overload for your team.

MDR services typically include threat detection, threat hunting, incident response, and post-incident analysis, which gives a complete view of the threats faced by an organization, allowing for a quicker and more effective response. MDR services also provide MSPs with response plans, guidance on mitigation and containment, and the ability to analyze incident data and triage threats quickly for clients. 

Benefits of MDR for MSPs

There are several benefits of MDR for MSPs, including the following:

  • Cybersecurity expertise - outsourcing security operations means experienced security experts will monitor and protect client networks around the clock. This allows your internal team to focus on other relevant tasks. 
  • Deployment and scalability - MDR is a cloud-based security solution, meaning you’ll benefit from fast deployment and scalability. Being a cloud-based solution, the scope of EDR can be scaled up or down as your client needs.  
  • AI monitoring - MDR provides AI-powered monitoring that helps organizations detect, investigate, and respond to advanced cyber threats. 
  • Complete response and remediation - MDR monitors your clients’ entire technology environment for cyber threats, responding to them in real time. 
  • Cost savings - Using MDR can achieve significant cost savings as it limits the need for additional staff and resources. For MSPs looking to stay profitable, this can be an important factor.

EDR vs MDR: Which is better?

In this section, we’ll look at some of the similarities between EDR and MDR and some critical differences. We’ll then look at which solution is right for your clients.  

There are several commonalities between EDR and MDR, including:

  • EDR and MDR are both used by enterprises to detect and respond to cyber threats and help protect against cyberattacks.
  • Both MDR and EDR use machine learning and analytics to identify cyber threats and build common cybersecurity threat vectors.
  • EDR and MDR provide organizations with response and remediation to cyber threats.
  • MDR and EDR provide visibility into enterprise architecture and pinpoint cyber threats.
  • Both EDR and MDR offer threat intelligence insights that are used proactively to find cyber threats.
  • MDR providers commonly use EDR solutions as part of their overall cybersecurity offering.

Key differences between MDR and EDR

There are a number of key differences between MDR and EDR, including the following:

  • Scope: EDR focuses on endpoints and provides detection and response capabilities on those endpoints. MDR, on the other hand, provides detection and response capabilities across the entire IT infrastructure. This means that MDR is better equipped to detect and respond to threats that may not be limited to a single device. Furthermore, MDR can provide a more comprehensive view of security and provide better visibility into threats across a client’s entire organization. Because most MDR solutions utilize EDR, the generally overall scope is the same, unless you find a suite that combines other tools like SIEM and network monitoring. In addition, you can take advantage of shared knowledge about other threats with your MDR partner.
  • Operational responsibility: An MSP operates EDR software to detect, protect, and respond to potential threats on client endpoints, such as laptops and servers. With EDR, your teams have to operate the software and analyze information to identify potential issues before they become an issue. MDR is typically managed by an external security operations team, who provides expertise to identify and mitigate cybersecurity risks. External experts are in charge of using the more advanced security features of EDR, including real-time threat detection, threat analysis, and response capabilities. 
  • Proactive vs reactive: Overall, MDR is considered the more proactive approach to cybersecurity because it is designed to identify and mitigate threats before they do damage to an organization. One of the central features of MDR is threat hunting, which sees security experts actively look for vulnerabilities and potential intrusions into IT environments. On the other hand, EDR is more of a reactive approach to cybersecurity, as it focuses on detecting and reacting to malicious activity. Its focus is on responding quickly and accurately to threats to an organization’s endpoints that have already been identified.
  • Automation: EDR provides information about malicious activity, but it does not provide automated threat response capabilities, meaning organizations have to manually respond to threats. This can be time-consuming and costly. MDR provides automated threat response capabilities, so organizations can respond to threats quickly and accurately without the need for manual intervention. By automating their threat response, MSPs can reduce the chance of successful cyber attacks. 

Making your choice of EDR vs MDR

Choosing between EDR and MDR technology depends on the needs of your clients. In this section, we’ll look at factors to consider if you’re considering which solution is right for you to start using.

Strong traits of EDR: 

  • Endpoint security: If your client is looking to bolster its endpoint security capabilities, then EDR will likely be a better fit, as it focuses exclusively on this part of their IT environment. You may want to consider EDR if your clients’ endpoint architecture is particularly vulnerable or if your internal teams lack endpoint security expertise.
  • Flexible deployment: One of the benefits of EDR compared with MDR is its flexible deployment. EDR can be deployed on-premise, on cloud, or as a hybrid, depending on the needs of your organization and clients and the capabilities of their existing technology stack. 

Strong traits of MDR:

  • Comprehensive IT protection: MDR is likely to be a more practical option for enterprises looking to protect their entire IT environment. MDR provides MSPs with a 24/7 Security Operations Center (SOC), powered by expert security analysts, cutting-edge threat intelligence, and around-the-clock security monitoring. 
  • Fill security gaps: Suppose your business has gaps in its security team, or is struggling to recruit cybersecurity experts. In that case, MDR offers an immediate and cost-effective option that ensures your IT environment is being monitored and protected. MDR can also be scaled up easily, so you don’t have to spend added time manually investigating each and every alert.
  • Incident response & threat hunting: While EDR can uncover threats to your endpoints, it does not have the tools to respond to them. If you don’t have in-house experts who can act upon threats and incidents, MDR will likely be a more effective option for your business. 

 Can EDR and MDR be used together?

The relationship between EDR and MDR is one of collaboration and integration. In fact, MDR providers often use EDR solutions as part of their cybersecurity package. Both technologies work together to provide an organization with comprehensive visibility and detection capabilities. 

Often, organizations implement an MDR to ensure their EDR solution is being properly deployed, or because they don’t have the in-house skills to get the most out of their EDR. In any case, ConnectWise is here to help you close potential security gaps for your clients. 

Start your free cybersecurity demo to see real-time threat detection and response in action and help determine which solution is fit for your business. 


EDR and MDR technology are both proven solutions for threat detection and response. The difference between them comes down to scope. EDR focuses exclusively on an organization’s endpoints. MDR focuses on an organization’s complete technology architecture and fills gaps in an enterprise’s cybersecurity skillset. 

Whether or not your organization should consider EDR or MDR will depend on your specific requirements. But as business technology continues to proliferate and cybersecurity incidents become more widespread, businesses will increasingly need to adopt an approach to security that extends beyond endpoints.

Because MDR is a fully-managed service that security experts oversee, it is typically a more expensive option than EDR, a software tool suite. While EDR may represent a smaller initial investment, it requires knowledgeable personnel to maintain and operate the software tools, as well as recruitment, onboarding, and regular training, and rising employee retention costs. 

MDR provides knowledgeable experts across multiple cybersecurity disciplines, and reliable monitoring and threat evaluation. MDR may also allow you to achieve cost efficiencies, by allowing your technology teams to focus on tasks that add value to the business. 

Yes, both EDR and MDR can help with compliance requirements, as they provide visibility for unexpected activity and threats. Being able to monitor this activity helps organizations remain compliant with guidelines like GDPR or HIPAA. 

There are several threats that enterprises can use EDR and MDR to protect against. 

MDR use cases:

Network attacks: MDRs scan network traffic for malicious code, detect unusual traffic patterns, identify unauthorized connections, and continuously monitor outbound connections for sensitive data, alerting administrators to unauthorized access. 

Ransomware: MDR multi-layer security structure continually monitors for suspicious activity, blocking potentially malicious activity and quickly responding to ransomware threats. MDR’s machine learning capabilities are adept at identifying ransomware activity. 

Zero-day attacks: By providing complete visibility across an organization’s IT environment, MDR effectively prevents zero-day attacks by detecting and responding to them before they can take effect. 

Insider threats: MDR monitors user activity and detects any suspicious or unusual behavior. This includes monitoring logins and user activity to detect any abnormal access to sensitive data, such as a user accessing confidential data they shouldn’t have access to. 

EDR use cases:

Zero-day attacks: Both EDR and MDR are effective at protecting organizations from zero-day attacks. Organizations use EDR to analyze data from endpoints for suspicious behavior that can indicate a zero-day attack. These indicators include malicious files, unusual network connections, and suspicious activities. It also blocks malicious code, preventing unknown software from running, and quarantines suspicious files and processes.  

Script execution: EDR manages script execution by monitoring the scripts and processes running on the system. It detects whether a script is malicious by looking at its activity and the system’s state. If the script is malicious, EDR can prevent it from executing by blocking it or terminating it.

Network monitoring: EDR monitors all devices connected to an organization’s network, monitoring activity such as application usage and user behavior. If EDR detects suspect activity, such as potentially harmful network activity or unauthorized access, it can respond in real time.