Many companies turn to security information and event management (SIEM) solutions to meet compliance requirements and improve their security posture. SIEM solutions provide a holistic understanding of the security landscape, providing organizations a way to proactively safeguard their digital infrastructure.

But just how effective is SIEM compared to a managed detection and response (MDR) solution?

Let’s take a look at MDR and SIEM and see which is the best option for your organization.

What is SIEM?

IT business systems produce an abundant steam of data from logs recording user and application activity, while security devices constantly generate massive volumes of data awaiting analysis. All that data can contain indicators of compromise useful for threat detection.

SIEM tools serve as the gatekeeper in cybersecurity, ingesting, and analyzing vast amounts of data. They usually accept a large range of log data types and other feeds and allow users to configure rules triggered by specific data patterns and even explore machine learning analysis.

Indeed, SIEM can be a very powerful tool in the fight against cyber threats. However, it’s important to view this option as a dynamic process rather than as a one-time purchase. The critical part of the acronym is the word management.

SIEM platforms often are favored by organizations due to the following factors:

  • Unified visibility: By adopting a one-stop-shop approach, SIEM platforms create a comprehensive view of security logs, enabling efficient monitoring and analysis.
  • Customization and configuration: This option offers broad flexibility, allowing organizations to tailor the platform according to their internal requirements and standard security policies.
  • Compliance support: With built-in capabilities for data storage and archiving, SIEM assists businesses in meeting numerous compliance regulations through data retention in the event of an audit.

In 2019, the global SIEM industry was valued at $ 2.83 billion and is projected to grow to a value of $6.42 billion by 2027. In a SIEM-focused study, 56% of respondents said they already use the platform and another 34% plan to implement SIEM in the near future. Does this mean we have a clear market winner in the SIEM vs. MDR battle? Not really.

What Are the Cons of SIEM?

While an effective SIEM solution can help organizations with threat management, there’s often a gap between expectations and what solutions actually deliver. This isn’t because SIEMs themselves are ineffective, but because isn’t always used effectively.

Organizations often look at SIEM as a one-off technology purchase. They underestimate the investment in time to achieve value and the management of something that needs to be maintained on an ongoing basis, more than most technology tools.

While SIEM platforms may appear to operate autonomously, they require expert security professionals to maintain and balance correlation rulesets and log analysis. The undertaking of drafting and maintaining new detection rules and gathering insights from various of sources of threat intel falls on the security team. Once the logs are aggregated, the work shifts to weeding out false positives, fine-tuning existing rules to maintain an effective platform.

If you’re not doing this, SIEM solutions will draw attention to false positives while letting real security threats go undetected.

How Does MDR Work?

As aforementioned, the critical part of the SIEM acronym is the M, and the same is true for managed detection and response. Unlike traditional SIEM solutions, companies don’t implement and run their own MDR solution. Instead, MDR is managed by an external team of security experts on the organization’s behalf.

[Related Reading: What is Managed Detection and Response?]


Security Management or Managed Security

While SIEM only aims to detect attacks, MDR takes this a step further by exposing vulnerabilities within a system, analyzing user behavior and activity which can provide early indicators of an attack. MDR offers rapid detection and response to threats through a comprehensive view which takes into account continuous monitoring of evolving risks, implementing cutting edge security techniques and a 24/7 security operations team working closely with clients to mitigate threats.

In 2023, the average time it took businesses to identify and contain a data breach was 277 days, highlighting the importance of MDR as a proactive defense measure. With MDR, that time usually is reduced to a couple of hours though rapid detection and delivery of actionable guidance or automated response to customers.

MDR not only provides companies a way to detect and respond to attacks but also plays a vital role in prevention. Through the seamless integration of attack detection and response capabilities along with pre-breach assessment like vulnerability management, MDR creates a unified force by design. Threat intelligence teams on staff, possess keen insights into the identification of new potential attack vectors which offer early warning signs and protection against impending attacks.

An effective MDR solution comes with a wide range of security tools for monitoring activity, detecting and eliminating threats, and safeguarding networks against future attacks. This means your organization benefits from 24/7 protection, and you don’t have the overhead of managing an in-house security team.

One notable difference between the two options lies in the approach taken to cybersecurity. Unlike SIEM, MDR takes a proactive stance in safeguarding against digital threats. While SIEM effectively gathers and scrutinizes logs, MDR moves the needle forward by actively diving in the threat landscape through comprehensive exploration of attacker activities across a much larger spectrum.

MDR vs. SIEM: Who Wins?

Undoubtedly, SIEM tools have proven effective in safeguarding systems. However, harnessing their full potential requires significant investments in both finances and times. Limitations in team expertise, time or 24/7 operations reduce the effectiveness of a SIEM platform.

MDR flips the script by alleviating the required purchase and updating of additional security platforms to aid SIEM tools. You don’t have to go it alone to build additional cybersecurity infrastructure or create an in-house team of security experts to monitor your systems 24/7. MDR solution providers shoulder these responsibilities and provide comprehensive protection and coverage well beyond traditional SIEM.

Learn more about Fortra’s Alert Logic MDR and how it can keep you better protected.

Additional Resources:

SIEM Solutions for Security: What Vendors Won’t Tell You | Whitepaper 

Zuri Cortez
About the Author
Zuri Cortez
Zuri Cortez is a Solutions Engineer based in Austin, Texas, and has worked for Alert Logic for three years. He previously worked at Logichub, AlienVault, and AT&T as an SE, as well as in Capitol Metro and the US Army as a Network Engineer.

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