What Is XDR vs. MDR?

5 min. read

Extended detection and response (XDR) and managed detection and response (MDR) can work together to strengthen an organization’s security posture. The fundamental difference between the two is: XDR is a security product used by teams — managed or in-house — to detect, respond to, and investigate security incidents. MDR are security services for organizations that don’t have the resources to handle threat monitoring, detection, and response.

MDR services are used by organizations of all sizes and may be especially valuable for businesses that may not have the resources to maintain their own in-house cybersecurity teams. Often, MDR services will use tools like XDR to help organizations in threat detection and response efforts.

XDR's strength lies in its ability to aggregate and analyze data from different security tools and technologies. It leverages advanced analytics, machine learning, and threat intelligence to identify patterns and anomalies across multiple platforms, enabling security teams to detect and respond to threats more efficiently. By connecting the dots between disparate security events, XDR enhances the overall threat detection and response capabilities of an organization.

Understanding Managed Detection and Response (MDR)

MDR is a service that combines technology and human expertise to provide threat monitoring, detection, and response to cyberthreats. It focuses primarily on detecting and responding to threats that have bypassed other security controls.

MDR involves a team of dedicated security analysts who actively monitor real-time network logs, alerts, and other data sources to identify suspicious activities. If a threat is detected, the MDR provider will analyze it, typically using a combination of automated systems and human analysis, and then recommend or initiate appropriate response actions. In the event of a security incident, MDR teams are equipped to provide swift incident response, helping to contain the threat, mitigate the damage, and restore normal operations.

MDR is especially valuable for organizations that lack the internal resources or expertise to effectively monitor for and respond to cyberthreats. It's a more proactive approach compared to traditional managed security service providers (MSSPs), focusing on threats within the environment rather than just external perimeter defenses.

What is Managed Detection and Response (MDR)?

Exploring Extended Detection and Response (XDR)

Extended detection and response, or XDR, is a new approach to threat detection and response. According to Forrester Research, XDR “optimizes threat detection, investigation, response, and hunting in real time. XDR unifies security-relevant endpoint detections with telemetry from security and business tools such as network analysis and visibility (NAV), email security, identity and access management, cloud security, and more”.

The “X” in XDR stands for “extended”, but it really represents any data source, recognizing that it’s not efficient or effective to look at individual components of an environment in isolation. XDR brings a proactive approach to threat detection and response, delivering visibility across networks, clouds, and endpoints while applying analytics and automation to address today’s increasingly sophisticated threats.

Key Differences Between MDR and XDR

(New) While both XDR and MDR share the overarching goal of elevating threat detection and response capabilities, XDR is a product designed to help security teams, managed or in-house, handle threats. On the other hand, MDR is a service designed to help organizations take action in the event of a cybersecurity incident. Often, MDR teams make use of tools like XDR to provide services. Therefore, it's essential to recognize that these two approaches are not in competition but rather synergistic.

Integration and analytics: MDR operates with a suite of security tools and technologies tailored for monitoring and analyzing network data. It delivers invaluable insights within the network perimeter. However, MDR solutions might lack seamless integration with other security tools and platforms, potentially limiting its ability to correlate data and discern intricate attack patterns. XDR, in contrast, seamlessly integrates with an extensive array of security technologies. It harnesses the power of advanced analytics, machine learning, and threat intelligence to dissect and interconnect security events across diverse platforms. This integration, coupled with advanced analytics, equips XDR to offer a holistic and contextually rich comprehension of security threats.

Context and incident response: The security experts comprising an MDR team delve into alerts, curtail threats, and set in motion remediation protocols to reinstate normal operations. XDR transcends the confines of network perimeters, presenting a panoramic view of the attack chain. Through adept correlation of data spanning various security layers, XDR equips security teams with an encompassing context of security events. This broader context empowers them to formulate informed decisions and take preemptive measures to effectively mitigate threats.


XDR is a security product designed to help security teams, managed or in-house, detect and respond to threats, and investigate security incidents. MDR is a security service where an outside team takes on the responsibility of detection and response, often using tools like XDR in incident response efforts.
Both XDR and MDR solutions are designed to integrate with existing security tools and investments. However, it's important to assess the compatibility and interoperability of each solution with your current infrastructure to ensure seamless integration and maximize the value of your existing investments.
XDR solutions typically offer greater scalability compared to MDR. With its broader coverage and integration capabilities, XDR can adapt to the growth of your organization and accommodate additional security layers and technologies. MDR, while effective within its network-centric scope, may have limitations in scaling to cover broader security requirements.
XDR solutions offer a higher level of control and visibility across multiple security layers. They provide a unified view of security events and enable holistic analysis and response. MDR, on the other hand, focuses primarily on network-centric security measures, offering control and visibility within the network perimeter.
Both XDR and MDR can be suitable for organizations of various sizes and industries. However, organizations with complex infrastructures, extensive cloud adoption, or those operating in highly regulated industries may benefit more from the comprehensive coverage and integration capabilities of XDR. MDR can be a viable option for organizations with well-defined network perimeters and network-centric security concerns.
Both XDR and MDR solutions aim to reduce incident response times. However, XDR's broader coverage and advanced analytics capabilities can potentially expedite the detection and response process by providing a comprehensive view of security events across multiple layers. MDR, while effective within its scope, may have slightly longer response times as it primarily focuses on network-centric incidents.