A Detailed Guide to EDR vs MDR vs XDR

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Choosing between EDR, MDR, and XDR depends on your current cybersecurity capacity.

The cybersecurity industry inherited one main truth from the security industry: those who wish to defend everything end up defending nothing. As a result, companies must choose between Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR), Managed Detection and Response (MDR), and Extended Detection and Response (XDR). These solutions protect your crucial assets without overextending, overcomplicating, or overpaying.

EDR, MDR, and XDR aren’t competing cybersecurity options. Rather, they’re different approaches to how you wish to protect your system and information. 

First, I’ll explain each of the approaches, showcase their pros and cons, and put them head-to-head. I’ll also consider different scenarios to clarify which is best for your business.

EDR vs MDR vs XDR

EDR focuses on protecting endpoint devices, like computers, smartphones, tablets, and IoT devices. 

MDR is an extension of EDR and focuses on network devices and services. Third-party services provide managed detection and response tools. They use data collected by cybersecurity experts to find risks and deal with them.

XDR encompasses the protection of networking devices, both in-house and cloud servers.

Businesses also use XDR for advanced threat detection. It protects the entire system, including cloud servers, network nodes, and other devices. Businesses use XDR through EDR as a simplified SaaS or managed through MDR.

Now, I’ll walk you through what each of these options does.

What Is EDR?

Endpoint detection and response is an upgrade to the former endpoint protection (EPP) threat detection. It focuses on classification and credentials. This means it matches all files that enter the endpoint device with the known database. Then, it determines what software is allowed and what might be malware.

Endpoint devices, in this sense, are computers, smartphones, consoles, servers, tablets, and the full range of Internet of Things (IoT) devices. All devices that interface with people are endpoint devices. They also require the same type of protection.

Signature-based protection and detection are at the core of this approach. As a result, EDR is exceptionally efficient at protecting against unknown threats. Because these threats aren’t on the accepted software list and don’t have the correct signature, they’re automatically viewed as threats.

The biggest threats are advanced persistent threats (APTs). They can stay dormant for a long time before activating. Before that point, they seem like regular code to most people, including experts. But as they don’t have a signature, their location and existence become known almost immediately.

Pros and Cons of EDR

EDR is one of the most popular approaches to cybersecurity, and for a good reason. Roughly 70% of breaches start at the endpoint. The data inside those devices is often the end goal for many cybercriminals.

Pros

  • High scalability: EDR is easy to extend to the devices you need. Its costs scale with demand for protection.
  • High flexibility: Endpoint protection allows for more types of workflow systems to receive the same level of protection.
  • Quick incident response: Security response is instant, preventing unauthorized data or users from gaining access.
  • Air-tight prevention: Signature-based protection prevents all suspected attacks instantly.
  • Low false positives: EDR produces very few security notifications that aren’t real threats.
  • Easy integration: EDR integrates with different software tools, such as Security Information and Event Management (SIEM)

Cons

  • Limited protection: As EDR relies on very limited information telemetry, it’s impossible to reconstruct how the attack happened. 
  • Minimal malware protection: If malware obtains internal signatures and credentials, EDR can do very little to stop it.

Next, I’ll go through MDR, which sounds similar to EDR in what it does, but the main difference is that cybersecurity professionals perform security.

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MDR exploits the advantage of having a team of experts, either inside your company or as a service.

What Is MDR?

Managed detection and response isn’t a specific tool or set of tools. Instead, it’s a mix of solutions from EDR and XDR. MDR collects and processes data. Then, it manages cybersecurity threats on an ad hoc basis. This can be done with different tools as an external service or manually inside the company.

You can hire cybersecurity experts to integrate MDR as part of the business. The experts will also go through the data and solve any issues. But, you may also externalize the work using  third-party MDR service providers. This allows for a balance between costs and experience.

MDR can protect endpoint devices, servers, networks, and other points of attack. Unlike EDR and XDR, it does so through human expertise paired with software solutions.

MDR uses all of the cybersecurity tools the company needs to protect the system and gather as much data as possible. Then, it finds any problems that may be present and solves them as quickly as possible.

Pros and Cons of MDR

MDR’s biggest selling point is that it can be significantly cheaper than building a cybersecurity team while still allowing for the same benefits. But that isn’t always the case. Rather, the biggest advantage of MDR is that it’s very adaptable.

Pros

  • Threat analyis: MDR can analyze numerous threats to remove false positives and focus on genuine threats.
  • Threat prioritization: The approach can discern between urgent and minor threats, first solving the urgent issues.
  • Rebuilding: MDR, either as an in-house team or external service, can quickly rebuild any tool, software, or system damaged by an attack.
  • Threat detection: Providers and experts can sort through all system data to find any threats that may be hiding. This reduces the damage they could inflict.

Cons

  • Expensive approach: The cost might be too high for companies that don’t have that much data and wouldn’t normally consider hiring a cybersecurity team..
  • Overwhelming process: A large company with an in-house cybersecurity team may benefit from keeping the team that knows all of the nooks and crannies of the system and is familiar with the company process. Switching to MDR may be more overwhelming than what it’s worth.

Finally, let me go through XDR, which can be applied to both of the former approaches but can also be a separate set of solutions.

What Is XDR?

XDR overcomes many of the downsides of EDR and MDR. Currently, because of the sheer number of tools necessary for such an approach, it’s almost exclusively present in software as a service (SaaS). This makes it easier to access.

XDR focuses on endpoints, networks, and cloud services inside the same platform. It solves problems as they arrive rather than waiting for them to affect the system.

This approach significantly decreases the angles of attack on a system. It also resolves cybersecurity threats holistically. This means it doesn’t keep any apparent weak point that cybercriminals can exploit.

Companies and organizations with a larger network with many areas that need to be covered usually use XDR. In these situations, this solution shines, whether the approach is managed externally or supervised internally.

Pros and Cons of XDR

The biggest advantage of XDR is its efficacy. The system ownership cost is low, and it requires little maintenance since almost everything is used inside a SaaS framework.

Pros

  • Improved detection: Because threats are detected everywhere, they are detected immediately.
  • Better overview: Due to reliance on software, you can see all detected threats on a single dashboard, making it easier to determine what to do.
  • Integrated automation: By using cloud automation and network analytic tools, it’s possible to detect, solve, and prioritize cybersecurity problems automatically.

Cons

  • Complex system: When done correctly, XDR can be one of the best solutions for most companies. But, the complexity of the system is also its biggest downside.
  • Challenging to use: Because XDR relies on various in-house software, on the network, and in the cloud, the solution can break cohesion and become hard to use. This will likely happen to some degree unless all solutions are built from the ground up.
  • Further downsides: Unless adequately managed—ideally by an experienced cybersecurity senior expert—XDR could exhibit the same downsides as EDR, MDR, and EPP instead of preventing those problems.

Now, I’ll contrast the aspects of all 3 options, then apply the solutions to small businesses. Hopefully, this makes the differences a bit clearer.

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The three options might seem similar, but there are significant differences between them.

EDR vs MDR vs XDR—Head to Head

Comparing EDR, MDR, and XDR out of context is challenging. No objective metric can show one is better than the other.

But, if we measure them in the context of small to medium businesses (SMB), it becomes much more apparent what features are important and which are secondary. In this scenario, their differences become larger, so you can determine the best fit for you.

EDRMDRXDR
CostGenerally cheap and scalable
Software is included
Averages USD100-USD1,000 annually
An increase in cost depends on current capabilities
Increased labor costs
Averages USD10,000 (SaaS) to USD300,000 (in-house) annually
Steep initial cost with cost of implementation
Costs aren’t very scalable
Averages USD1,000 – USD10,000 annually
Ease of useEasy to use without expertiseRequires cybersecurity expertiseRequires a cybersecurity manager
ImplementationQuick to implement with user-friendly softwareRelatively quick to implement with the necessary expertiseRequires extensive calibration and management
ProtectionShielded from roughly 70% of possible attacks automaticallyProtected from virtually all attacks and possible threatsGuards against virtually all attacks on devices, networks, and the cloud
EffectivenessIdeal for small businesses with no cloud presenceBest for large businesses with existing cybersecurity teamsBest-suited for medium businesses with limited staff and cloud presence
Choose the best solution for your business by comparing a number of factors.

Which Is the Best for My Business?

Most business owners and managers notice one difference between these three solutions before any other: cost differences. These cost differences may add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars annually, removing some solutions from consideration altogether.

The choice isn’t as simple as selecting the price range acceptable for your company. For some companies, cybersecurity isn’t a cost but rather an investment. And in many situations, it’s an investment allowing your company to grow.

If the core of the company product or service depends on maximum cybersecurity, for instance,you can only opt for managed cybersecurity. Even if you don’t have a team, using SaaS options makes it worth it.

Similarly, if you have a large company that focuses on sales and has a simple hierarchy, you’ll benefit more from XDR.

Finally, some companies don’t own any networking or cloud devices. Regardless of the company’s size, anything except EDR is pointless in these cases.

Below I’ll list when to use which option and what to look for when it comes to different features.

Choose EDR If Your Organization

  • Requires device protection and cybersecurity capabilities beyond NAGAV
  • Has limited cybersecurity expertise and requires a comprehensive alert system
  • Needs to create a good foundation for cybersecurity scalability on many devices

Features to Look for with EDR

  • Improved visibility of data traffic on all applicable devices
  • Compatible detection functions for threats applicable to the industry
  • Automated incident response function

Choose MDR If Your Organization

  • Requires advanced threat detection and response capabilities
  • Is increasing the demand for remote incident response options
  • Has existing cloud automation and cloud orchestration capabilities
  • Requires increased threat analytics and intelligence
  • Needs interrelated services, including vulnerability management and threat assessment

Features to Look for with MDR

  • Comprehensive threat assessment capabilities
  • Good value for SaaS options
  • Adequate triage and resolution capabilities
  • Strong ability to integrate with the existing system

Choose XDR If Your Organization:

  • Wants to enhance advanced threat detection
  • Requires a multi-domain threat analysis, investigation, and resolution from a single location
  • Requires better efficacy with threat assessment and resolution
  • Has a wide range of endpoint devices, network devices, and cloud and in-house servers
  • Wants to improve response time and ROI across all security tools

Features to Look for with XDR

  • Simplified workflow options
  • User-friendly response coordination
  • AI and machine learning analytics
  • Advanced automated response capabilities
  • Good visibility on all security positions

Final Words

While EDR, MDR, and XDR aren’t in direct competition, it’s easy to discern which one you need. EDR is simple to use and affects endpoint devices. MDR is a managed system of security and reporting. XDR is the extension of the system to network devices and servers.

For businesses, aside from the stark difference in cost, the choice also depends on the company structure and requirements. For companies with only endpoint devices, EDR is sufficient, while those with cloud presence and network requirements need more.

Choosing the option that best fits your company, both in its current and future state, is the best path and the only way to stay confident in your company’s cybersecurity capabilities.

Have more questions on ED, MDR, and XDR? Check out the FAQ and Resources sections below!

FAQ

Is XDR better than EDR?

XDR is the extension of EDR solutions to both networks and the cloud. It offers a wider array of protection. But, for organizations that don’t control network nodes or servers, the added cost isn’t justified, and it’s better to go with EDR, which can be managed.

Can MDR be automated on the cloud?

Yes. MDR services are most frequently used to manage large amounts of data by a professional cybersecurity expert, but it’s possible to use cloud automation for much of the processes involved. This includes analytics and response management in some cases.

Is SIEM an XDR?

No. SIEM, or security information and event management, is a tool to collect and compile reports. It’s frequently part of a managed security service provider’s (MSSP) service that reduces the number of security notifications by removing redundancies. SIEM is part of XDR, MDR, or EDR but isn’t a core component.

Can you manage EDR on a hybrid cloud?

Yes. EDR doesn’t provide many solutions inside a cloud server and doesn’t offer protection of the hybrid cloud itself. Nonetheless, you can manage it from one location to encompass multiple company devices.

Does XDR work on AWS servers?

Yes. Amazon Web Services offer a native option for Network Detection and Response (NDR) and easy integration with third-party EDR software, making it easy to develop XDR. Both AWS and Azure are good options for XDR.

Resources

TechGenix: Newsletters

Subscribe to our newsletters for more quality content.

TechGenix: Article on Integrating EDR with a VPN

Read more about what to do when your SSO, EDR, and MDM solutions don’t play well with VPN.

TechGenix: Article on Managing Endpoint Devices in a Hybrid Cloud

Learn how to manage endpoint devices in the hybrid cloud.

TechGenix: Article on Endpoint Security Best Practices

Discover more endpoint security best practices.

TechGenix: Article on Preventing Attack Vectors

Read about different attack vectors and how you can prevent them.

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