SIEM vs MDR: Choosing the right solution

In the world of cyber security, it seems that we are living in a state of constant compromise. Something as simple as a job advertisement can be leveraged against you by malicious actors as it provides an insight as to the software and systems within your organisation. Alongside that it is almost impossible to not use computers and devices in one way or another for most businesses.

Unfortunately, this puts us at risk from malicious actors that want to steal our data, money, or information. A recent survey found that “Around a third of businesses (32%) and a quarter of charities (24%) report having experienced any kind of cyber security breach or attack in the last 12 months. This accounts for approximately 462,000 businesses and 48,000 registered charities”.

At Aspire, we regularly help organisations who are facing the ever-evolving world of cyber security. Often businesses we speak to are in the process of trying to find the best way to stay ahead of modern cyber threats.

However, when researching solutions, it can be difficult to differentiate their functionality, or to know which one is right for you. The two security services that usually end up on organisation’s radars are Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) and Managed Detection and Response (MDR).

This blog will provide you with a comprehensive comparison of SIEM vs MDR helping you make the best decision for your unique security requirements.

Key Takeaways

  • SIEM and MDR are two complementary cyber security solutions that provide organisations with visibility, detection, response, and compliance support.
  • Organisations should consider their size, available resources and security needs when deciding between SIEM and MDR.
  • Combining the two can create a comprehensive solution tailored to specific requirements for improved protection against evolving threats.


The world from a cyber security perspective is fraught with danger, as threat actors are constantly seeking new and innovative solutions to breach security measures and compromise your business.

Enter SIEM and MDR, two widely used cyber security solutions that serve distinct yet complementary roles in threat detection and response.


What is SIEM?

SIEM (Security Information and Event Management) is a tool that aids security teams in identifying and responding to malicious behaviour as and when it happens. It does this by gathering and analysing IOCs (Indicators of Compromise) and abnormal behaviour in real time. This helps to quickly identify abnormalities and stop threat actors in their tracks.

SIEM combines two key tools to provide a single holistic view:

SIM (Security Information Management): This element focuses on the analysis of log data generated from devices and tools such as firewalls, antivirus software, servers, and devices. This provides valuable insight into any abnormal behaviour to identify and remediate any malicious behaviour as it happens.

SEM (Security Event Management): Focuses on the real-time monitoring and analysis of patterns and behaviours to identify abnormalities and respond to incidents in real time.

By combining these two elements, a Security Information and Event Management solution is designed to provide an array of functionality including:

  • Real time collection, analysis, and alerting.
  • Providing a single point of call for all security information data.
  • Facilitating forensic investigation with historic and current alerts information
  • Real time detection of threats and abnormal behaviour


Key Features of SIEM

A SIEM solution provides a suite of powerful features, including log data collection and analysis, real-time alerts, compliance support, forensic analysis, threat intelligence, and advanced analytics.

Typically, this would be managed and maintained in-house, or by a Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP), such as Aspire. A SIEM ingests logs created by numerous systems or devices which are then filtered through rules to create alerts. These alerts would then go to a security or IT professional to further investigate and action.


Log Data Collection and Analysis

The heart of SIEM lies with its extensive ability to collect log data from multiple sources, aggregating it, and normalising the data to be user friendly. These logs can be anything from a sign in attempt, to an email being sent.

It then applies these logs to a rule-based engine to quickly identify any abnormal behaviours or indications of compromise so they can be quickly remediated.

For example, if you have a rule that alerts when a user signs in from a country that has been designated at being at high risk for security breaches. A sign in log would be generated and an alert raised and sent to the assigned personnel to investigate.


Real-Time Alerts

Once the logs have been normalised and collated, they are applied to a rule-based engine to quickly identify any indicators of compromise or abnormal behaviour. Allowing real time alerting of any potential security incidents and empowering organisations to take swift, decisive action to mitigate risks.


Compliance Support

With the ever-growing list of regulations and industry standards, compliance support is a critical feature in SIEM solutions. It encompasses activities such as:

  • Risk assessment
  • Reporting and Auditing
  • Policy formulation
  • Training
  • Monitoring

These activities are necessary to ensure adherence to legal and regulatory standards.

SIEM assists organisations in upholding ethical standards, minimising potential risks, and circumventing legal repercussions through its extensive compliance support.


Forensic Analysis

Forensic analysis is the systematic process of collecting, analysing, and interpreting evidence from a cyber incident or policy violation. This allows security analysists to ascertain the facts of an incident and take the necessary actions to remediate an incident.

In the context of a SIEM, with the multitude of log sources from various devices that it provides, it is an invaluable tool in investigation of security incidents.


Threat intelligence

Threat intelligence is the process of gathering, analysing, and interpreting data from various sources to identify and understand potential threats and risks to an organisation’s security, such as cyber-attacks, malware, or other malicious activities.

When done proactively, this can identify IOCs (Indicators of Compromise) and artifacts to work alongside SIEM solutions to identify and mitigate potential attacks and harmful events from occurring. Alerts generated using threat intelligence provide further insight into a threat actors tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) which is then leveraged to prevent a threat actor from proceeding with their attacks.

SIEM’s threat intelligence capabilities furnish organisations with actionable insights and timely information about potential threats, thus enabling proactive threat and vulnerability management, and protecting their networks and systems from malicious actors.


Advanced Analytics

Advanced analytics is a set of sophisticated techniques and tools used to analyse and interpret large and complex data sets, allowing organisations to detect patterns, trends, and insights that can inform decision-making and improve business outcomes.

Within SIEM, advanced analytics through the use of event correlation can aid organisations in alerting and detecting hidden threats and vulnerabilities, thus permitting them to adopt proactive measures for securing their networks and systems.

Secure your organisation
from cyber security threats

Secure your organisation
from cyber security threats

What is MDR?

MDR stands for Managed Detection and Response. It is a fully comprehensive security solution which enables constant monitoring and response from experienced security professionals.

MDR is fully managed by a third-party service provider. This means organisations benefit from an exceptional level of expertise and constant monitoring, so threats are detected and mitigated at all hours without the investment into security personnel and tools.

Unlike SIEM, which relies on data analysis to detect threats, MDR employs a proactive approach. Utilizing a host of enterprise level security tools and combining machine learning, behavioural analytics, and human analysis to identify potential threats and remediate them before they can cause damage.

This results in a service that goes beyond threat detection to proactively safeguard organisations in real time with managed security services.

For example, if a user receives a phishing email or clicks on a link that attempts to download and run malware a log would be created and alerted to a security professional and the download may be blocked from running completely.

Key Features of MDR

MDR services offer a specialised set of benefits, leveraging tools such as SIEM and EDR (Endpoint Detention and Response) to provide:

  • Continuous threat monitoring
  • Dedicated 24/7 security experts
  • Proactive threat hunting
  • Guided response
  • Remediation

Organisations can attain a comprehensive and robust security solution by capitalising on the strengths of MDR without adding full-time staff and resources to a security solution.

Continuous Threat Monitoring

A key feature of an MDR solution is the continuous threat monitoring it provides. Security experts are continuously observing an organisation’s network and systems for threats and vulnerabilities. Employing advanced technology alongside machine-based learning algorithms to detect, analyse, and respond to security incidents in real time.

MDR’s continuous threat monitoring capabilities enable organisations to maintain strong security posture and prevent or remediate cyber threats at all times.


Dedicated Security Experts

MDR services provide organisations access to an expert team of dedicated security experts without the need for hiring and training an in-house security team and providing an enterprise level of security monitoring capabilities as an in-house security team at a much lower cost.

These experts are responsible for monitoring systems and detecting threats 24/7, ensuring your organisation is always protected when it is needed most.


Proactive Threat Hunting

Oftentimes when a threat actor interacts with a network or operating system they leave behind residual evidence that they have taken an action, these are known as artifacts which security professionals use to create IOCs (Indicators of Compromise). Security professionals actively search for these artifacts and IOCs (Indicators of Compromise) to detect threats before they cause harm.

By employing a variety of techniques and tools to identify and address potential risks before they materialise, MDR’s proactive threat hunting capabilities alongside vulnerability scanning can help organisations stay ahead of cyber threats and maintain a strong security posture.


Guided Response & Vulnerability Scanning

With an MDR service, you have full access to the expertise of a full security team, the valuable insights provided help organisations effectively respond to security incidents and strengthen their security posture.

Alongside this we at Aspire provide vulnerability scanning which provides an overview of an organisations security posture to evaluate any vulnerabilities ahead of time.



Remediation is the act of rectifying a problem or situation by taking steps to reduce or eliminate its adverse effects and restoring it to an ideal state free from any threats or disruptions.

In the context of MDR, remediation involves identifying and dealing with the outcome of a cyber incident and securing systems and data. With the backing of a full team of cyber security experts, an MDR solution can quickly get an organization back up and running.

As part of the remediation process security professionals can identify and patch up any vulnerabilities that have been identified and ensure steps are taken to mitigate any further disruption.

Comparing SIEM and MDR: Pros and Cons

Now that we’ve compared the features offered by both SIEM and MDR, we can look at the pros and cons of each solution. This will help you make an informed decision that aligns with your organisation’s unique security requirements and the benefits of either solution.

Both SIEM and MDR have their strengths and limitations, and understanding these differences can help you decide which solution best meets your needs.

  • Access to Security Expertise
  • Alert/Incident Investigation
  • Remediation
  • Proactive threat hunting
  • Outsourced Service
  • Proactive Solution
  • Regulatory Compliance
  • Threat Detection and Analysis
  • Rule based detection
  • Automated Remediation
  • Self-Managed or MSSP managed
  • Reactive solution
  • MDR

  • ✔ Human lead
  • X
  • X
  • X
  • X
  • SIEM (Unmanaged)

  • X
  • X
  • ✔ Automated or Semi-automated
  • X
  • X
  • X

SIEM Pros and Cons

SIEM solutions offer comprehensive visibility into current and historic network activity and support compliance efforts, making them an attractive option for large organisations with complex IT environments. However, they can be complex to implement and maintain in-house, requiring investment in resources and expertise.

Additionally, SIEM’s reliance on data analysis to detect threats can result in a high number of false positive alerts, potentially overburdening IT teams with unnecessary alerts. This is what we refer to as alert fatigue which can lead to a diminished ability to effectively react to an alert. This may require fine tuning and constant monitoring to filter and baseline normal behaviour and may not alert to threats that have not had a rule applied to create an alert.

Alternatively, some organisations may choose to outsource the management of their SIEM, to a service provider. This way all alerts are managed and filtered before reaching the organisation. This dramatically reduces the risk of false alerts and alert fatigue for internal teams.

MDR Pros and Cons

MDR services boast a proactive approach to threat detection and response, providing organisations with round-the-clock monitoring and access to specialised security experts without adding full-time staff and resources. This provides a complete solution to threat detection and response that improves threat response and decreases the time to detect breaches.

However, MDR services may not meet all compliance requirements, and log availability and retention to historic data may be limited and further investment may need to be made to ensure compliance needs.


Choosing Between SIEM and MDR: Factors to Consider

Selecting the right cyber security solution is a critical decision for any organisation. When choosing between SIEM and MDR, it’s essential to consider factors such as the size and complexity of your business, the resources you have available, and your specific security requirements.

A careful assessment of these factors can guide you towards an informed decision that best fulfils your organisation’s needs and enhances your security posture.


Business Size and Complexity

The size and complexity of your business play a crucial role in determining the most suitable cyber security solution. SIEM solutions are generally more scalable and cost-effective than MDR solutions, making them an attractive option for large organisations with complex IT environments when you can commit the resources to it.

However, MDR solutions may be more appropriate for organisations with more intricate security requirements, as they offer continuous threat monitoring and access to specialised security experts. Unlike a SIEM solution which requires a high level of technical expertise and understanding of the business infrastructure and networking to properly utilise, an MDR solution provides all this in one package.


Available Resources

The resources you have available for managing cyber security are another critical factor to consider when choosing between SIEM and MDR. Implementing and maintaining a SIEM solution can be costly and resource-intensive, requiring significant investment in hardware, software, and personnel training.

On the other hand, MDR services are typically offered as a subscription-based managed service, which may be more cost-effective and easier to implement for organisations with limited budgets and resources.


Specific Security Needs

Lastly, it’s essential to consider your organisation’s specific security needs when choosing between SIEM and MDR. SIEM solutions provide comprehensive visibility into network activity and support compliance efforts, making them an attractive option for organisations with stringent regulatory requirements.

In contrast, MDR services offer round-the-clock monitoring and access to specialised security experts, making them an ideal choice for organisations that require continuous threat detection, endpoint detection, and response capabilities.


Combining SIEM and MDR for Enhanced Cyber security

Organisations seeking to maximise their cyber security can combine SIEM and MDR, thereby drawing on the strengths of both solutions while mitigating their limitations.

With the comprehensive threat detection and response capabilities offered by SIEM and the round-the-clock monitoring and specialised expertise provided by MDR, organisations can create a robust security solution that is tailored to their unique needs and requirements.


How SIEM and MDR Complement Each Other

SIEM and MDR are complementary solutions that, when combined, provide comprehensive threat detection, response, and compliance support. SIEM excels in collecting and analysing log data, detecting threats in real-time, and providing compliance support.

In contrast, MDR provides continuous monitoring of threats, dedicated security experts, and guided response and remediation.

By capitalising on the strengths of both SIEM and MDR, organisations can craft a comprehensive and robust security solution that caters to their unique needs and requirements.



In conclusion, SIEM and MDR are both powerful cyber security solutions that offer unique benefits and address different challenges. By understanding the key features, pros and cons, and factors to consider when choosing between SIEM and MDR, organisations can make an informed decision that best fulfils their specific security needs.

Moreover, by combining SIEM and MDR, organisations can leverage the strengths of both solutions to achieve enhanced cyber security, ensuring that their networks and systems remain secure in the face of ever-evolving threats.

Aspire can help

With the threat landscape always changing, an effective cyber security strategy utilising the best and latest threat prevention technologies is vital to protect your organisation and clients.

At Aspire we help organisations stay ahead of emerging security threats. Our RealProtect Managed Cyber Security Services includes 24/7/365 managed detection and response and managed SIEM, via our UK-based Cyber Security Operations Centre.

Have any questions about any of our products? Contact us directly and one of our specialists will help.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does MDR include SIEM?

    Yes, MDR typically includes SIEM as part of its threat detection features. We at Aspire leverage the information from a SIEM on top of several other advanced tools to ensure the highest quality MDR service solution.

  • Can SIEM and MDR be integrated for enhanced cyber security?

    Yes, SIEM and MDR can be integrated for improved cyber security by leveraging the benefits of both solutions and overcoming their limitations. By combining the two solutions, organisations can gain better visibility into their networks and detect threats more quickly. They can also reduce the time and effort required to investigate and respond to incidents.

  • What factors should be considered when choosing between SIEM and MDR?

    When choosing between SIEM and MDR, businesses should consider factors such as size and complexity, available resources, and specific security needs. Can you afford to invest the resources and staff into developing an in-house security team? Then going down the SIEM and taking the time to create an in-house solution leveraging the benefits of a SIEM solution may be ideal.

    If you’re looking for expert 24/7 security backed by a team of experienced security analysts from the start, then an MDR solution may be the way to go.

Want to Reduce Your Attack Surface?

Want to Reduce Your Attack Surface?

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Written by:

Avatar photoJamie Egglestone

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