A security operations center (SOC) plans, manages, and executes a company’s cybersecurity strategy to protect its IT environment. Virtually every organization needs to meet SOC responsibilities—after all, whether you outsource this role via security operations center as a service or establish an in-house team, cybersecurity remains a top priority. To that end, understanding the different types of security operations centers will help you pick the right option for your organization.
Types of Security Operations Centers—Five Variations
A security operations center comprises the people, processes, and technology involved in your cybersecurity strategy. And just as every organization and its IT environments are all unique, your SOC will be as well. However, you can classify the types of security operations centers into five broad categories:
- Security operations center as a service (“outsourced” SOC)
- Co-managed SOC (or “hybrid” SOC)
- SOC/NOC (i.e., security operations center/network operations center)
- Dedicated SOC
- Command SOC
Learning about the different SOC types will help you understand and build the variation best suited for your organization.
Security Operations Center as a Service
SOC as a service follows the “as-a-Service trend” that has exploded over the last decade, primarily due to the proliferation of cloud computing and resources. Leveraging cloud capabilities, “as-a-Service” vendors provide integrable infrastructure, systems, applications, data storage, and nearly all other IT resources to organizations without on-premise implementations.
Security operations center as a service follows the same pattern, allowing organizations to outsource their management and responsibilities to a third party, known as a managed security services provider (MSSP). You can outsource your entire cybersecurity management to a virtual SOC.
Benefits of Security Operations Center as a Service
The security operations center as a service model offers five cybersecurity and broader business benefits:
- Forefront cyber threat intelligence – As cybersecurity experts with specialized knowledge, an MSSP offering SOC as a service will provide your organization with the most up-to-date information regarding cybercriminals, their methods, and analysis thereof.
- The best technologies – MSSPs make it their job to identify the best cybersecurity technologies to ensure they can meet their responsibilities and attract new partner organizations. Offering first-class security information and event management (SIEM) and other cybersecurity systems benefits an expert MSSP as much as it does your organization.
- Minimized turnover – SOC team roles are demanding and result in frequent employee turnover due to burnout—especially for Tier 1 analysts. SOC as a service ensures your team is never understaffed and eliminates the pain of hiring processes.
- Reclaimed staff bandwidth – By outsourcing your SOC responsibilities, you clear off employee to-do lists. With this newfound availability, you can reprioritize your security staff with high-impact or the most urgent tasks.
- Cost reductions – SOC as a service eliminates the need to meet hardware and employee training expenditures, as your MSSP partner will handle these.
Security Operations Center as a Service Challenges
The primary challenge with deciding on SOC as a service for your organization is finding the right MSSP. Unfortunately, some MSSPs may look to pad their bottom line by offering less effective services at premium rates. Therefore, you’ll want to look for an expert MSSP with years of industry expertise and top-notch service delivery, like RSI Security, to avoid those only interested in their margins.
Who Benefits from Security Operations Center as a Service Most?
Although the hybrid model discussed below may be better for your organization than complete outsourcing, every organization benefits from SOC as a service. Security operations center as a service helps those suffering the immediate aftermath of a data breach and enterprises looking to minimize the expenditures a SOC team demands.
Co-managed or Hybrid Security Operations Center
Simply put, a co-managed SOC combines in-house and outsourced models. Organizations that choose the hybrid model will partner with an MSSP for some SOC services.
Perhaps your organization is looking to reduce SOC costs by outsourcing lower priority responsibilities—such as continuous monitoring and patch management—while retaining internal experts. On the other hand, perhaps your organization needs that top-level expertise to conduct Tier 3 threat hunting and complex incident response. An expert MSSP that offers services such as penetration testing can meet these specialized needs.
Benefits of Co-managed Security Operations Centers
In addition to the benefits that SOC as a service offers, co-managed SOC models provide complete flexibility. Your organization can choose the SOC responsibilities to outsource and those kept in-house.
Co-managed SOC Challenges
Finding the right MSSP to partner with remains a challenge with the co-managed SOC model. In addition, organizations will have to balance their own SOC expenditures with their outsourcing costs. However, partnering with the right MSSP will come with expert guidance on minimizing all your SOC expenditures—internal and external.
Who Benefits Most from Co-managed SOCs?
Organizations looking to reduce costs, alleviate lower-tier SOC burdens, and add higher-tier SOC expertise benefit most from the co-managed model. Additionally, an organization currently contending with a temporary cybersecurity challenge can outsource those responsibilities without making long-term investments in people and technologies.
A SOC/NOC combines your organization’s security operations and network operations centers. NOC teams are typically part of organizations that rely on complex IT environments that require a consistently high level of service availability. SOC/NOC teams manage both responsibilities.
Benefits of SOC/NOCs
SOC/NOCs can help some organizations reduce costs by sharing infrastructure and personnel to create a cohesive, all-encompassing IT team.
While a well-oiled SOC/NOC team can meet a wide range of responsibilities, there is a reasonable chance that they become overtaxed when balancing both sides of IT management. Additionally, meeting all IT management responsibilities results in SOC/NOC teams lacking specialized expertise compared to advanced security operations centers or MSSPs.
Who Benefits Most from SOC/NOCs?
Organizations that rely on the SOC/NOC model may not have chosen such intentionally. Suppose an organization requires team members to double-dip between roles due to resource availability. In that case, it may simply have cultivated a SOC/NOC model over time as a result.
Dedicated Security Operations Center
Compared to the SOC/NOC model, a dedicated security operations center operates in-house to meet all of your cybersecurity needs. A dedicated SOC typically comprises at least one full-time employee in each of the standard SOC team roles:
- Tier 1 analyst
- Tier 2 analyst
- Tier 3 threat hunter
- Tier 4 SOC manager
- Dedicated cybersecurity engineer
Benefits of Dedicated Security Operations Centers
The benefits of a dedicated SOC model are just that: it’s dedicated to your organization. As a result, you retain complete decision-making ownership, and team members will gain organization-specific knowledge.
Dedicated SOC Challenges
If your organization operates a bare-bones SOC, it will likely stretch a dedicated team too thin. Achieving 24/7 monitoring with a lean-running SOC will be difficult (and result in higher burnout and turnover rates).
Additionally, all of your SOC’s significant expenses—especially upfront—for personnel, hardware, and other technology implementations will stay in-house along with the team.
Who Benefits Most from Dedicated SOCs?
Typically, only the largest organizations that suffer regular cyberattacks employ a dedicated SOC. However, the associated costs likely result in traditional, organization-exclusive teams shifting to a hybrid model, even if most operations remain in-house.
Command Security Operations Center
A command SOC model establishes a central management team to oversee smaller security operations centers segmented geographically or by business units.
Benefits of Command Security Operations Centers
Establishing a command SOC means your organization has numerous high-level experts that implement, manage, and enforce your cybersecurity.
Command SOC Challenges
A command SOC is more focused on management and your organization’s broader cybersecurity strategies and challenges. However, any dedicated SOCs it oversees will experience the same difficulties noted above.
Who Benefits Most from Command SOCs?
As with the dedicated SOC model, only the largest organizations at risk of continual cyberthreats require a command SOC to manage satellite teams and operations. But, even then, they still likely outsource some service deliveries.
Virtual SOC—An Alternative SOC Method for All Types
A true virtual SOC challenges the notion of “center.” Your SOC doesn’t require a physical space that resembles NASA command centers with red and green caged lights and people trying to remember whether DEFCON 1 or 5 is the most severe.
(It’s DEFCON 1, if you were wondering.)
To reiterate, your SOC comprises people, processes, and technologies. You can decentralize all these elements, especially with cloud connectivity. Your SOC team can work remotely, coordinate processes through secure communications, and store all hardware in a server room hundreds of miles away.
Choose the Right SOC Type for Your Organization
Whether you’re looking for an expert MSSP dedicated to best-in-class service delivery or third-party advice, RSI Security provides a complete suite of managed security operations center as a service offerings. In addition to fully outsourced and hybrid models that comprise some or all of your SOC service operation center, RSI Security can provide advisory, training, and third-party testing services to improve in-house models.
Contact RSI Security today to learn more about our security operations center as a service offerings and how they can help your organization meet all of your SOC needs.