Home / Blog / Security Operations Centre / What is a Security Operations Centre (SOC) and Why Do You Need One?

December 30, 2022

Building a SOC is a natural progression in an organisation’s cybersecurity journey. But for a small or mid-sized organisation, it can be a daunting step.

Today, we’ll look at five reasons why an SME might consider building a SOC—plus a common alternative that could provide your organisation with all the same benefits at a fraction of the cost.

But first…

What is a SOC?

Gartner defines a SOC like this:

“A security operations centre (SOC) can be defined both as a team, often operating in shifts around the clock, and a facility dedicated to and organised to prevent, detect, assess and respond to cybersecurity threats and incidents, and to fulfil and assess regulatory compliance.”

Not every SOC has the same responsibilities. In larger organisations with more resources, key cybersecurity functions are usually separated into specialised teams. For example:

  • Computer Security Incident Response Teams (CSIRT) take over incidents once the SOC uncovers them.
  • Threat Intelligence teams provide curated intelligence inputs that (among other things) support the SOC’s monitoring function.
  • Red and Blue teams continually test, validate, and improve the organisation’s security profile.

For smaller organisations, however, the SOC is typically responsible for most security tasks. These tasks broadly fall within five essential functions:

  1. Identify
  2. Protect
  3. Detect
  4. Respond
  5. Recover

In simple terms, a SOC is a centralised security team that monitors and enhances an organisation’s security profile and detects, responds to, and recovers from security incidents

5 SOC Benefits for SMEs

Building a SOC from scratch can seem like a big step—particularly if your organisation already has some existing security personnel, perhaps scattered across various IT teams. After all, why invest resources in building a centralised SOC when your current setup is “doing the job?”

While there’s no doubt that building a SOC requires a significant investment of time and resources, there are (at least) five clear benefits—even for a smaller organisation:

  • Continuous coverage

In a pre-SOC organisation, security personnel are usually limited to working during business hours. Sadly, cybercriminals have no such constraints. Many criminal groups are located in other time zones, and it’s also common practice to intentionally time cyberattacks to fall out of hours, as it limits the victim organisation’s opportunity to respond to and resolve the attack quickly.

Security personnel typically work in shifts in a SOC to ensure complete 24/7/365 coverage. This significantly reduces cyber risk, allowing analysts to uncover malicious activity in real-time and begin response activities.

  • Visibility

Today’s IT environments are hugely complex. Digital transformation initiatives, cloud migrations, and new technologies such as IoT devices have led to business networks that are difficult to understand—let alone monitor for security threats.

This is precisely what a centralised SOC is for. A well-designed and equipped SOC can continuously monitor even the largest, most complex network environments, quickly identifying suspicious or malicious activity for further investigation.

  • Better outcomes and collaboration

When security personnel are scattered across various teams and locations—as is common in SMEs—it can be difficult for them to collaborate effectively. In a centralised SOC, security personnel are typically based in a single location, making it easy to communicate and cooperate as needed.

SOCs also have more established processes and procedures for different security tasks and functions. This ensures greater consistency in security operations, leading to reduced cyber risk.

  • Improved threat management

According to IBM’s Cost of a Data Breach report, it takes organisations 287 days to identify and contain a data breach. This is far too long. The fallout from a breach can be substantially reduced if it is promptly identified and contained, but this is tough when security resources aren’t well managed.

In a smaller organisation, detecting, responding to, and recovering from cyber incidents is the number one security priority—and a centralised SOC team will outperform disparate, disconnected security personnel every time.

  • Move beyond reactive monitoring

Cybersecurity will always include a strong reactive element—but that’s not all it should be.

One of a SOC’s most critical roles is identifying tools, policies, and procedures the organisation can implement to block common threats. This typically involves a combination of security solutions, secure system/network design, and ongoing system hardening, which can dramatically reduce cyber risk.

An Alternative to In-House SOC Building

OK, so building a centralised SOC has clear benefits for SMEs… but there’s still a problem. Actually, there are several problems. Most notably:

  • It can be costly—sometimes prohibitively so.
  • Hiring and retaining skilled SOC personnel is difficult—sometimes impossible.
  • In-house SOCs typically can’t maintain the latest tools for cost and training reasons.

So, what’s the alternative?

Rather than building an effective SOC in-house, many SMEs prefer to outsource their security operations needs to a managed SOC provider. This allows them to achieve the cybersecurity coverage they require at a significantly lower overall cost—and without the ongoing challenge of hiring and retaining skilled security professionals.

Other benefits of outsourcing include:

  • Access to broader skill sets. Managed SOC providers have the luxury of scale, allowing them to retain highly experienced security practitioners with a wide range of specialist skills. This typically enables them to identify and resolve security incidents more quickly and effectively than an in-house SOC, reducing their impact.
  • 24/7/365 coverage. A SOC should ideally be staffed 24/7/365, but this is often impossible for an in-house team due to staffing and budget constraints. A managed SOC provider can ensure continuous coverage while splitting the costs across many customers, making them a far more affordable way to achieve “always-on” coverage.
  • Cutting edge tools. Equipping a SOC for success can be expensive—and it’s not a one-off cost. The threat landscape evolves quickly, and SOC teams need a toolset that keeps pace. A reputable managed SOC provider will always ensure its team is equipped with best-in-class security tools and resources, ensuring customers are protected against the latest threats and attack vectors.
  • Scalability. One of the biggest challenges for security teams of all disciplines is reacting quickly to business needs—particularly if those needs include significant changes in scale. No business wants to be held back by its security team, but equally, they can’t be left unprotected during expansion. Unlike in-house teams, which can take months to adapt, an outsourced SOC can scale up or down at a moment’s notice to meet business needs.

Focus on What You Do Best

Interested in finding out more about how an outsourced SOC could protect your organisation while controlling costs? Have a read of our guide to the 5 Essential Questions To Ask When Choosing a SOC Provider.

CyberOne provides the UK’s most advanced managed SOC, providing 24/7/365 protection from our award-winning Cyber Defence Centre in Milton Keynes.

To find out how our Cyber Defence Centre could help protect your business, contact us today.