Making the Right Choice: MSS vs. In-House SecOps

May 20, 2024

Organizations face critical cybersecurity decisions, such as establishing their own security operations center (SOC) or partnering with a managed security service provider (MSSP). Making the right choice is strategic. That choice can determine how effectively an organization can protect its digital assets from constant cyber threats. Every choice has pros and cons, depending on the company's needs, resources and cybersecurity goals.


Organizations should consider different factors before choosing between managed security services (MSS) and in house security operations (SecOps). MSS offer immediate access to cybersecurity expertise and resources, operational and financial efficiency, scalability and continuous monitoring.


On the other hand, in-house SecOps provides control, customization, cultural alignment and immediate access and decision-making advantages. Organizations should evaluate their specific needs, available resources and cybersecurity goals to determine which option aligns best with their overall objectives.



Leveraging Expertise: The Power of a MSSP

Managed security services provide expert cybersecurity outsourcing, offering quick access to knowledge and tools to enhance online security and protect digital assets from cyberattacks and data breaches. It can be cost-effective for organizations needing more resources or expertise to build and maintain an in-house security team.


MSS offers advanced tech and insights, often beyond what small-budget teams can achieve. However, some organizations may prefer to keep their cybersecurity operations in-house. The reason is to enhance control over security, customize for specific needs and align with organizational culture. In-house security teams may also understand the organization's systems and processes, allowing for more tailored security solutions.


Advantages of Opting for Managed Security Services

Organizations can benefit from outsourcing their cybersecurity needs to a managed service provider. These strategies can result in significant cost reductions and a stronger security stance. A few of the advantages of MSS:


  • Expertise and resources: MSS providers offer immediate access to a vast pool of cybersecurity knowledge and advanced technologies, significantly enhancing an organization's ability to defend against cyber threats.
  • Operational and financial efficiency: Organizations can achieve substantial cost savings and operational efficiencies by outsourcing cybersecurity tasks to MSS providers. This reduction comes from minimizing the need for extensive in-house infrastructure and personnel.
  • Scalability: MSS solutions offer the flexibility to scale up or down based on the changing cybersecurity landscape and organizational needs, which is difficult to achieve with in-house solutions. This allows you to steer your organization's cybersecurity strategy with confidence and adaptability while controlling costs.
  • Continuous monitoring: The promise of 24/7/365 surveillance and the utilization of cutting-edge security technologies ensure that threats are identified and addressed swiftly.


Choosing MSS offers the significant benefit of gaining access to a team of specialists in cybersecurity. These experts possess the necessary skills and experience to effectively monitor and guard against cyber threats, offering proficiency that might be challenging to match with an internal team. MSS frequently employs best-in-class technology and tools to bolster security protocols and deliver real-time threat intelligence.


Optiv's managed security services offer scalable monitoring and management across diverse solutions and budgets. This enables businesses to redirect their IT staff to core activities while enhancing their cybersecurity posture.



Evaluating the Fit: Considerations for In-House SOC

An in-house SOC provides continuous protection for an organization's digital assets by employing a specialized team and technology, ensuring immediate and tailored security responses. Embedded within the organization, it offers direct oversight of security strategies, making it suited for complex IT environments or handling sensitive information. This model suits organizations that prioritize comprehensive control over cybersecurity measures and are ready to commit to the required resources.


However, building and maintaining an in-house SOC is a significant undertaking that involves assembling a dedicated team, deploying sophisticated technologies and deeply integrating security operations within the company's ecosystem. These challenges can pose significant hurdles for organizations considering this option.


Benefits of Maintaining In-House SOC

While in-house security operations come with an upfront investment, they do have some notable benefits. Here are a few advantages of maintaining an internal security team, focusing on control, cultural alignment and efficient response.


  • Control and customization: In-house operations afford complete control over security tools and strategies, allowing for bespoke solutions that closely align with organizational requirements.
  • Cultural and business alignment: An internal team offers the advantage of deep organizational knowledge, facilitating security measures that align with company culture and business objectives. This deep understanding provides a sense of security, knowing that your team is intimately familiar with your organization's unique needs and challenges.
  • Immediate access and decision-making: Having security operations under the same roof enhances communication and decision-making speed, which is critical in fast-paced incident response scenarios.


An in-house SOC's initial setup and ongoing maintenance require substantial technology and investment in skilled personnel. Securing and keeping cybersecurity talent is a significant challenge, compounded by the competitive landscape for skilled professionals. In-house teams may need help.



Balancing Costs and Security Maturity

For CISOs, selecting the optimal cybersecurity infrastructure hinges on meticulously evaluating several factors. Ensuring the chosen path aligns seamlessly with the organization's strategic vision and resource constraints enhances decision-making. The selected approach must resonate with broader business objectives, fostering a cohesive environment that supports the organization's core missions and goals.


A foundational step involves a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis. Analyzing the financial obligations for both managed services and in-house setups in detail, considering:


  • Initial investments: Compare upfront costs of acquiring security tools and infrastructure for an internal SOC versus subscription fees and potential onboarding expenses for an MSSP
  • Ongoing operational expenses: Factor in staffing costs for an internal team (including salaries, benefits, 24/7/365 operations, management and training) versus agreed upon yearly from an MSSP
  • Maintaining security maturity: Evaluate the budgetary implications of keeping an in-house team's skills current and infrastructure up to date compared to an MSSP's ongoing investment in expertise and technology


Adaptability and expertise with incident response capabilities are equally critical. CISOs should carefully evaluate the impact of each option on the organization's ability to address cyber threats promptly and effectively. Areas to evaluate:


  • Threat detection and analysis: Evaluate the MSSP's expertise and technology for proactively identifying threats compared to an in-house team's capabilities and potential resource limitations
  • Incident response speed: Compare the potential for an MSSP's 24/7/365 monitoring and rapid response capabilities with the reaction times achievable by an internal team, service level agreement evaluation is key in this phase
  • Scalability and expertise: Assess the flexibility of an MSSP to scale expertise and resources during security events versus the potential limitations of an in-house team, particularly during peak periods and holiday weekends, it is common for attackers to launch campaigns during time where minimal staff is available


By carefully considering these cost and adaptability factors, CISOs can make an informed decision that aligns with their security strategy and resource constraints.



Aligning Your Security Strategy with the Right Solution

The decision between adopting managed security services and establishing an in-house security operation is complex. It requires a nuanced understanding of each model's strengths and limitations and careful consideration of your organization's needs, resources and cybersecurity goals. CISOs must thoroughly examine, consult and conduct in-depth analyses to select the path that best fits their organization's unique context and objectives.


For those interested in finding advanced managed security services, Optiv offers tailored security solutions that strengthen an organization's overall defense mechanisms and help them transition from reactive to proactive in managing cybersecurity risks. You can learn more here if you are interested in discovering more about Optiv's advanced offerings - contact us today.

John Pelton
Senior Director of Cyber Operations | Optiv
John Pelton is Optiv’s Sr. Director of Detection in Response within Managed Services and leads a team in safeguarding clients’ environments comprised of engineers, analysts and hunters. John has previously led client success organizations and has a heavy emphasis on client satisfaction, process optimizations and effective risk management.
Frank Giannetta
Senior Vice President, Cyber Managed Operations | Optiv