Last Updated on August 27, 2020
A vCISO (virtual chief information security officer) offers all the benefits of an in-house security leader but puts more resources at your disposal. A CISO as-a-service program (aka a “virtual CISO”) may be exactly what your organization needs to reduce cyber security risk and ensure top-notch information security company-wide, all while controlling costs.
The Need for a Chief Information Security Officer
Businesses of all sizes must confront an ever-greater scope and intensity of cybersecurity threats, which requires an increasingly broad and deep security skill set. SMBs and enterprises alike also face new security-related compliance challenges, as well as growing competitive pressure to protect customer and partner data.
To keep pace, more and more organizations seek a specialist to augment the “security generalist” skill sets of their chief information officers (CIOs) and chief technology officers (CTOs): the chief information security officer (CISO). Charged with driving a company’s security strategy and planning to create a robust and pragmatic InfoSec program, the CISO job description requires both executive leadership skills and technical savvy.
But for many SMBs, the high cost of a full-time CISO is prohibitive. And even firms with deep pockets may be unable to find the right person in today’s ultra-competitive InfoSec job market, despite exhaustive searching.
The Benefits of a Virtual CISO
If your business would benefit from a high-level security expert to manage critical business functions and/or achieve and maintain regulatory compliance, the best solution could be a virtual CISO (vCISO). Thanks to today’s connectivity, a vCISO can operate just like an “on-premises” CISO cyber security role, minus the full-time, physical presence.
Some of the many tasks vCISOs can perform include managing your security team, interacting with senior management, driving all aspects of security policy, and overseeing your security infrastructure. With SMBs already outsourcing core specialist functions from HR to IT, why not InfoSec?
Consider these three benefits of a vCISO that make outsourcing a preferred option—not a stopgap measure—for many SMBs:
- Greater expertise. Even the smartest and most experienced chief InfoSec officer is just one person with one viewpoint. vCISO “as-a-Service” offers a “point person” as well as a team of experts acting in alignment with them to support your organization. “More heads are better than one,” as they say. Plus you could also rephrase that maxim as “more heads scale better than one” if your needs change. Perhaps even more important is that a vCISO works with multiple companies, so they can bring the successes (and lessons learned) they see in other organizations into yours. Being able to look at your company from a unique vantage point you can’t see from within is an advantage we have seen prove to be invaluable time and time again.
- Radically lower cost. Top InfoSec talent demands (and deserves) a high salary. vCISO services can often cost less than 25% of a CISO’s salary, let alone ancillary FTE costs like benefits, office space, etc. One reason a vCISO is more cost-effective is you pay only for what you need; whether it’s just expert advice to grow the skills of your current staff, a strategic roadmap, or an end-to-end managed service.
- Reduced business risk. Hiring a key employee is a big decision and a major investment. It is said an underperforming employee can cost a company up to five times their salary. With the right provider, vCISO services can be very low-risk, as you can choose the optimal service level from a range of offerings and terminate the relationship at any point if your needs aren’t met. Going with a vCISO now also eliminates the risk incurred by leaving a senior leadership position unfilled as you undertake an exhaustive search that, in today’s market, could easily take six months (if not much longer). Meanwhile, your organization faces threats every day. The ability to bring someone on quickly and pivot off them quickly is a huge advantage. In fact, in a few cases our vCISOs have stayed with a company to interview and train a full-time replacement.
Like any outsourcing arrangement, contracting for a vCISO helps you strengthen your focus on your core business. It also helps you get the most from your current security investments and skills.
For more vCISO information:
- CIO Magazine on “Why you need a CSO/CISO”
- Infosecurity Magazine on “Secure your future with a vCISO”
- 5 reasons you need a vCISO (PDF link)