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SOC-as-a-Service Companies: How to Evaluate SOC Vendors

A Security Operations Center (SOC) is a critical component of an effective cybersecurity strategy, enabling you to manage active threats, handle escalations, and intervene to prevent further spread, reducing the chance for business disruption. Despite the importance of having a SOC, many organizations lack the resources and expertise to establish a SOC in-house.

Adding to that challenge, the current SOC-as-a-Service (SOCaaS) marketplace is increasingly crowded and many providers fall short, offering little value beyond basic alerting. If you decide to outsource your SOC, it’s important to know what to look for in a SOC-as-a-Service vendor, questions to ask potential service providers, and key considerations when evaluating SOC pricing.

What is SOC-as-a-Service?

A Security Operations Center (SOC) is an essential component of a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy. It's a dedicated facility that’s often staffed 24/7, where a team of security analysts use various tools and technologies (e.g., SIEM, XDR, Endpoint, Network) to monitor your environment around-the-clock for suspicious behavior, conduct threat investigations, and develop threat intelligence to hunt, investigate and respond to cyber threats in real-time.

SOC-as-a-Service, or SOCaaS, takes this concept a step further. It's a model where organizations partner with third-party SOC service providers to outsource their security operations. These providers offer various services, from monitoring and threat detection to incident response and compliance management. 

This approach allows your organization to gain 24/7 threat detection and response capabilities and access to cybersecurity experts without the burden of building and maintaining an in-house SOC.

Why Should I Consider Outsourcing My SOC?

Your decision to build or buy SOC depends on several factors, including your organization's size, budget, and specific security needs. It's essential to understand the compelling reasons behind this choice. Key considerations include: 

  1. Cost Efficiency

    Establishing an in-house SOC entails significant financial commitment. Your team must consider the investment required to acquire best-of-breed technology, build the necessary infrastructure, and hire skilled personnel.

    The ongoing expenses and maintenance of an in-house SOC requires a significant financial commitment too. You will need to continuously reinvest into your people, processes and technologies to stay ahead of the rapidly evolving threats.

    Therefore, outsourcing your security operations to a SOC-as-a-Service provider is often a more cost-effective alternative. SOCaaS providers have already invested in best-of-breed technology and have the infrastructure to ensure 24/7 monitoring, threat detection and response. This cost-effectiveness allows you to manage cyber risk and focus your resources on other critical aspects of your business. 

    A preview of the eSentire SOC Pricing Calculator which compares the cost of SOC-as-a-Service companies with an in-house SOC.


  2. Access to Security Expertise

    Attracting and retaining cybersecurity talent can be challenging, given the growing cybersecurity skills gap. According to the Official Cybersecurity Jobs Report from Cybersecurity Ventures, the number of unfilled cybersecurity jobs has grown by 350% over the past decade.

    By partnering with a SOC-as-a-Service provider, you get access to a team of highly skilled cybersecurity professionals dedicated to investigating and responding to threats 24/7. These SOC Cyber Analysts act as an extension of your team and will pick up the phone to provide immediate expertise, peace of mind, and hands-on assistance to remediate threats on your behalf.

    In addition, outsourcing your SOC, enables you to benefit from improved detection, response, and timely threat advisories without the need for substantial upfront investments in infrastructure and training. With access to expertise and insights into the global threat landscape, you can enhance your security posture, reduce response times, and build your cyber resilience.

  3. Scalability

    As your organization expands, your security posture should evolve accordingly, which will undoubtedly involve substantial investments into resources and training. This can be challenging due to the delicate balance between maintaining robust security measures and managing operational costs.

    SOC-as-a-Service offers a unique advantage in terms of scalability since these services are inherently flexible and can be adjusted to accommodate your evolving requirements. If you're experiencing rapid growth, or even need to scale down temporarily, SOC-as-a-Service providers can tailor their offerings to match your organization's needs, ensuring your attack surface is protected.

Core Capabilities Offered by SOC-as-a-Service Companies

SOC-as-a-Service companies are specialized providers offering various security services to protect your organization against cyber threats. These services typically include:

  1. Continuous 24/7 Monitoring

    SOC service providers continuously monitor your network, endpoints, logs, and cloud applications for signs of suspicious activity around-the-clock. This is especially useful for teams that don’t have the budget or resources to hire staff beyond the normal 9-5 business hours. Through rapid threat detection and investigation, your SOC-as-a-Service provider enables your team to kickstart the response and remediation process as soon as the threat happens.

  2. 24/7 Threat Hunting and Disruption Driven by Original Threat Intelligence

    The best SOC-as-a-Service providers leverage the latest research about emerging attacker Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTPs) to rapidly investigate, contain and close down threats. By working with Elite Threat Hunters who operationalize threat intelligence into novel detections and runbooks, your SOC service provider can help you rapidly identify and block potential threats before they have a chance to disrupt your business. As a result, you not only benefit from a strengthened security posture, but also improved detection and response capabilities.

  3. Incident Handling

    If a hands-on attack occurs, only timely response and threat containment can prevent business disruption and system shutdown. Your SOC-as-a-Service provider should have experienced Incident Handlers on their team who maintain a direct line of contact and work with you to contain the threat and ensure full remediation.

  4. Compliance Management

    SOC-as-a-Service companies play a crucial role in ensuring that your organization remains compliant with relevant cybersecurity regulations and standards. By continuously monitoring your systems and implementing the latest security measures, SOC service providers help you adhere to industry, sector, and regional cybersecurity compliance requirements, reducing the risk of legal penalties and reputational damage.

What to Look for in SOC-as-a-Service Companies

If you decide to outsource your security operations, it's crucial to select the right vendor for your needs. Here are vital factors to consider when evaluating SOC service providers:

  1. Expertise and Experience 

    Look for vendors with substantial experience and a track record of success working with organizations in your industry.

    • Assess Their Portfolio: Review the vendor's case studies to determine their experience in protecting organizations of similar size and industry to yours. 
    • Certifications and Expertise: Check if their team holds relevant certifications (e.g., SSCP, OSCP, CSAP, and CISSP) and has demonstrated expertise in handling complex security challenges.
  2. Technology and Tools 

    Modern SOC operations should be driven by human-led investigations and supplemented with machine learning technology that enables effective threat detection and response. When assessing SOC service providers, ask how they use cutting-edge solutions for automated threat blocking, threat detection, and analysis.

    • Threat Detection Tools: Inquire about the specific threat detection technologies they use. It’s important that a SOC-as-a-Service vendor goes beyond log detections and focuses on achieving multi-signal visibility by monitoring logs, endpoints, and network activity.
    • Open XDR Platform: Inquire about how the vendor is using automated threat disruption capabilities of advanced XDR platforms to reduce alert noise, correlate and enrich telemetry, and streamline threat investigations using machine learning algorithms and behavioral analytics.
    • Threat Intelligence Feeds: Verify that your SOC-as-a-Service vendor is monitoring threat intelligence feeds to stay on the cutting edge of emerging threats and Initial Access vectors.
  3. Compliance Capabilities 

    A growing number of cybersecurity compliance regulations require 24/7 monitoring of all IT systems, which can be challenging to achieve in-house. Your SOC provider can help you meet and exceed cybersecurity compliance mandates by providing continuous monitoring, threat detection, and incident response.

    • Knowledge of Regulations: Confirm that the vendor has in-depth knowledge of the relevant regulations and standards in your industry, such as the NIST Cybersecurity Framework, GDPR, or industry-specific mandates.
    • Compliance Reporting: Ask about their capabilities for generating compliance reports and documentation to streamline audits and assessments.
  4. Scalability

    Given limited security budgets, it’s important to prioritize the protections that are most critical for your organization. While it’s impossible to end all cyber risk, you should ensure your security operations can evolve with your business, allowing you to scale securely.

    • Discuss Growth Plans: Have candid conversations about your organization's growth plans and future security needs. Ensure the vendor can accommodate these changes without compromising on the effectiveness of their services.
    • Adaptability to Expanding Attack Surface: Assess their ability to reduce your cyber risks associated with expanding attack surface, driven by digital transformation, addition of new business units, or locations.
  5. Customization

    Every organization has unique security needs, and a one-size-fits-all approach may not suffice. Discuss the vendor's ability to tailor their services to your requirements.

    • Custom Security Policies: Determine if they can create custom security policies and procedures that align with your organization's goals, business context and risk tolerance.
    • Integration with Existing Tech Stack: Inquire about the vendor's ability to integrate their services within your existing investments in tools and technology.

Understanding SOC-as-a-Service Pricing

Understanding the cost of SOC-as-a-Service is critical to evaluating and planning for your organization's cybersecurity strategy. The cost can vary significantly based on several factors, including: 

  1. Organization Size 
    The size of your organization plays a fundamental role in determining the cost of SOC services. Larger organizations typically have extensive digital infrastructure and more endpoints to monitor. As a result, you may need to increase your investment in SOC-as-a-Service to effectively monitor all signals and endpoints.
  2. Scope of Services 
    The scope of services you require from the SOC provider directly impacts the cost. SOCaaS may include many offerings, including 24/7 monitoring, threat detection, incident response, compliance management, and more. The more extensive and specialized the services, the higher the associated costs. 
  3. Complexity of IT Infrastructure
    The complexity of your IT infrastructure influences the cost of SOC services. Organizations with hybrid cloud environments, multiple locations, and diverse technology stacks may require more extensive monitoring and threat hunting capabilities from their SOC-as-a-Service provider.
  4. Customization 
    If you require customization from your SOC-as-a-Service provider, you may incur additional costs. Customization may involve creating specialized security policies, integrating with existing security tools, or addressing industry-specific compliance mandates.
  5. Service Level Agreements (SLAs)
    The level of service and response times outlined in the SLAs with your SOC provider can influence costs. For example, if you require your SOC-as-a-Service provider to go beyond alerting and provide rapid threat response, proactive threat hunting and 24/7 monitoring, you may incur higher expenses.
  6. Additional Services 
    Some SOC-as-a-Service providers may offer add-on features or services, such as security awareness training, vulnerability management, or technical testing. While these supplementary services may require additional investment, they can enable you to proactively identify gaps in your environment and build a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy.
  7. Vendor Pricing Models
    SOC providers may employ pricing models, including tiered packages, per user pricing, or fixed-rate fees. It is essential to understand the pricing structure and how it aligns with your organization's budget preferences.
  8. Contract Duration 
    The length of your contract with the SOC provider may impact pricing. Some vendors offer discounts for longer-term contracts, while others provide flexibility with shorter commitments.

10 Questions to Ask an Outsourced SOC Service Provider

As the SOC-as-a-Service market gets more competitive, it becomes increasingly difficult to weed out pretenders who drown you with alerts and fail to provide meaningful threat response. To ensure your SOC-as-a-Service provider can help you effectively manage cyber risks, consider asking the following questions: 

  1. What is your experience in the cybersecurity field, and do you have references or case studies to share?
  2. How do you leverage the latest threat intelligence to develop detection models?
  3. How fast are you able to identify, investigate and remediate threats in my environment?
  4. How many threats are you able to automatically block?
  5. Upon detecting a threat, are you able to block it on my behalf and offer support throughout the entire Incident Response lifecycle?
  6. How do you leverage my existing tech stack to enhance visibility into my environment?
  7. Can you offer compliance management services and assist with industry-specific regulatory requirements?
  8. Can you accommodate our organization's growth and evolving cyber risk management needs?
  9. What type of reporting and transparency can we expect?
  10. What sets your SOCaaS apart from other vendors in the market?

Get Elite, Around-the-Clock Protection with the eSentire SOC-as-a-Service

eSentire MDR provides SOC-as-a-Service with the 24/7 coverage you need to investigate and respond to threats before they impact your business. Our SOC services combine expert security analysts with advanced technology to provide 24/7 monitoring, rapid threat detection, proactive threat hunting, cybersecurity compliance support, and, most of all, complete response. 

With eSentire SOC-as-a-Service you benefit from: 

  • 24/7 Live SOC Cyber Analyst Support: With two SOCs in Waterloo and Cork, you can speak with a live analyst at any time of day. Acting as an extension of your team, our SOC is engaged and ready to initiate expert-level response within minutes – not hours.
  • Unlimited Incident Handling and Threat Hunting: Each SOC shift team is supported by senior technical experts who perform global threat sweeps and proactively hunt threats across your environment based on the latest intelligence from our Threat Response Unit (TRU).
  • Advanced Expertise: With an average tenure of 6 years and a 90%+ retention rate, our team proudly holds advanced certs including SSCP, CSAP, CISSP, Security+, Network+, Linux +, Server +, and more.
  • Powerful Open XDR Cloud Platform Support: Our XDR platform automatically disrupts high fidelity threats, cutting out the noise. When orchestrated response isn’t possible, our platform equips our SOC team with the insights they need to perform deep investigation and execute manual containment, delivering a Mean Time To Contain of 15 minutes.
  • Industry-Leading Research and Models from TRU: Our SOC team is supported by top research and machine learning experts, so you benefit from improved detection, response, and timely threat advisories.

eSentire Managed Detection and Response

Our MDR service combines cutting-edge Extended Detection and Response (XDR) technology, multi-signal threat intelligence and 24/7 Elite Threat Hunters to help you build a world-class security operation today. Our threat protection is unparalleled in the industry - we see and stop cyberattacks other cybersecurity providers and technologies miss, delivering the most complete response and protection.

Learn how eSentire Multi-Signal Managed Detection and Response stops threats before they impact your business.