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What Does It Cost to Build a Security Operations Center (SOC)?

By Elliot Anderson  |  April 1, 2024

Your organization needs dedicated space and infrastructure for conducting security operations.

 

Introduction to Security Operations Centers (SOCs) 

Your SOC is where most of your organization’s security processes take place. Those processes require specialized equipment and expertise. Consolidating that footprint into a single place makes economic sense and drives security performance. 

That doesn’t mean every organization has to fill a windowless room with floor-to-ceiling flatscreen monitors and hire dozens of analysts. A small business SOC might be able to run  with no more than two or three humans, though burnout becomes real as does single points of failure.. 

Achieving 24/7 alarm monitoring and coverage does require a significant investment in equipment, personnel, training, and maintenance. An effective SOC is more than the physical location where the security team works — it’s also the software and tech stack that team uses to detect and respond to security threats. 

Taken altogether, they allow the security team to proactively address security threats and mitigate risks in real-time. Some of the activities that take place there include: 

  • Continuous monitoring and threat detection 
  • Incident response and containment 
  • Threat intelligence analysis 
  • Vulnerability scanning and management 
  • Forensic analysis and incident reporting 
  • Proactive security improvements and compliance 

To achieve these goals, the organization must equip its SOC appropriately. Read on to find out how your organization can achieve that and what it might cost, depending on your security needs. 

Components of a SOC 

The Security Operations Center has three main components — people, process, and technology. The unit can only function when each of these three components works effectively in tandem. 

Security leaders spend a great deal of time optimizing each of these three components and making sure they work together flawlessly. The SOC cannot function without all three components working together. 

Component 1: People 

The first and most important SOC component is its people. It’s also the one that is disrupted most frequently. There are currently 4 million unfilled roles in the cybersecurity industry, which means almost all SOCs work in a resource-strained environment.  

The typical SOC has four roles: 

  • SOC Managers lead security operations and take responsibility for key operational security decisions.  
  • Analysts perform the day-to-day task of detecting security threats and responding to them when they occur. Most SOCs have multiple levels of analysts, with varying responsibilities. 
  • SOC Engineers focus on installing new security tools, configuring those tools, and developing new SOC capabilities. 
  • SOC Operators are complementary to engineers. They focus exclusively on maintaining tools installed by the engineering team, without worrying about building new capabilities or enhancing tools. 

Component 2: Process 

Processes are formalized policies that inform security operations. Without comprehensive written policies, SOC team members would be unable to communicate or collaborate effectively. 

Successful SOCs have exhaustive sets of policies for addressing a wide range of security threats, technological issues, and more. Many establish policies according to an industry-wide cybersecurity framework like NIST or SANS. Most change and test policies frequently. 

A few examples of formal processes you may include in your SOC include: 

  • Incident triage determines the level of priority assigned to detected security incidents. 
  • Incident reporting offers instructions on how security incidents are described and communicated to team members and stakeholders. 
  • Incident analysis covers the process of identifying threats and investigating them appropriately. 
  • Incident closure is a formal process for reporting that an incident no longer represents business risk. 
  • Post-incident activities focus on gleaning insight from security incidents and finding ways to continuously improve performance. 
  • Threat hunting is a proactive process for identifying potential network threats before they have a chance to cause damage. 

Component 3: Technology 

Your security tech stack determines the capabilities that your team has when detecting and responding to threats. Thousands of different security technologies exist, and every security leader equips the SOC according to its unique needs. 

Many security architects build their organization’s capabilities around the SOC Visibility Triad: 

Factors that influence the cost of building a SOC 

Building an effective SOC means accurately identifying the size, scope, and scale of your organization’s security needs. A small business requires a completely different approach than a multinational enterprise or a government organization. 

The SOC model you choose will deeply impact the cost of building and maintaining it. Most security architects follow one of the six core SOC models: 

  • Virtual SOC. This virtualized environment is staffed by part-time team members and offers limited protection. 
  • Dedicated SOC. This in-house facility is staffed by professional analysts and enables proactive security operations. 
  • Distributed SOC. This model involves both in-house security personnel and part-time team members. When combined with a managed service provider, it is also called the co-managed SOC model.  
  • Command SOC. This type of facility focuses on coordinating with other SOCs, usually providing specialist expertise on an as-needed basis. 
  • Network Operations Center (NOC). Some organizations combine security and network infrastructure operations into a single facility. 
  • Fusion SOC. Facilities with extensive security technologies and deployments may combine operational security and threat intelligence functions into a Fusion SOC. 

Cost breakdown: Personnel and equipment 

Here are the costs you can expect to pay to build an SOC in 2024. These figures assume 24/7 security monitoring and alert coverage for a network supporting 5000 users, with a one-time implementation cost. 

Personnel 

  • Basic SOC staff includes eight analysts, the minimum for 24/7 coverage. According to the latest US Bureau of Labor Statistics payroll data, that means paying $1.2 million per year, including taxes and benefits. 
  • Intermediate SOC staff may include twelve analysts, ensuring multiple levels of analysts and part-time product and IT support. This will cost at least $2 million per year, probably much more. 
  • Advanced SOC staff includes specialist expertise for conducting proactive threat hunting and penetration testing, and additional engineering and operational staff. You should not expect to pay anything less than $5 million per year for this level of performance. 

Equipment 

  • Basic SOC equipment will cost at least $300,000 to implement. This figure assumes hardware workstations equipped with detection solutions and limited investigation capabilities. 
  • Intermediate SOC equipment will cost closer to $500,000 to implement. This includes implementing a SIEM equipped with UEBA capabilities and building out the necessary product support capabilities. 
  • Advanced SOC equipment includes advanced automation, AI-powered workflows, and in-depth customization. Licensing, implementation, and infrastructure will probably cost more than $1 million. 

Considerations for budgeting and planning 

Personnel and equipment are not the only costs associated with building an SOC. You will also have to invest in training, maintenance, and additional support for security operations. This is especially true if your organization is large, complex, or operating in a regulated industry. 

Also, you should consider the impact of skills scarcity on your in-house security staff over time. Cybersecurity professionals know that their skills are in high demand, and will ask for better compensation at every opportunity. If you delay raises too long, you may find yourself understaffed when competing organizations offer them a better deal. 

Outsourcing vs. in-house SOC — pros and cons 

Choosing to build an in-house SOC comes with challenges, but many security leaders feel it is the best way to ensure top security performance. Here are some of the pros and cons associated with building and staffing your own dedicated SOC: 

Outsourced SOC 

Pros:

  • Much lower staffing costs 
  • Specialist expertise included in the service 
  • Implementation included in the service 
  • Able to attract and retain more experienced talent 
  • 24/7 coverage available with predictable low monthly cost 
  • Scalability is built into the service

Cons 

  • Limited direct control over analysts
  • May not know your organization’s security needs well. 
  • Not all vendors and technologies may be supported 
  • Individual analysts are not dedicated to your company alone 
  • You may not be able to make direct changes to security policies at any moment

In-house SOC 

Pros:

  • Direct control over analysts’ activities 
  • Deep knowledge of internal security program 
  • You choose which technologies you want to implement 
  • Your security team does not divide its team between multiple clients 
  • You retain control over your security program, policies, and technologies

Cons:

  • High operating costs 
  • Hard to find specialist expertise 
  • Successful implementation requires specialist expertise 
  • Your team has less experience handling a wide range of security issues 
  • 24/7 coverage requires managing full-time employees, with constantly increasing costs
  • Scalability means hiring new full-time employees and buying new licenses

Cost-effective solutions for building and maintaining your SOC 

The cost and complexity of building a fully in-house dedicated SOC makes it infeasible for all but the largest organizations. Given that an industry-wide cybersecurity talent shortage exists, small businesses and enterprises will have to outsource some of their security capabilities to managed service providers. 

For many security leaders, the key question is deciding how to split their security program between internal and external solutions. Working with reputable security vendors on value-generating initiatives can make the difference between building a successful SOC or wasting huge amounts of time and resources on implementation projects that don’t succeed. 

Your organization may benefit from freeing its internal security team to focus on high-impact strategic initiatives like crafting new policies and improving processes. Bringing in a reputable managed detection and response vendor like Lumifi to mitigate attack risks allows you to make the most of your SOC while leveraging world-class expertise and technology in a sustainable, scalable way. 

 

By Elliot Anderson
What Does It Cost to Build a Security Operations Center (SOC)?

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