How Much Does It Cost to Build a SOC?

January 5, 2021

Having a security operations center (SOC) to protect and secure your data is no longer optional, but a business imperative. Whether to stop a cybercriminal seeking a big payoff or a foreign government looking to cause havoc, a SOC is your most important line of defense.

However, just because it's a business requirement doesn't mean you have ample sums of money to throw at it.

How much you should budget for a SOC depends on the size of your attack surface and the level of protection you expect to deliver. A small business with a few hundred users in one office will naturally have different requirements than a multinational enterprise with hundreds of thousands of employees.

To build and implement a SOC that will be cost effective, you first need to understand both the factors that impact costs and the level of SOC you wish to achieve.

What To Consider To Find the Cost of a SOC

Putting your available budget aside for now, there are a number of logistical factors you need to consider when developing your SOC approach:

People

With today's demand for cybersecurity experts, good security people are hard to find. It can often take months to source, interview, hire, and onboard internal security teams before you begin to achieve adequate coverage. Even then, a competitive market means there is high turnover in the industry as staff jump from job to job for more responsibilities and higher salaries. Not only can it be costly to source and train staff, but this staff instability often means that institutional knowledge leaves with your employees, leaving you exposed.

A security analyst looking over a series of monitor. The average analyst is over $90,000 a year.

Infrastructure

A SOC not only needs security experts, but it also requires the right security tools in place to maximize their capabilities. Significant software and hardware infrastructure investments must be made to ensure your business achieves an optimal security posture. As each new tool is added, it takes your staff time to implement and learn the software, which is time not spent looking for current threats.

Time

If you don't already have a SOC in place, every second you delay is a second you are at risk. However, standing up an internal SOC can take months or even years to hire staff, buy security hardware and software, and then implement it throughout the enterprise. Depending on where you are in your SOC journey, you may have to spend more than you would otherwise to quickly cover up gaps.

SOC Levels

Next, you need to determine what SOC level you wish to achieve:

Entry-level SOC

This SOC level includes some—but not all—elements of a standard SOC. At this level, you likely have a mix and match of different services and people that were added to solve specific problems, but which are not yet unified under a holistic SOC strategy and process. Detection capabilities are usually present, but threat hunting, prevention, investigation, and remediation capabilities may be lacking. In addition, you're unlikely to have 24x7 coverage. This level is better than nothing, but at the same time it often feels like you are constantly falling behind.

Standard SOC

This SOC level includes a holistic SOC strategy for detection, prevention, and investigation. As a result, this level includes an appropriately sized security staff along with automation to help augment the team’s capabilities. At this level you feel like your head is above water, but you never feel confident.

Best-in-class SOC

This SOC level has dedicated experts working 24x7 to detect and prevent threats across the network. In addition, analysts are tasked with proactively hunting down threats and plugging holes before they become issues. Advanced automation scales the SOC across the enterprise to ensure you respond to incidents as quickly and effectively as possible. At this level, you feel like you are ahead of the game.

A room full of security analysts, an expensive but necessary move for a 24x7 SOC.

What is The Cost of a SOC?

Depending on your current maturity and desired SOC end state, the cost of building a SOC can vary wildly. If you assume the average security analyst costs $90,000 a year, a fully staffed, 24x7 team could easily cost more than $1 million a year at a minimum. Factor in the cost of the software, hardware, and training they need to effectively do their job and you're looking at anywhere from $2 million to $7 million annually.

Of course, these numbers don't factor in the months or years it will take to fully build out the function, which will leave you exposed to threats while your IT team is distracted from other valuable initiatives.

"How much does it cost to build a SOC?" - $90,000 is the average salary of a security analyst, $1 million to fully staff a SOC, months to years to get a SOC up and running

An alternative approach is to work with a managed security operations solution. The Arctic Wolf® Managed Detection and Response (MDR) solution provides 24x7 monitoring of your networks, endpoints, and cloud environments, while our dedicated, experienced security experts help you detect, respond, and recover from cyberattacks.

According to Forrester, Arctic Wolf can be more cost-effective and provide better coverage compared to building an in-house SOC function. Their analysis of the total economic impact of Arctic Wolf found that:

  • Arctic Wolf saves 50% of the effort from the internal security operations group for triage and investigation and 90% for IT operations that are involved with incident management, resulting in a three-year savings of more than a half million dollars ($557K).
  • Leveraging Arctic Wolf for SOC capabilities made it possible for companies to stand up a SOC in one month instead of having to spend 10 months building an equivalent function in-house, yielding a savings of close to a million dollars over three years ($967K).
  • Using Arctic Wolf to avoid in-house software and hardware purchases and management results in a three-year savings of $1.4 million.

All told, Forrester found that the total benefits of Arctic Wolf add up to $2.9 million over three years, resulting in a payback period of less than six months.

Read the full report on The Total Economic Impact™ of Arctic Wolf Security Operations Solutions.

How much can you save on your security operations? Use our Total Cost of Ownership Calculator to determine what your specific organization would need to spend to build an equivalent SOC function compared to working with Arctic Wolf.

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