Cloud-Managed Security Services: Outsourcing Your Cybersecurity

managed security services for small businesses

Cloud managed security services refer to outsourcing some or all of an organization’s security operations to a managed security service provider (MSSP). Rather than managing security in-house, companies rely on cloud-based security services from an MSSP to protect their infrastructure, data, applications and endpoints.

Cloud managed security services provide organizations with security expertise, advanced threat protection and improved efficiency without the burden of building an in-house security operations team. MSSPs monitor, manage and enhance security across an organization’s networks, endpoints, cloud environments and more.

This article will provide an overview of cloud managed security services, including the benefits, common services offered, considerations for implementation, leading providers, pricing models, use cases and the future outlook for these services. By outsourcing security to the cloud, organizations can strengthen their security posture while reducing costs and complexity.

Benefits

Cloud managed security services offer several key benefits for organizations:

Cost Savings

One of the biggest benefits is significant cost savings compared to purchasing, implementing and managing security solutions in-house. Organizations only pay for the security services they need, without large upfront investments in security infrastructure and software. Cloud providers can offer economies of scale, passing on savings from their global security operations.

Scalability

Cloud managed security scales up or down flexibly as an organization’s needs change. Rather than purchasing excess capacity upfront, businesses can easily add more advanced security services as threats evolve or new needs arise.

Access to Security Expertise

Partnering with a cloud security provider gives organizations instant access to a team of cybersecurity experts. Rather than struggling to hire and retain highly-skilled security staff, businesses can leverage the knowledge, threat intelligence and experience of their provider’s security analysts and engineers.

Reduced Workload for In-House IT Staff

Cloud managed security alleviates the burden on internal IT teams to monitor, update and manage security infrastructure and software. IT staff spend less time on routine security tasks, freeing them to focus on core business initiatives and priorities. The security provider handles monitoring, maintenance, updates and incident response.

Common Services Offered

Cloud managed security services typically include the following core offerings:

Firewall Management

A cloud provider can manage a customer’s firewall policies and rules. This removes the burden of firewall administration from the customer’s team. The provider monitors the firewall 24/7, handles patching/upgrades, optimizes policies, and responds to alerts.

Intrusion Detection/Prevention

Network-based intrusion detection and prevention is handled by the provider’s security experts. They configure and tune these systems to monitor network traffic for anomalies and block threats. This protects against exploits, malware, and other attacks.

Vulnerability Scanning

On a continuous basis, vulnerabilities in the customer’s environment are scanned for and identified. The provider determines the severity of discovered vulnerabilities and recommends remediation steps. Regular scanning is important for staying on top of new threats.

Log Analysis

Security event logs are forwarded to the provider for correlation and monitoring. Their experts analyze the logs using advanced techniques to detect IOCs (indicators of compromise) that may indicate breaches or attacks. This allows for a quick response to contain threats.

Compliance Auditing

The provider can run automated audits to ensure compliance with regulations like HIPAA and PCI DSS. They identify any gaps that need to be addressed. This takes the compliance burden off the customer.

Considerations

When evaluating cloud managed security services, there are a few key considerations to keep in mind:

Data Privacy and Security

  • Your data is stored and managed by the cloud provider – ensure they have robust security practices and that your data remains private.
  • Encryption, access controls, and data segregation should be implemented to protect sensitive data.
  • Review the provider’s security certifications and audit reports for assurance.

Reliance on the Provider

  • You are relying on an external provider to manage and deliver security services.
  • Ensure you have an exit strategy if you want to switch providers or bring services back in-house.
  • Avoid vendor lock-in by using open and standardized interfaces.

Integration with On-Premises Security

  • Cloud security services need to integrate with your existing on-premises security tools.
  • API integration and data sharing between cloud and on-prem is key.
  • Identity management and access controls should span both environments.
  • Logging and monitoring should aggregate events from cloud and on-prem.

Providers

Some of the major providers of cloud managed security services include IBM, Cisco, Secureworks, Alert Logic, and Armor.

IBM offers cloud-based managed security services like threat management, data security, and identity management. IBM leverages AI and automation capabilities across its security portfolio. Strengths of IBM’s offerings include the ability to consolidate multiple point solutions into an integrated platform. Weaknesses are that some find IBM’s pricing high and the platform overly complex.

Cisco provides managed detection and response services via Cisco SecureX. This platform integrates Cisco’s various security products into a single pane of glass. Strengths of Cisco’s managed security services include tight integration across Cisco’s broad security portfolio. Weaknesses are a perception that Cisco charges a premium and pushes customers towards Cisco-only architectures.

Secureworks delivers managed detection and response powered by its Counter Threat Platform. Strengths include Secureworks’ threat intelligence capabilities and Taegis XDR product. Weaknesses include a more limited portfolio beyond XDR and SIEM technologies compared to some competitors.

Implementation

Implementing a cloud managed security service typically involves an initial onboarding process to get your organization’s infrastructure integrated with the provider’s platform. This includes:

  • Configuring network access and permissions so the provider can monitor traffic and access devices. They will need read-only access to firewalls, endpoints, servers etc. Some providers may require installing lightweight agents.
  • Setting up log forwarding to ingest logs from your various security tools into the provider’s SIEM and analytics systems. APIs can automate this process.
  • Integrating with existing tools like firewalls, endpoint protection, identity systems. The provider can ingest data from these tools to correlate threats and improve monitoring.
  • Migrating data such as past alerts, security events, threat intel. This data will help train the machine learning models.
  • Onboarding users onto the provider’s portal. Different access roles and permissions can be configured for security analysts, IT staff, and executives.
  • Configuring policies and rules for threat detection, incident response, compliance reporting, and more. Policies should be customized to your organization’s needs and risk tolerance.

The implementation process can take several weeks depending on the complexity of your infrastructure. Phased rollouts starting with non-critical systems are recommended to test and validate the integration. Most providers assign technical account managers to assist with onboarding and configuration.

Management

Cloud managed security services provide ongoing management and monitoring of your security solutions. This removes the burden of managing complex security tools and staying on top of the latest threats.

With cloud managed security, providers handle all the configuration changes and updates needed to keep your security optimized. Rather than your team needing to constantly tune rules and policies, the service provider proactively configures them based on best practices and emerging threats.

You gain access to monitoring dashboards and reports that give visibility into your security posture. These may track metrics like attacks blocked or vulnerabilities detected across your endpoints, network, cloud environments, and more. Alerts can be customized so your team is notified of critical security events.

The level of management varies by provider. Some may offer complete 24/7 monitoring and response capabilities, while others provide more limited oversight. Understanding the management services included is important when evaluating providers.

Overall, cloud managed security alleviates the headache of managing multiple security products. Your team gains powerful security capabilities without needing to become experts in configuring and operating complex security tools.

Pricing Models

Cloud managed security services are typically priced based on a few common models:

  • Per user/device pricing – Providers will charge per user or per device that is being protected by the service. This model allows costs to scale alongside growth in the number of users and devices.
  • Tiered pricing – Services are broken down into tiers based on features or levels of protection. For example, a basic tier may include essential services like firewall management, while higher tiers add advanced threat protection, sandboxing, and more. The higher the tier, the more it costs per user/device.
  • Bundled pricing – Some providers offer bundled packages that include a predefined set of security services for one price. This simplifies pricing but provides less flexibility.
  • Consumption-based pricing – With this model, customers only pay for what they use. Services are metered and customers are charged based on usage. This can make costs more variable but aligns spending with actual usage.
  • Multi-year discounts – Providers may offer discounted rates for customers who commit to one, two, or three year contracts. Longer contracts typically come with deeper discounts.
  • Add-on services – Additional security services like compliance audits, security training, or incident response can be purchased as add-ons. These are usually priced individually.

The pricing model that makes most sense will depend on the organization’s specific requirements, budget, and desire for cost predictability vs flexibility. Companies should evaluate options to find the best fit.

Use Cases

Cloud managed security services make the most sense for companies that want to offload the burden of managing and monitoring their security infrastructure. Here are some examples of successful deployments:

  • Growing companies that lack in-house security expertise. Outsourcing security to a CMS provider allows these companies to focus on core business goals while ensuring their infrastructure is protected.
  • Companies with limited IT budgets. CMS provides enterprise-grade security at a fraction of the cost of building and managing an in-house security team and tools.
  • Distributed organizations with many branch offices. CMS delivers consistent security across all locations without the need to deploy security staff at each site.
  • Companies undergoing digital transformation initiatives like cloud migrations. CMS services provide visibility and control over cloud environments.
  • Organizations with frequent acquisitions. CMS helps quickly secure newly acquired companies to mitigate risk.
  • Heavily regulated industries like healthcare and finance. CMS services ensure continuous compliance with industry regulations.
  • Companies that have experienced a security breach. CMS services can rapidly restore security controls and monitoring.

The flexibility and scalability of cloud managed security makes it a good fit for organizations of all sizes and industries. With the right provider, companies can achieve peace of mind knowing their infrastructure and data is protected.

Future Outlook

The cloud managed security services market is expected to see strong growth in the coming years. According to research firm Gartner, the market is forecast to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 10% from 2020-2025, reaching $9.8 billion by 2025.

Several factors are driving this growth. As more organizations move to the cloud, they are looking to MSSPs to help secure their cloud environments and provide specialized security expertise. The increasing sophistication of cyber threats is also pushing more organizations to work with MSSPs.

In terms of new services and innovations, we can expect MSSPs to expand their offerings for securing cloud, mobile, and IoT environments. Key areas of development include:

  • Cloud access security brokers (CASBs) – Services to secure access to SaaS applications and enforce security policies.
  • Micro-segmentation – Granular network segmentation to limit lateral movement after a breach.
  • AI and machine learning – Automated threat detection and response powered by advanced analytics.
  • Deception technology – Use of traps and lures to detect attackers in the network.
  • Security for containers and serverless computing – Specialized services to secure these newer compute models.

We can also expect to see more consolidation amongst MSSPs as large tech companies acquire smaller providers to expand their security offerings. Integrations with existing security tools will increase as well, allowing for unified visibility and control across the security stack.

As threats continue to evolve, the demand for specialized security expertise and intelligence from MSSPs will only grow. Organizations will rely on MSSPs to provide 24/7 monitoring, detection, and response powered by advanced analytics and automation. The future looks bright for continued innovation and growth in the MSSP market.