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Managed cyber security: what it is and 4 signs you need it

By Ben Filipkowski

With contributions from Katie Yahnke and Eric McDonald.

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For small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), managed cybersecurity delivers a much-needed helping hand. With cyber threats evolving at a rapid pace, it’s a challenge for businesses of all sizes, let alone SMBs, to stay ahead of attackers. Because SMB owners and staff are frequently left wearing multiple hats and managing multiple responsibilities, there aren’t enough resources or hours left in the day to tackle security operations.

That’s where managed cybersecurity comes in. By partnering with the right security vendor, managed service provider (MSP), or managed security service provider (MSSP), businesses can access managed cyber services backed by top-tier security technology and talent.

By packaging the tools, technology, and expertise needed to defend against cyber threats together into a professional service, managed cybersecurity gives SMBs access to effective protection—at a fraction of the cost of doing it themselves.

Here’s what SMB owners, operators, and IT professionals need to know about managed cybersecurity.

How managed cybersecurity works

Managed cybersecurity services help businesses by taking over some or all of their security needs. Broadly, there are two approaches to managed cybersecurity services:

  • Fully managed cybersecurity services are usually delivered by a managed service provider (MSP) or managed security service provider (MSSP). These organizations operate the cybersecurity tech stack, responding to cyber threats and reporting back to their clients as needed. Fully managed cybersecurity services are a great fit for businesses that lack the internal resources or budget needed for effective security.
  • Co-managed cybersecurity services support your existing security capabilities. They give you access to an external team of experts that can support your company's current cybersecurity posture and can be a strong option for companies looking to close skill gaps or ensure consistent, round-the-clock coverage.

There's no right or wrong answer here. Both options give your business access to the security expertise it needs to stay protected. The best fit for your company will vary based on how you manage your security needs now and your goals for the future.

Key benefits of managed cybersecurity

Beyond the immediate concern of reliable cyber defenses, investing in a managed security service can offer your business a range of benefits. Here are a few common reasons why companies choose to use these services.

Access to security expertise

Finding, hiring, and retaining cybersecurity talent is a costly obstacle for businesses of all sizes. Demand for talent consistently exceeds supply, which means many companies aren't able to add the security expertise they want, sometimes even when they have the budget to do so.

Managed security services solve this. They give businesses a reliable way to access top-flight cybersecurity experts regardless of their location or budget for employees.

Always-on threat monitoring and detection

Businesses in every sector need dependable 24/7 threat monitoring and detection. Managed security services deliver this functionality by pairing threat monitoring and detection technology with expert analysts. This ensures you're able to both identify and resolve threats as they arise.

Risk management and reduction

Using a managed cybersecurity service is also a great way to reduce risk. Because these services often include vulnerability detection, alongside the proactive threat hunting that's needed to find and resolve gaps before they become an issue, managed cybersecurity can help identify risks while offering the insight needed to manage said risks proactively. 

The net result is that your plans for the future won't have to include as much leeway for potential cybersecurity issues.

Scalable cybersecurity solutions

Managed security providers understand that an organization's needs can shift as it grows—and they also know that small businesses sometimes need additional kinds of support.

That's why many of these providers offer highly scalable security solutions. These let you add and change services as your needs evolve. That way, you can always get access to the ideal security solution for your present situation, even amidst changing frequently changing circumstances.

More time to focus on your business

The more tasks you hand off to a managed security provider, the less you have to worry about. This frees up internal resources so you and your staff can spend more time on other projects that drive revenue or innovation.

5 signs managed security is right for you

Managed security solutions can certainly benefit your business. But are they the right fit for your company's unique needs?

The answer can depend on how effectively you're managing security internally today and what your future looks like. However, if you relate to any of the following seven signs, then there's a good chance that managed security can be a viable solution for you.

1. You’re concerned about the cost of cybersecurity

Running an effective cybersecurity practice internally is difficult. Even more so when you consider that many smaller businesses are forced to stitch tools and technology together to create a more complete defense. But when you add the prices of these tools together, it may be more than you're willing to spend.

That leaves you with a decision to make. You can either cut back on some tools and potentially leave your company vulnerable or expand your budget and start spending more on security.

Neither of these is a good option, so companies in this position often turn to managed cybersecurity solutions. They give your small or medium-sized business the full protection you want at a more affordable price since you won't have to pay for enterprise-grade tools.

2. You serve a high-risk industry

Companies in every sector can be targets of cyber threats, but if you operate in a high-risk industry, your chances of experiencing an attack will be higher. For example, the financial, healthcare, legal, and educational sectors face unique risks due to complex compliance requirements and highly regulated customer data.

Managed cybersecurity services offer businesses in these industries the guidance and protection they need to continue their important work. The team you hire can focus on your defenses and guide you toward compliance in everything you do.

A managed security provider could also be a boon for your company if it has particular compliance-related issues to consider. Failure to comply with government-mandated regulations can lead to costly fines and penalties. Compliance with these regulations can get complicated and may be difficult to manage with an internal team alone.

Hiring a managed security partner is an easier solution. They'll help you protect your confidential data and navigate your compliance requirements so you can focus on growing revenue instead of the technicalities of complicated cybersecurity regulations.

3. You have a complex threat surface

Many companies now use fully remote or hybrid workforces because of the benefits they offer. However, whenever you have people working outside of your office, it presents additional security risks you need to plan for. It takes time and technical knowledge to mitigate these risks.

For example, hybrid offices (and offices generally) are using more software and cloud-based services and applications than ever. Each of these adds a new piece to your threat surface, presenting another possible access point for a threat actor.

It's another reason to consider using managed security. These companies can help you evaluate your risks, map out your threat surface, and give you the protection you need to continue using whatever type of workforce your company prefers.

4. You want proactive, advanced protection

Cybercriminals are constantly on the lookout for new ways to breach vulnerable companies. When your cybersecurity strategy is reactive to these efforts, you feel like you're always playing catch-up. This can be mentally draining and leave your business vulnerable.

Managed security providers take a different approach. They proactively search for your company's vulnerabilities and plug them before attackers make them a target.

You get advanced protection that deters would-be hackers before they can test your defenses. It means greater peace of mind for you and better protection for your business.

5. You want to avoid the costs of downtime and recovery

Another question to ask yourself is how much damage an attacker could do just by taking your systems offline.

For example, if you lose access to your CRM for 1-2 days, what does that mean financially? You may miss out on sales or struggle to provide adequate support. Plus, regaining control of your CRM could be expensive, especially if the hacker asks for a ransom.

There can be a lot of costs associated with system downtime and recovery. Hiring a managed security solution could be a good option if you want to avoid these costs. They'll give you better protection to help you minimize your risk of experiencing these costly issues.

Is managed security ever a bad fit for an SMB?

We've covered many advantages of managed security for SMBs in various situations. So you may be wondering if there's ever a reason not to use these services as a small or medium-sized company.

One situation where working with managed security doesn't make much sense is if you already have a full internal team dedicated to security. You may not need a fully managed security solution if you're already paying experts to protect your business. However, it's possible you would still benefit from a co-managed security solution.

For example, maybe your IT team handles basic security for your company already. A co-managed security service could expand on that work to bring more protection to your business without asking you to pay for two forms of overlapping protection.

As a small or medium-sized business, you may think you're less of a target than an enterprise. However, smaller companies are appealing victims to attackers because:

  • SMBs often have the same assets as larger companies but lack the resources to adequately secure them.
  • SMBs may struggle to patch and update systems and software, including legacy systems that no longer receive regular developer support. This introduces vulnerabilities that are easier for attackers to exploit.
  • SMBs may mistakenly believe they're not targets for cybercrime despite surging attacks.

These are just a few reasons why investing in a robust security solution is worth doing even if your business is relatively small. If you're unsure which security services are right for your company, feel free to reach out to an expert at Field Effect to get the answers you need to make a decision.

The bottom line

Your company's cybersecurity is important enough to demand a serious strategy, but most SMBs lack the internal resources to create and execute one without expert assistance.

Managed cybersecurity solutions are the answer for many SMBs. They can give you the security you need without breaking your budget, so you have more time to focus on what you do best.

Want to learn more? Ask your managed service provider about managed cybersecurity, or take a look at our managed detection and response (MDR) solution, Covalence.