To build a successful security function, you need to coordinate across people, processes, and technology. And the stakes have never been higher than they are today when it comes to information security, which is why many businesses are looking for ways to centralize security operations by way of a security operations center (SOC).

When it comes to achieving cohesion, SOCs are a major asset. SOCs bring everyone responsible for security together in a cohesive way and centralize visibility, alerting, and investigation. SOCs can help optimize security operations, allowing teams to respond faster and with better accuracy to incidents. But developing an effective SOC — one that is able to keep up with adversaries — all depends on when and how it’s set up.

When to Setup a Security Operations Center

A two man operation probably doesn’t need a full-blown SOC, but there comes a tipping point when not having a centralized security organization will hamper success.

Here are 7 key indicators that your organization may be ready for a SOC:

1. Your organization is handling increasing amounts of sensitive data

If the data processed and stored in your network includes credit cards, social security numbers, health records, and company IP, then you already know you’re at a high risk of an attack that can impact your business.

As the volume of such data increases, dedicating a team to monitor it 24/7 can greatly improve your security posture — and that of your customers.

2. Your emerging threat landscape requires dedicated security resources

Organizations often start with assigning security tasks to team members who perform these tasks ‘part time’ outside of their other core responsibilities. With many organizations facing more complex and numerous threats every day, these employees may not be equipped to tackle a more sophisticated threat landscape.

By dedicating several team members to various areas of security, such as monitoring, response, and engineering, your team can take a more proactive approach to planning for emerging threats.

3. Your organization is growing, meaning more machines and users need to be protected 24/7

In general, organizations that grow to 500 employees and >1000 devices are ideal candidates for a dedicated SOC, though each organization is different and you may be thinking of planning for a SOC even earlier.

When standard security practices, such as password management, user access controls, adherence to compliance standards, and workstation security require centralized policy management to handle the complexity, it’s time to consider a dedicated team to address the increased demand.

4. Security monitoring and incident response workflows are ineffective (or nonexistent)

If the ownership of security monitoring, alerting, escalation, investigation, and response is spread throughout your organization with no standard processes tying them together, tasks can easily fall through the cracks, leaving the doors open for attackers. The purpose of a SOC is to tightly tie security processes and workflows together to stay ahead of tomorrow’s threats. (Need help creating effective security processes? )

5. Security is currently part of another function (e.g. IT), making it difficult to measure the ROI on security spend

When security is built into IT or other departments across the organization, it becomes hard to measure when personnel are spending their time on security, what expenses are security-related, and what the associated ROI is. To get a handle on these security resources and costs, SOCs can centralize these efforts, simplifying tracking and reporting.

6. You want to improve security monitoring and incident response capabilities

Establishing workflows and procedures for monitoring and response is the best way to ensure your organization is systematically protected against threats. By having specialists on-staff dedicated to the security of your business and who understand your unique environment and the threats it faces, you can be better equipped to respond.

While such specialization can be costly, it is well worth the time and money to grow and evolve an in-house team to better equip you against your adversaries.

7. You’ve outgrown your managed security service provider

Managed security service providers (MSSPs) have to protect a ton of businesses, and, for the sake of efficiency, will use technology and processes that cover a broad range of organizations. As your network of users, endpoints, and data grows, you need personnel, processes, and technology that are tailored to your unique environment and threats.

Otherwise you can’t be sure you have the right level of protection. At this point, you may find better ROI in spending your security budget building an internal team rather than paying an MSSP (though you can also consider using a mix of both).

Conclusion

If you can relate to some — if not all — of the points above, it may be time to create a SOC within your organization. Knowing when it’s time to do so is half the equation. The other half? Knowing how to do it.