5 Types of Security Operations Centers

Imagine your organization’s data is like a horde of gold and jewels inside a fortress. You’ve got sturdy walls, maybe a moat, and some vigilant guards on the lookout. But in today’s world of cyberattacks, even the best traditional defenses can be breached.

That’s where a Security Operations Center (SOC) comes in – it’s your 24/7 digital watchtower, the nerve center that never sleeps.

Picking the right kind of SOC is crucial though, kinda like deciding whether you need a few dedicated guards, a whole in-house army, or to outsource some of your watchkeeping from neighboring strongholds. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s dig a little deeper into the ins and outs of an SOC.


What exactly is a SOC?

Think of a SOC as the heart of your organization’s cybersecurity. It’s a team of experts, along with fancy tech, that keep a constant eye on your network. Picture a room full of screens (though nowadays, SOCs can be way more spread out!) showing network activity, blips for potential threats, and analysts working together to figure out what’s real danger and what’s just noise.

Types of Security Operations Centers: Know Your Options

There are a number of SOC models and SOC frameworks in use today, so selecting the right one can feel a bit like playing a strategy game. You need to weigh your resources, the threats you face, and how much hands-on control you want.

Let’s break down the most common options, along with some of the pros, cons, and those all-important real-life scenarios.

1. In-House SOC: The Ultimate Control

With an in-house SOC, you’re essentially building your own cybersecurity castle. You hire the staff, buy all the fancy monitoring tools, and create processes tailored to your organization’s exact needs. The upside is clear – maximum control and customization. 

Downside? Well, it’s like hiring your own army: it’s expensive and time-consuming. Not the best choice unless you’re a large enterprise with seriously high-value targets on your back.

Example: Think of a major financial institution with tons of sensitive customer data. They likely have a dedicated in-house SOC, complete with analysts monitoring their network around the clock, custom-built dashboards, and procedures specific to their industry’s regulations.

2. Hybrid SOC: When Two Heads are Better than One

Like the name says, it’s a mix. 

The hybrid model is like hiring a squad of expert mercenaries to bolster your existing defenses. You handle some aspects of security in-house, but you partner with a Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP) to fill in the gaps. MSSPs bring specialized skills, threat intelligence, and 24/7 monitoring that might be tough to build on your own.

This combo is great if you’re growing fast, want to stay focused on your core business, but need the security chops of a bigger team.

Example: A healthcare provider might have an in-house IT team handling basic security but partner with an MSSP specializing in HIPAA compliance and threat detection in the healthcare sector. The MSSP keeps an eye out for attacks that target healthcare specifically, while the internal team focuses on day-to-day security operations.

3. Virtual SOC: No Command Center? No Problem!

Here, there’s no fancy command center with walls of screens. This SOC is more about the people than the place.

The virtual SOC involves a distributed network of security pros rather than a physical room with blinking lights. Analysts might be scattered across different locations, working remotely with advanced collaboration tools. This model offers flexibility, letting you tap into top talent without the cost of a dedicated office space. It’s perfect for companies already spread out or those transitioning to a more remote-friendly workforce.

Example: Imagine a fast-growing tech startup with offices in a few cities and a bunch of folks working from home. A virtual SOC lets them hire the best analysts without worrying about where they live, ensuring 24/7 coverage with personnel in different time zones.

4. Co-managed SOC:  Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Think of this as a shared responsibility model. You’ve got an in-house security team, but you bring in an MSSP to handle those day-to-day monitoring tasks that eat up time. Your team focuses on incident response, investigations, and strategic projects. It’s a good fit for companies that want both in-house expertise and the offloading of repetitive tasks to allow them to upskill their own staff.

Example: A manufacturing company might use a co-managed SOC to free up their internal team. The MSSP flags potential threats, does the initial analysis, and your own folks then step in for deeper investigations or to adjust security policies based on the insights gained.

5. SOC-as-a-Service: Outsourcing for Peace of Mind

This is the most hands-off approach. You hand all your cybersecurity monitoring and response to a dedicated company specializing in nothing BUT security.  It’s ideal for smaller businesses with limited budgets and IT staff, or those who want to sleep soundly knowing experts are watching the fort.  The downside is less direct control, and you’re reliant on your provider’s capabilities.

Example: A local retail chain might choose SOC-as-a-Service. They don’t deal with super high-risk data, and their main focus is keeping their point-of-sale systems and basic network protected, letting them stay focused on selling stuff!

Choosing Wisely: Factors to Consider

Alright, it’s crunch time! Picking the right SOC model isn’t just about technical details. It’s a strategic business decision. Let’s get real and figure out what approach makes the most sense for your specific situation:

  • How big are you?  Let’s ditch the vague terms. Are you a Fortune 500 company like Walmart, constantly in the attacker’s crosshairs? An in-house SOC might be the only way to keep up. Maybe you’re a rapidly scaling tech startup with the ambition of becoming the next Uber. 

    A hybrid SOC model could give you that early-stage flexibility. Or, are you a family-owned regional business like a restaurant chain or a local manufacturing firm? Outsourcing might be the most practical way to gain serious protection without blowing your budget.
  • Threats in your industry: Are you a bank or a defense contractor handling top-secret data?  You’re going to need an ironclad defense, even if that means a costly in-house SOC or top-tier hybrid model.

    On the other hand, if you’re a small law firm focusing on local cases, perhaps a well-structured SOC-as-a-Service will fit the bill, letting you focus on your clients instead of cyberattacks. Remember, threats change, so your SOC strategy needs to adapt!
  • Your budget: In a perfect world, we’d all have unlimited budgets, but let’s be honest – money matters. Full in-house SOCs are pricey. Think of them like the Rolls Royce of cybersecurity – luxurious and high-end.

    Hybrid and virtual SOCs offer a balance of cost and expertise. Outsourcing is typically the budget-friendly route, but carefully assess if it offers the level of protection you need.
  • Control vs. Expertise: This is where your company culture comes in. Are you a control freak? Want the final say on every security update? In-house is probably the way to go. But maybe you’re like one of those innovative startups that embraces external talent.

    If so, outsourcing to a top MSSP could fast-track your protection, letting your in-house team grow and learn from the experience.

Important Note: These are starting points, not hard rules. Sometimes a scrappy business with limited resources builds an impressive internal security team out of sheer necessity, or a huge corporation outsources functions you’d think they’d do in-house.  The key is to be brutally honest about your needs, strengths, and weaknesses, then find the SOC model that fits those like a glove.

Beyond the Basics: Emerging Trends

The world of SOCs ain’t standing still! Here’s the buzz:

  • AI and Automation: Your new SOC teammates! Helpful SOC automation tools can take repetitive tasks off analysts’ plates, letting them focus on the truly serious threats.
  • Zero Trust: It’s a philosophy. Nobody gets in your network until they’ve proved they’re allowed. SOCs figure out how to make Zero Trust work in the real world.
  • Threat Intelligence: Picture your SOC plugged into a big network of info that lets analysts follow “bread crumbs” – sketchy activity from potential bad guys that might lead to future breaches. Understanding threat intelligence and how your SOC can implement it gives your analysts a huge leg up.

The Bottom Line: Weigh Your Options Wisely

Choosing the right SOC model is like picking the perfect armor for your digital fortress. There are options for every need and budget. Remember, the best SOC is the one that keeps you protected, helps your team stay a step ahead of the bad guys, and lets you focus on growing your business.

Think you’ve got the gist of it but want some advice? Reach out to a security consultant, they can help you pick the SOC model that’s your perfect fit!

Thomas Ward

Thomas Ward

Thomas Ward brings over a decade of cloud, infrastructure, and reliability engineering experience to the forefront of Spyrus’s mission. His time at leading tech innovators like Microsoft, Oracle, and MongoDB has shaped his deep understanding of how attackers exploit weaknesses in cloud systems and how to proactively defend them. Thomas witnessed the rapid shift to cloud environments alongside an explosion of cyber threats. He founded Spyrus out of a conviction to help businesses navigate this complex landscape. He leverages his expertise to build tailored, proactive cybersecurity solutions that protect clients’ sensitive assets and ensure their systems stay up and running – no matter what.