IT Brief Australia - Technology news for CIOs & IT decision-makers
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Navigating the security operations center maze
Fri, 21st Jul 2023

In today’s digital world, the proverbial sword of Damocles that looms large over all businesses and organisations, regardless of size is cybersecurity. However, it is often mid-market companies, in particular, that find themselves faced with a crucial decision - to construct an internal Security Operations Center (SOC) or to find an alternative solution.

One such alternative may include engaging in a Managed Extended Detection and Response (MXDR) service. Though MXDR services are touted by some as a suitable substitute for an internal SOC, the truth is not quite so simple. The reality is that there are undoubtedly pros and cons to each route depending on a myriad of factors - so how should businesses decide?

Building a Security Operations Center: The illusion of control?

One of the main perceived benefits of building an in-house SOC is the control that it offers businesses. After all, what could be better than a customised defence architecture integrated with existing IT infrastructure and protecting all of your sensitive data?

The reality, however, is that the picture is not quite this rosy. Developing a SOC demands a substantial initial outlay, ongoing operational expenses, and a plethora of specialised personnel to oversee it - cyber analysts, incident responders and threat hunters - all often supervised by a CISO. Finding and then keeping so many specialists and experts is neither straightforward nor cheap.

Though undoubtedly valuable, the effort to build, maintain and staff a suitably capable SOC is a costly and ongoing commitment. While large organisations have the resources to stand up for their own SOCs, not all organisations are so fortunate.

Managed Extended Detection and Response: A more pragmatic alternative?

Analyst projections for the global MXDR market vary, but all point to brisk growth, with estimates as high as $9.5 billion by 2028. Much of this anticipated growth is being driven by the benefits MXDR services provide in terms of the expertise offered to help businesses mitigate cyber risks, according to industry analysts.

This includes the provision of a team of cyber experts proficient in the latest threat intelligence and counterstrategies, which in many ways negates the need for internal cybersecurity knowledge. The capability to scale the service offers another benefit for mid-market companies, which often fluctuate between periods of growth and contraction.

The ability to accurately budget costs for such services may also provide a more manageable and attractive option; with the variable capex and opex-intensive costs of standing up and staffing a SOC replaced with the predictable costs of a subscription model.

However, arguably the most attractive benefit of MXDR services for many enterprises will be the fact that they provide around-the-clock, 24/7, non-stop threat monitoring - something that is likely to be very difficult to achieve for an in-house team.


Crucially, choosing between developing a SOC or bringing in an MXDR service is never a one-size-fits-all decision. There are a multitude of factors to consider, including the company’s risk profile, business model and, of course, the budget.

As IT leaders and cybersecurity teams chart their course through the SOC decision maze, they must remember that effective cybersecurity is not simply a matter of having the right tools and technologies. That’s only part of the puzzle - what it really hinges on is having the expertise to comprehend and react to critical security incidents.

It is for this reason that some mid-market enterprises faced with the SOC build-or-buy conundrum amidst a backdrop of ever increasing cyber threats and a growing cyber skills gap may begin to tilt towards the latter.