Oct 05 2023

The Value of a vCISO For Your Small Business

Virtual CISOs can help organizations get expert cybersecurity guidance.

Small and midsize businesses are particularly vulnerable to cyberattacks. According to a recent report by Fortinet, 43 percent of all cyberattacks now target such businesses.

One reason is that smaller businesses often use free or open-source IT solutions to save money and deploy these solutions to protect valuable data such as customers’ personal and financial information.

Virtual CISOs provide a way for SMBs to stay ahead of attackers without breaking the bank. But what is a vCISO, and how does one offer real value for small businesses?

DISCOVER: Find out how managed services can help support IT departments.

Why CISOs Are Difficult Hires to Make for SMBs

With SMBs now operating on a global scale, they face many of the same challenges as enterprise organizations — just with smaller budgets.

As a result, many small-business IT teams consist of just a handful of people who are often wearing more than one hat. While bringing in a CISO sounds like a great idea, the time and cost required to find and hire such a person may be prohibitive for small businesses.

WATCH: Learn how to build a culture of cybersecurity in your organization.

A virtual CISO is a CISO with industry experience — someone who has been in the role before as a full-time employee and now offers their services via a consulting model. Virtual CISOs typically work with a trusted provider such as CDW, which provides the administrative and technological frameworks for their services.


The percentage of cyberattack that now target small and mid-sized businesses

Source: Fortinet, "Why Are SMBs Most Vulnerable to Cyberattacks?", 2023 Report

What Is The Value of a vCISO and How Does It Work?

The starting point for a vCISO engagement is a security assessment. Service providers will evaluate current business needs and assign a vCISO with matching skills and expertise.

Next, companies select the number of service hours they prefer. Hours can be purchased weekly, biweekly or monthly depending on customer needs, and they can be used in whatever way works best for businesses.

For example, a company could choose to meet its vCISO for an hour per day or several hours each week. Meetings typically happen by phone or via tools such as Webex or Teams. Depending on proximity, vCISOs may also provide onsite services.

Using a vCISO offers multiple benefits for SMBs, including:

  • Industry expertise. Virtual CISOs have extensive industry knowledge and expertise. As a result, they can provide high-level strategic guidance and recommend specific actions tailored to business needs and risk profiles.
  • Expense management. CISOs are in-demand professionals, and full-time security officers often cost upward of $200,000 per year. In addition, SMBs must spend time and money to find, interview and onboard these executives. Under a vCISO model, small businesses can access security expertise on-demand without paying full-time salaries or benefits.
  • Risk management. In-depth experience allows vCISOs to evaluate SMB security posture from the perspective of an outsider. This enables them to spot potential problems, identify effective solutions and prioritize key actions.
  • Strategy development. Partnering with a vCISO also helps small businesses create both short- and long-term security strategies. Over the short term, vCISOs can pinpoint IT weaknesses that must be addressed immediately. In the long term, they can help create incident response and disaster recovery plans that help companies navigate emerging issues.

Virtual CISOs offer real benefits for SMBs, from reduced costs to improved risk management and strategy development. Opting for expertise on-demand can help small businesses keep pace and stay profitable across evolving global markets.

This article is part of BizTech's AgilITy blog series. Please join the discussion on X (formerly Twitter).


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