New report offers in-depth look at security services alternatives -- and how to evaluate them

3 Min Read

So you're thinking about bringing in a third-party service provider to help out with IT security in your organization. The $64,000 question: Which providers should you consider?

The answer to this question, which was never simple, is becoming more complex, according to "Making the Security Outsourcing Decision," a new Dark Reading/InformationWeek Analytics report published today. In fact, the rapid diversification of the security services market, coupled with the lightning-fast growth in malware and other threats, is making it tougher than ever to find the right service provider for any one business situation.

"Variety is the spice of life, and that's particularly true with outsourced security options," the report says. "Different outsourcing service providers offer many different 'packages' of security technologies, although the lines are blurring and most players offer a lengthy laundry list of services."

The problem, experts say, is that while the market for outsourced security services is growing, the players are changing and consolidating. At the same time a number of major software vendors have entered the market with software-as-a-service (SaaS) and professional consulting offerings, some of the smaller providers have been bought out and/or reorganized. As a result of these rapid shifts, making apples-to-apples comparisons between service offerings has become nearly impossible, experts say.

Today's security services may offer any number of capabilities, the report notes. "Technologies broadly supported include threat protection (antivirus, antispam, antipharming/antiphishing), Web filtering, vulnerability scanning, authentication, unified threat management, email archiving, encryption, firewall, VPN, intrusion detection and prevention (IDP), network monitoring and log review, penetration testing/compliance review, backup and storage, and business continuity," it states.

So which service offerings and providers should your organization be considering -- if it should consider any at all? "Companies find the right service provider through a variety of methods, including word-of-mouth in the field, industry analyst reports, online reviews, testimonials, channel partners, and by tapping their current technology vendor for managed services," the report states.

"Experts say it is important that potential providers offer a selection of standardized or prepackaged offerings, because customized services may not be scalable. Enterprises should also look for providers with recognizable names that are stable and more likely to be around for the long haul."

Smaller companies continue to be the most likely to choose third-party security services, with 41 percent citing a lack of in-house technical skills necessary to properly support security needs, and 17 percent citing the need to reallocate staff to projects with greater visibility to senior management, the report states. But large companies are increasingly evaluating third-party services for specific security functions, such as email security, content filtering, and Web security functions, experts observe.

The increasing frequency of security breaches is also a driving factor behind outsourcing, according to industry research. A report published last year by Verizon Business indicates that 75 percent of the data breaches it studied were discovered by a third party, rather than a user or IT staffer inside the organization.

Click here to download the full security outsourcing report.

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About the Author(s)

Tim Wilson, Editor in Chief, Dark Reading


Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one of the top cyber security journalists in the US in voting among his peers, conducted by the SANS Institute. In 2011 he was named one of the 50 Most Powerful Voices in Security by SYS-CON Media.

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