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I Want a vCISO for My Organization. Should I Select an MSP, MSSP, or an Individual vCISO?

In today's digital-first environment, cybersecurity is not just a concern; it's a critical component of a business's survival and growth. As threats evolve in complexity and sophistication, organizations of all sizes are considering how best to protect their assets, data, and reputation. For many, hiring a Virtual Chief Information Security Officer (vCISO) offers a flexible, cost-effective solution to managing cybersecurity risks without the expense of a full-time executive. But when it comes to choosing the right type of vCISO support, businesses face a conundrum: Should they opt for a Managed Service Provider (MSP), a Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP), or an individual vCISO? Let's dive into the nuances of each option to help you make an informed decision. 

Understanding the Options 

Managed Service Provider (MSP): MSPs offer a broad range of IT services, including network, application, infrastructure, and security, through ongoing and regular support. While MSPs can handle many aspects of IT management and can include cybersecurity in their services, their focus is typically not exclusively on security. 

Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP): MSSPs are specialized in managing an organization's security processes. They offer services such as remote monitoring and management of security systems and devices, threat intelligence, incident response, and compliance management, focusing solely on security. 

Individual vCISO: An individual vCISO is a consultant or a freelancer who offers strategic cybersecurity guidance tailored to your organization's specific needs. They can provide a high level of customization in their services, including cybersecurity strategy development, risk assessment, compliance management, and employee training. 

Comparing the Options 

There are four key criteria to consider when comparing the different options: 

  1. Focus and expertise: While some service providers aren’t focused solely on strategic security services, they might have a team that is dedicated to these services. Ensure that the vCISO team/individual has the right experience and expertise to lead and guide your organization when it comes to cybersecurity.  

  2. Flexibility and scalability: While individual vCISOs can typically be more flexible, they might find it harder to scale and provide you with complementary services and solutions. Service providers can typically scale, but might be less flexible in the way they provide services. Examine the level of flexibility and scalability and ensure it fits your expectations.   

  3. Cost: Costs vary widely based on the team/individual’s expertise, level of security depth provided and the level and scope of service. It could range from a few thousand dollars per month to hundreds of thousands a year.  

  4. Customization and personal touch: Consider the level of customization and personal attention that your organization requires. Are there unique cybersecurity or compliance issues that you should address? To what level would you like the vCISO service to be tailored to your specific needs? 

Making the Right Choice 

The decision among an MSP, MSSP, or an individual vCISO depends on several factors, including your organization's size, industry, specific cybersecurity needs, budget, and internal capabilities. Here are a few considerations to guide your choice: 

  • For broad IT and security support: An MSP might be the right choice if you need comprehensive IT management along with security services. If you already work with an MSP, you might find it easier to expand the scope of work to cover vCISO services.  

  • For specialized security services: If you have an in-house IT leader, and your organization requires focused cybersecurity support, an MSSP might be the best fit.  

  • For tailored strategic guidance: If you're looking for an expert to be part of your leadership team and shape your cybersecurity strategy, an individual vCISO may offer the expertise and flexibility to meet your needs. 


Selecting the right cybersecurity leadership for your organization is a critical decision that should be made based on a clear understanding of your needs, goals, and resources. Whether you choose an MSP, MSSP, or an individual vCISO, the key is to ensure they align with your organization's vision and cybersecurity objectives. By carefully weighing the benefits and limitations of each option, you can make a choice that not only protects your business but also supports its growth and success in the digital age. 

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