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InHouse vs Outsourced: The Truth About Federal Compliance Maintenance

Brian Seeling
August 31, 2021

As you review the results of a recent gap assessment or evaluate how your existing network stacks up to recent control updates or rollouts, you'll need to define a long-term action plan to achieve and maintain Federal compliance and reinforce your cybersecurity experts.  

You may explore internal solutions to remediate and maintain a healthy compliance posture across your organization, or you may consider outsourcing some or all of your compliance tasks to a third-party vendor.  

Before you onboard new staff members or pass off your operations to an external partner, you should carefully evaluate the pros and cons of each strategic approach. This post outlines the top considerations to help you get started:  

The Cost of an In-House Solution 

You may lean towards an in-house maintenance plan as it allows you to "own" the solution yourself and control every aspect of your cybersecurity operations. Bringing on new employees can streamline communication, reporting, and performance tracking, while also delivering a greater sense of dedication than an outsourced equivalent. 

Business Expenses 

Rather than expecting existing employees to "learn compliance" in a matter of weeks to implement an in-house compliance solution, you'll want to recruit industry experts who specialize in Federal compliance and have experience with organizations similar to your own.  

Unfortunately, you can't simply bring in a standalone Compliance Specialist to manage ongoing tasks and new projects. You'll need to build out a complete department of five or six team members; each focused on different elements of your cybersecurity compliance infrastructure.  

These employees are often hard to come by, can be expensive to hire, and require continued support over time. You'll need to invest in recruiting, and allow for the time it takes existing department leaders to review resumes and conduct interviews to identify top candidates. 

Once these individuals sign onto your organization, you'll need to support their regular wages and additional compensation like insurance benefits and PTO. Here's an example of how these roles and annual salaries may break down: 

  • Senior Systems Administrator – $115,000 
  • Senior SharePoint Administrator — $127,000  
  • Senior Network Security System Analyst — $123,000  
  • Mid-level Network Security System Analyst – $97,000 
  • Compliance Specialist - $105,000 

On top of base salaries, you'll need to calculate overhead costs for each role, plus benefits and ongoing training expenses.  

Time + Bandwidth 

Once you establish and invest in a core team, you'll need to consider how their bandwidth and availability may impact your ability to respond to threats and resolve unexpected errors.  

You'll need to add training and onboarding time to each employee's overall capacity calculations, then identify how these tasks will affect your progress on critical initiatives and day-to-day maintenance operations.  

In-house hiring means you won't have access to a bench of talent to support your key compliance players. You need to keep in mind that each individual on your team is just that — an individual. As you prepare implementation plans and timelines, you'll also need to include affordance for vacation, sick time, and other time off that will cut into productivity and organizational support. Plus, you'll need a backup plan in the event of an employee departure or other team transition.  

Long-term Outlook 

If you can afford to hire a new department and backup resources to support them, you may be able to tackle cybersecurity and compliance internally in the short term. While in-house compliance maintenance gives you more control and deep customizations, it comes with several key risk factors and limitations.  

However, the industry is ever-changing, and the nuances within each Federal control or compliance framework require in-depth knowledge and constant iteration from your core team. Unlike dynamic vendors who work with several organizations in tandem, internal employees have limited on-the-job learning opportunities as they are not exposed to other networks or environments.  

This closed-circuit operation creates a single point of failure — if your internal team can't keep up, your organization will inevitably fall behind the compliance curve. Plus, having a single expert in-house could be catastrophic if that employee leaves the organization and takes all of their institutional knowledge along with them.  

The Cost of MSSP Outsourcing 

Hiring an outsourced cybersecurity compliance vendor — like a Managed Security Services Provider (MSSP) — is a popular alternative to internal solutions. These dynamic partnerships enable Federal contractors to lean on compliance experts and a robust bench of talent to ensure their network adheres to the latest frameworks. 

An MSSP takes the burden of ongoing maintenance off of your internal security teams, leaving them more time to focus on their existing tasks. And while some executives or IT leaders may consider outsourcing too large of an upfront investment, it saves you significant time, effort, and headache in the long run.  

Business Expenses 

Unlike internal hiring, you won't have to customize individual salaries or juggle multiple discordant expenses to keep your MSSP services running smoothly. Outsourcing allows you to keep your existing staff in place and support them with a team of reliable experts, all for one monthly fee. This clean-cut payment model creates a predictable business expense while also giving your organization the flexibility to leverage multiple experts simultaneously or request additional support as needs or new initiatives arise.  

MSSP support packages can be customized to your business, handling every aspect of your internal IT operations or working alongside your team to protect and secure your network and prepare for upcoming audits. As an example, here's a quick breakdown of Peerless's most popular support package paired with additional consulting time:  

  • ProActive Plus - $15,000 a month or $180,000 a year 
  • vCIO Block time - $1,800 a month or $21,600 a year

These numbers may look intimidating upfront, but they're a fraction of the costs required to outfit a full cybersecurity team, minus the risk of unexpected employee turnover or knowledge gaps. Plus, the flat costs include access to the multi-person team required for compliance adherence.  

Accessing these team members through your MSSP will significantly reduce your training and hiring expenses. It also safeguards your system through specialists with years of industry expertise and in-depth knowledge of DoD compliance.

Time + Bandwidth 

When you partner with a support vendor, you'll no longer bear the responsibility of balancing limited bandwidth with a laundry list of to-dos. Instead, your partner will balance the load on their side of the aisle, working with a bench of cybersecurity and compliance experts to execute key initiatives on time and to the highest quality.  

Plus, you won't have to worry about extended vacation time or internal turnover, as your MSSP will maintain an action plan to ensure there's a team of well-trained, battle-ready experts at the helm of your network operations to offer 24/7/365 support.  

This team-based approach means you always have a group of diverse experts to lean on. Experts who have both the knowledge and the experience to leverage tried-and-tested tools and techniques to ensure success.  

While an MSSP manages key tasks and keeps your operations running smoothly, outsourcing isn't a 'set it and forget it' solution. You'll still need to assign a central internal point of contact to serve as the liaison between your executive leadership and the support company.

Long-term Outlook 

The right MSSP partner will support your organization now and in the future, with reliable teams and cutting-edge industry insights designed to protect your systems and your clients while also adhering to Federal frameworks and requirements. Reliable support and maintenance solutions:  

Plus, your MSSP will offer value-tested recommendations and strategies to further streamline your operations as your needs and the industry landscape evolves.  

Ideally, your relationship with an MSSP should be strategic, not transactional. You'll want to evaluate them carefully to ensure they have your best interests in mind — and the right support team to back up their advertised services and packages. You likely won't outsource every function, so it's important to work with your MSSP to find the right mix of internal and external talent that will support your organization effectively.  


At Peerless, we deliver custom-tailored support solutions that empower your teams, support your bottom line, and protect our nation's most valuable information. If you're looking for a long-term maintenance solution that can keep up with the compliance curve, partnering with an MSSP is the best path forward.  

Ready to start your search for an MSSP? Our free checklist can help.  

Click here to download the MSSP Checklist

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