By Sam Bocetta, a freelance journalist specialising in U.S. diplomacy and national security, with emphasis on technology trends in cyberwarfare, cyberdefense, and cryptography.

There are plenty of good reasons to outsource your web security. The cybersecurity threat profile faced by the average business is constantly evolving, and in this context, only the largest firms can afford a dedicated cybersecurity team with the necessary size and skills to protect them.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in web security. In today’s business environment, every company needs a website, but if improperly secured, this can be a major source of vulnerability. If you run a small business, calling in experts to manage the security of your site is almost a necessity.

Not all website security providers are equal, though. In this guide, we’ll explain what you should look for in a web security provider. Or, rather, what you should be wary of.

The Benefits of Outsourcing Web Security

First, though, let’s take a look at the benefits of outsourcing your web security. These can be put simply. Outsourcing provides better security at a lower cost.

In considering whether to outsource, it pays to consider the alternative: building your own web security team. This can be expensive and difficult. As Edward S. Ferrara, a security and risk analyst at Forrester Research, told Entrepreneur, "Security is so hot that good people are hard to find, and they're expensive.”

Of course, outsourcing your security (whether for your website or anything else) doesn’t mean that you don’t need to do anything in-house. There are plenty of steps you can take to enhance your domain security without the help of outside experts, including learning about SSL certificates. When done correctly, outsourcing can be a very effective way of limiting costs.

While full-blown managed security solutions can be expensive, plenty of free web hosting providers now offer security tools as part of their standard package. Making use of the free tools that are available can significantly improve your cybersecurity without the need for external consultants. However, as your business grows it pays to get some help. Here's what you should look for in a web security provider.

How To Choose a Web Security Provider

The first concern when choosing a web security provider is one of scale. If you are looking for a range of security services that protects all your systems and not just your website, there are plenty of companies that offer this: giants like Symantec Corp and McAfee Inc, and also specialised service providers like Solutionary Inc., Perimeter E-Security and Dell's SecureWorks Inc.

On the other hand, if you are primarily interested in securing just your website, there are more specialized products such as CloudFlare and Incapusla.

All of these companies work with a Software as a Service (SaaS) model, in which you pay a subscription to use their software. This can have huge benefits in terms of cost, but also protecting your company’s reputation.

As analysis firm explains in its guide to SaaS business models, “When outsourcing server space and other infrastructural needs you are also outsourcing security. This isn’t always a bad thing but if there is a security breach with a cloud service that is being used, the blame still falls squarely on the shoulders of the SaaS company.”

Once you’ve decided whether to go for a full-blown Managed Services Provider (MSP) or a smaller system to secure your website, here are some things to look out for:

Don’t Use Off-Shore Providers

Providers based outside your home country often offer attractive prices for outsourced web security, but there’s a reason for that. They do not need to comply with the same cybersecurity legislation as you do, and are unlikely to be aware of it. Just look at the confusion that has been caused by the idea of a US Department of Cybersecurity to get an idea why.

This jurisdictional problem may get even worse if you become the victim of a security breach. If your web security provider is based overseas, you have little recourse to hold them accountable for negligence.

Beware Of “100% Protection”

No company or system can provide 100% protection against cyberattacks, and any company that claims to is lying. It might sound unfair to criticise a company that indulges in a little exaggeration in their advertising, but it’s not: a quality web security provider should be able to provide you with detailed statistics on the number of attacks they have defeated, the number they were unable to stop, and what they are doing to improve these numbers.

Avoid Completely Remote-based Providers

The majority of tools and providers protect your website using software deployed on your web servers. That’s fine. But it shouldn’t be the only thing that a web security provider offers. Half of all data breaches are caused by mistakes (or malicious intentions) on behalf of employees, and a quality web security company is able to advise you on staff training, how you should store data, and even on-site security staff to physically secure your web infrastructure.

Avoid “Magic Hardware” Solutions

Finally, be extremely wary of web security providers who claim to have developed sophisticated hardware-based web security solutions. In recent years, some companies have begun to offer this type of security solution, but in reality, hardware security is an addition to software and security professionals, not a replacement for them.

In addition, buying hardware security solutions can undermine the very reason you are outsourcing your web security in the first place. SaaS security solutions provide relatively inexpensive, scalable systems without the need to invest in security hardware that quickly becomes obsolete.

The Bottom Line

Outsourcing your web security needs can be a very cost-effective way of protecting your business from cyberattacks, but it needs to be done carefully.

You need to choose a web security company carefully, and the principles above should help you to do that. But you should also recognise that web security is everyone’s business: instead of hiring an external company and then forgetting about your security entirely, you should look to them as a partner who can help you to keep your business secure.