What is the difference between in-house and outsourced security services?

Security is a crucial concern for businesses of all sizes. An effective security program protects your business from threats like data breaches, theft, and vandalism. When designing your security program, one of the most important decisions you’ll make is whether to handle security in-house or outsource it to a security company. While both options have pros and cons, understanding the key differences will help you determine the best approach for your unique business needs.

What are in-house security services?

In-house security refers to handling all security operations internally with your own staff. This includes activities like:

  • Installing and monitoring security systems like cameras, alarms, and access control.
  • Conducting risk assessments to identify vulnerabilities.
  • Developing security policies and procedures.
  • Training employees on security best practices.
  • Investigating security incidents.

With in-house security, your own employees take full responsibility for protecting your assets and people. You invest in the necessary security infrastructure and hire trained security personnel to carry out all required tasks.

Benefits of in-house security

There are several potential advantages to keeping security in-house:

  • Greater control: You dictate all security policies and protocols when keeping security in-house. You don’t need to compromise or defer to an outside company’s standards.
  • Better privacy: Sensitive business data stays in-house rather than being shared with a third-party vendor.
  • Faster response time: In-house security staff are onsite and prepared to respond quickly to any incidents on your property.
  • Deeper site knowledge: Your own team will become intimately familiar with your facilities and business operations.
  • Enhanced customer service: In-house security staff are directly accountable to you and your business.

For organizations that want maximum oversight and control over their security program, keeping the function in-house is generally preferable.

Drawbacks of in-house security

However, there are also some potential downsides to consider with in-house security:

  • Higher upfront costs: You’ll need to fully equip your security team with systems, tools, infrastructure, and other overhead expenses.
  • More effort to monitor and manage: With no outside help, your staff will be solely burdened with security oversight.
  • Less flexibility: Bringing security in-house represents a fixed, long-term commitment of resources and personnel.
  • Strains existing resources: Adding security duties can tax your staff members who already have other roles.
  • Scalability challenges: Your in-house resources may become strained as the company grows.

Managing rigorous security fully in-house requires substantial investment and strategic planning. The burden placed on your staff also has to be accounted for.

What are outsourced security services?

Outsourced security refers to partnering with an external company to handle some or all of your security needs. Common services offered by security firms include:

  • Security guards and patrols
  • Alarm monitoring
  • Cybersecurity
  • Loss prevention
  • Business intelligence and threats analysis
  • Disaster recovery and business continuity planning
  • Special event security
  • Secure transport

Based on your security priorities, you can outsource any combination of these functions to take advantage of a security provider’s expertise. This allows your in-house staff to focus on core operations.

Benefits of outsourced security

Key advantages that outsourced services offer include:

  • Greater expertise: Experienced security firms hold extensive knowledge you may lack internally.
  • Better technology: Providers have access to the latest security tech and tools.
  • Improved efficiency: Your staff’s time and energy can be redirected from security to business-building activities.
  • Enhanced scalability: Security personnel and infrastructure from a provider can scale along with your evolving needs.
  • 24/7 monitoring: Around-the-clock protection from a provider delivers peace of mind.
  • Lower and more predictable costs: Outsourcing converts security into a managed, predictable operating expense.

For smaller companies or those with limited security expertise, outsourcing can be an effective solution. Letting specialists handle security gives you reliable protection without the management burdens.

Drawbacks of outsourced security

However, there are also some cautions to note regarding outsourced security:

  • Loss of control: A third-party vendor ultimately makes key security decisions for your company.
  • Communication gaps: An outside provider may lack insight into your specific security needs.
  • Lost productivity during transitions: Changing providers or bringing security back in-house can be disruptive.
  • Hidden costs: Once a contract is signed, unexpected rate hikes or add-on fees may arise.
  • Intellectual property risks: Sensitive information could be exposed when working with an external vendor.

Outsourcing can also present challenges evaluating provider expertise and service levels across contracts. You’ll want to investigate providers thoroughly to find an optimal fit.

Comparing in-house vs outsourced security side-by-side

To better illustrate the pros and cons of each approach, here is a helpful side-by-side overview:

In-House Security Outsourced Security
  • High upfront investments
  • Ongoing personnel, training, and equipment costs
  • Low upfront costs
  • Predictable ongoing fees
  • Security experience depends on internal hires
  • Institutional knowledge builds over time
  • Gain from provider’s specialized security acumen
  • Access to wider breadth of experience
  • Total control over personnel, policies, and procedures
  • Cede control to external provider
  • Must align procedures with vendor
  • Adding staff and systems requires investment and time
  • In-house resources can become strained
  • Services and infrastructure scale with your needs
  • Built-in capacity of provider
  • Full management burden on your staff
  • Provider handles day-to-day security operations
  • Lightens management responsibilities
  • Data and systems remain in-house
  • Requires sharing data and access with vendor
  • Can change security models with internal adjustments
  • Locked into vendor’s contracts and services
  • Transitioning providers requires effort

This table summarizes how core factors like cost, expertise, control, scalability and more differ between the two models. Reviewing this high-level comparison can help guide your decision based on your unique priorities.

Should you choose in-house or outsourced security?

Deciding between in-house and outsourced security involves weighing your specific needs and resources. Key factors to consider include:

  • Company size – Larger companies tend to have the scale for cost-effective in-house security. Small businesses generally benefit more from outsourcing.
  • In-house expertise – If you lack specialized security knowledge internally, outsourcing helps fill gaps.
  • Desired control – Do you want total control over security, or are you comfortable enabling a vendor?
  • Budget – Outsourcing can minimize upfront costs but may have higher ongoing fees.
  • Security risks – Are you strategically aligned to your provider regarding your security priorities?
  • Growth trajectory – Can in-house resources scale as quickly as your needs evolve?

The right choice also often depends on your specific industry and business model. For example, financial institutions and healthcare companies more commonly keep security in-house to protect highly sensitive data. Retailers, on the other hand, often fully outsource store and supply chain security.

Rather than an outright in-house or outsourced approach, the most effective solution for many companies is a hybrid model. You might outsource low-risk functions like basic monitoring while keeping high-risk areas like cybersecurity in-house. Splitting responsibilities allows you to get the best of both worlds.

Tips for choosing an outsourced security provider

If you determine outsourcing makes sense for your business, follow these tips for picking the best security partner:

  1. Clearly identify your unique security needs and pain points.
  2. Research a wide range of providers that offer expertise in your priority areas.
  3. Vet shortlisted vendors thoroughly by checking certifications, reputation, and reading customer reviews.
  4. Request proposals from leading candidates to compare capabilities and pricing models.
  5. Interview reps from the provider to assess their knowledge, experience, and company culture.
  6. Ask for references from current clients to learn more about service quality.
  7. Negotiate contracts carefully and watch for hidden fees or lock-in periods.
  8. Designate internal staff to manage the vendor relationship after onboarding.
  9. Set clear SLAs and metrics to monitor ongoing performance.
  10. Communicate frequently with your provider and provide periodic feedback.

Selecting the right outsourced security partner is critical for protecting your business. A reputable provider with expertise tailored to your needs can offer robust protection without the headaches of handling everything in-house.


In-house and outsourced security solutions both have unique merits. The ideal approach depends on your business model, risk profile, resources, and capabilities. Small businesses with limited security experience often benefit most from outsourcing. Larger enterprises commonly take an in-house approach for enhanced control and oversight.

Carefully examining the differences outlined here will help you determine the right security strategy. A hybrid model is also an option to get the best of both worlds. Regardless of your approach, ensure rigorous measures are in place to protect your assets while enabling your business to thrive. With the right security partner or in-house program, you can build a culture of safety across your organization.