Tips to Choose SMB Cybersecurity Consultants & Certifications

Published January 3, 2024
by Jordan Hickam

According to IBM’s Cost of a Data Breach Report 2023, the global average data breach cost has risen 15 percent in just the past three years to $4.45 million. Proper protection is easy to overlook for many small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs), often due to insufficient budget or resources and a degree of naivete among owners or executives that their operations are too small to be the target of a cyberattack. While some organizations can outfit in-house personnel with the necessary tools and training, many turn to outside service providers and consultants for cybersecurity and cloud security needs. The burgeoning cybersecurity industry features no shortage of potential partners, but it’s crucial to consider the following SMB best practices when choosing cybersecurity consultants and their certifications.

Understand Your Needs

Choosing the right cybersecurity and cloud security providers, partners, and consultants is an important decision for SMBs, and knowing your needs can help you appropriately tailor your security solutions and infrastructure. To better understand your particular needs, do the following:

  • Identify and document all the data and assets your company uses or stores, including customer data, financial records, intellectual property, and any other sensitive information.
  • Categorize your data based on its sensitivity. Determine which data is critical to your business operations and which data, if compromised, could significantly harm your organization or your customers.
  • Research to get a base-level understanding of the specific industry regulations and compliance standards that apply to your business based on the kind of data you must protect. Common examples include GDPR, HIPAA, PCI DSS, or industry-specific regulations.

Seek Help and Advice

Cybersecurity consultants and service providers have various specialties, such as risk assessment, penetration testing, compliance, incident response, and more. The following steps may help you identify the consultant that best matches your needs:

  • Ask for recommendations from colleagues, peers, or other businesses in your industry.
  • Use search engines and professional networking platforms like LinkedIn to find cybersecurity consultants and service providers in your area or industry.
  • Consider hiring a firm that specializes in cybersecurity, as they often have a team of experts with diverse skills and experience.

Look for Experience and Expertise

Look for third-party assessments and reviews of providers’ products and services to find those with a track record of success in cybersecurity and cloud security for SMBs. Ensure the consultant or consulting firm has the necessary qualifications and certifications.

The following organizations have certifications that demonstrate expertise in cybersecurity:

  • ISC2: The International Information System Certification Consortium, Inc. (ISC2) boasts more than 500,000 members, candidates, and associates, with its collection of premier certifications among the most widely recognized in the industry. The world-renowned Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification is one of the most sought-after—with at least five years of experience across at least two of eight applicable cybersecurity domains required to qualify for the exam.

    Among ISC2’s eight additional certifications is the Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP) designation, which validates many advanced skills and knowledge concerning cloud security. It’s similarly only available to professionals with at least five years of relevant experience, including three years dedicated to information security.

  • CompTIA: The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) is a leading voice and advocate for the world’s information technology ecosystem and its service professionals, with 15 certifications spanning various disciplines and specialties.

  • Security+ is an entry- or intermediate-level certification that requires professionals to prove their hands-on troubleshooting skills and best practices in IT network and operational security. According to CompTIA, it’s become the market’s most widely adopted and in-demand certification.

Some of the more advanced CompTIA certifications include: 

  • Cloud+ – Validates the skills and expertise required to utilize and maintain cloud technologies securely.

  • Cybersecurity Analyst (CySA+) – Applies behavioral analytics to the IT security field to improve overall cybersecurity posture.

  • PenTest+ – Specialized to professionals tasked with penetration testing and vulnerability management.

  • CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP+) – Validates advanced-level critical thinking and judgment across a spectrum of security disciplines in complex environments.

  • INE Security: Formerly eLearnSecurity, INE Security offers a range of cybersecurity certifications, including the eJPT (Junior Penetration Tester) and eCPPT (Certified Professional Penetration Tester) that are becoming highly visible within the industry. INE’s nine certifications span penetration testing, enterprise defense, incident response, and more.

  • Altered Security: Focusing on the Red Team space, Altered Security’s certifications include hand-on training and demonstrations across various specialties including active directory security, Azure environments, Linux, and more.

  • ISACA: A global professional learning and membership organization, the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA) has more than 170,000 members working to build a better and safer digital world together.

    Among the organization’s six industry-leading certifications is the Certified Information Systems Auditor® certification—ranked by Foote Partners, an independent IT analyst firm and research organization, as one of the industry’s most sought-after certifications. More than 151,000 professionals hold the CISA certification, which has become a world-renowned standard of achievement for those who audit, control, monitor, and assess organizations’ IT and business systems.

  • GIAC Certifications: Previously known as Global Information Assurance Certification, GIAC manages more than four dozen certifications that rigorously validate and verify professionals’ cybersecurity knowledge and skills across entry-level to advanced topics. 

      Find Certified and Verified Professionals at RAMPxchange

      For busy owners and executives, navigating the applicable credentials and certifications of potential service provider partners can be an overwhelming and time-consuming additional responsibility. The RAMPxchange marketplace is a proven source for finding trusted and verified cybersecurity professionals committed to a strong security posture and dedicated to the continuous training and ongoing learning required to renew and maintain their specialty certifications. Contact the RAMPxchange team today to learn more and join our coalition of cyber defenders.