vCIO vs. vCISO: What’s The Difference? 


April 2, 2024

Managing your IT operations is a big job, especially if you’re a small or mid-sized company without the resources to hire a full internal IT staff. In these cases, most companies hire a managed IT service provider to fill the gaps. Yet, knowing who to hire and what services to buy can be confusing. MSPs may offer you experts with titles like vCIO (virtual chief operating officer) and vCISO (virtual chief information security officer.) When comparing vCIO vs. vCISO, should you just hire one? Or both? What’s the difference between the two? 

The short answer is that vCIOs and vCISOs have essential roles to play in the overall health of your IT infrastructure. Come along as we describe the differences and help you decide where to devote your resources. 


vCIO vs. vCISO: Understanding Your IT Consulting Options


While these titles might sound the same, there are significant differences between what these experts handle. vCISOs take a holistic, security-centered view of your whole business, looking for ways to weave cybersecurity into all your operations. VCIOs take a business-focused approach to your overall IT infrastructure, looking for ways to improve your productivity and prepare your systems for the future.


A vCIO works similarly to a chief information officer you’d hire internally. They help you with the big picture: project management, budgeting, strategic development, and asset allocation. These seasoned IT leaders ensure you have the right combination of productivity, backup, and cybersecurity tools to meet your needs and fuel your future growth. 


A vCISO is a different kind of IT leader–one that exclusively handles cybersecurity for your business. They help you select the suitable suite of cybersecurity tools and manage all the policies, procedures, risk management, disaster recovery, and regulatory reporting related to your cybersecurity efforts. These experts have extensive product knowledge and the experience to help you create a future-focused, cyber-safe IT operation.  


When you work with Integris, a vCIO is standard with every fully managed IT service package we sell. They can also work hourly for clients who purchase services individually. 


Our vCISOs consult seamlessly on your account on a retainer or project basis, providing an extra layer of safety and reporting for your organization. 

Let’s dig a little deeper into what each of these experts can offer your company. 

The Benefits of Working with a vCIO


When working with an outside IT provider, it’s tempting to try handling all the comms and leadership yourself. But when you do this, you’re losing a key opportunity to add a layer of contract leadership and oversight for your business. A vCIO serves a critical role as a conduit between your internal staff and consulting resources. They organize your IT consulting experience and offer valuable insights that ensure your infrastructure is ready for the challenges ahead. When you’re working with a vCIO, you can expect: 


Increased Productivity


You don’t have to micromanage your IT strategy anymore, which will save you money in the long term. Rest easy, knowing that your IT team has been amplified with well-managed outside resources. Internal team members can stop sweating the small stuff and redirect their attention to tasks that benefit your company strategically. 


Lower Operating Costs


If you hire a full-time individual to work as a CIO, you would have to pay a full salary, benefits, and other insurance on top of the tax you pay for hiring someone. When you hire an expert IT company to work on your behalf, you can reduce those costs and breathe more comfortably regarding your finances.  


An Optimized IT Budget


You need to use the right technology to help you with your business goals, which costs money. Your vCIO can help you manage what technology you need and ensure you aren’t overpaying for it. Detailed planning is essential, and that’s precisely how your vCIO can help. 


Customized Reporting


A vCIO can help you assemble the right suite of licenses for the tools you use daily, from productivity platforms to cybersecurity tools to security training programs. Because they can access the back end of these tools, they can also help you set up a monitoring and reporting protocol that aligns with your industry vertical, regulatory reporting needs, and organizational goals. 


As you can see, a virtual CIO can do much for your company—just as much as an internal chief information officer—at a much lower cost. With so many bases covered, should you also carve out a budget for a virtual chief information security officer (vCISO)? For most companies, the answer is yes. Let’s dig deeper into what a vCISO does and how it can help advance your company’s strategic goals. 


Why Should You Invest in a vCISO?


A vCISO can work with your company on a retainer, and the benefits of this investment will be felt all year long. A vCISO can manage your cybersecurity from the top down, including planning, monitoring, policy development, and reporting. Your service staff will handle the basics of installation and licensing of your organizational operations and regular tasks like patching, service, and remediation.  


Your vCISO, however, will ensure your company is thinking broadly about cybersecurity, risk management, and compliance. They’ll examine your systems for weaknesses and identify risky patterns in your monitoring reports. This task is critical for organizations wanting to stay ahead of cyber threats, and many companies neglect it. 


Put simply, your vCISO gives you all the benefits of having a senior chief information security officer on call. The cost of hiring a CISSP-certified vCISO on staff is prohibitively high for most mid- and small-size companies. But, when you hire a vCISO through an MSP, you pay only for the help you need. It’s a scalable, affordable way to get high-end cybersecurity leadership. 


The Strategic Benefits of Working with a vCISO


From month to month, a vCISO reviews your monitoring and incident reports, assesses your platform for needed changes, and finds emerging risks. They think broadly about your business and the evolving threats it faces.  


With a vCISO on the job, you’re always one step ahead with your compliance. Your cybersecurity commitment will improve your relationship with all your core constituents—especially current clients, prospects, cyber risk insurers, and regulators. That’s good for business. 


vCISO Duties:


A vCISO can cover many of the executive cybersecurity tasks for your company, including:


  • Creating detailed assessments and a gap analysis so you’ll know exactly where your security stands
  • Developing an implementation plan and budget for addressing the gaps
  • Integrating cybersecurity into all your company processes 
  • Writing your IT policies, procedures, and plans around cybersecurity and updating them as new tools are added 
  • Conducting cybersecurity reviews for every new tool and service running over your infrastructure  
  • Creating the documentation needed for your yearly cybersecurity reviews and meeting with regulators/auditors when needed 
  • Presenting status reviews on cybersecurity to C-suite staff 
  • Developing budgets and implementation plans for your cybersecurity efforts and getting executive signoff for these plans 
  • Producing cybersecurity reports for potential customers or vendors that need proof of your cybersecurity practices  
  • Helping your company get cyber risk insurance that covers your entire operation and providing the yearly reporting those insurers need 
  • Building a complete disaster recovery program that will have your company up and running again in minutes if the worst happens 
  • Coordinating forensic investigations in case of a breach for regulatory and insurance review and providing the reporting needed to submit a claim 
  • Training your employees on how to avoid hackers and scammers 


Good CISOs will not just keep you safe. They’ll help you understand your data patterns so you know when and how to respond to incoming threats. 


vCIO vs. vCISO: Finding the Right Fit


When comparing vCIO vs. vCISO, remember they both play pivotal roles in safeguarding your organization. Consider your unique needs, budget, and long-term goals. Whether you’re navigating the IT landscape or fortifying your cybersecurity, having the right virtual executive can make all the difference. 


Remember, technology and security are investments, not expenses. Choose wisely and empower your business for success. 


Are you interested in exploring IT consulting services for your business? Contact us. We’d love to talk. 

Susan Gosselin is a Senior Content Writer for Integris. A career communicator and business journalist, she's written extensively on IT topics and trends for IT service providers like Iconic IT and ProCoders Ukraine, as well as business publications such as,, The Lane Report and many others. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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