vCISO vs CISO Showdown: Decoding Cybersecurity Leadership

by Trava, Cyber Risk Management

Protect your digital assets! Discover the nuances between vCISO vs. CISO to make decisions to empower your organization's security strategy.

Learn more about Trava's vCISO services in our vCISO catalog. 

As cyber threats continue to evolve in sophistication and frequency, the need for robust cybersecurity leadership has never been greater. In navigating this complex terrain, organizations often turn to Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) or Virtual Chief Information Security Officers (vCISOs) to spearhead their cybersecurity efforts. vCISO vs CISO—which is better?

In a 2023 IBM report, researchers discovered that hiring a chief information security officer (CISO) can help mitigate financial loss due to security incidents. The report found that companies with a CISO saved an average of $130,086 per incident compared to companies without a CISO. This shows the benefits of hiring a CISO far outweigh the costs. However, hiring a CISO might be challenging for growing companies or startups. This is where a virtual CISO (vCISO) comes in. They provide the same services as onsite CISOs at a fraction of the cost.

What Is a CISO?

A chief information security officer is a seasoned expert who oversees a company's technology, cyber, and information security. Their responsibilities include developing, executing, and enforcing security policies to protect a company's essential data.


A CISO is traditionally a high-ranking company executive whose focus is the enhancement of the organization's security measures on a full-time basis. However, a vCISO provider offers an alternative approach to cybersecurity. A vCISO is usually engaged on a consultancy or contractual basis as an ideal solution for companies that cannot afford to hire a full-time CISO. Their responsibilities include assessing a company's security policies, developing customized security strategies, and providing expert recommendations to strengthen a company's defense protocols.

The main benefit of virtual CISOs stems from the wealth of expertise they gain from collaborating with different organizations. The salary of vCISO providers is diverse and may be influenced by the organization's size, contract duration, and responsibilities.

What Is the Role of a Virtual CISO In Cybersecurity?

A virtual CISO provides a company with an added layer of security by offering guidance on the best practices in security technology, helping them stay ahead of the latest threats in cyber technology. So, what is the role of a virtual CISO in cybersecurity?

Security Operations

Their key areas of responsibility will include:

Disaster Recovery

The following are the critical areas of responsibility concerning disaster recovery:

  • Providing a plan for the backup of critical information and systems

  • Documenting the disaster recovery plans

  • Overseeing disaster recovery plans and keeping the stakeholders appraised


A vCISO is expected to be up to date on the rules and regulations related to the company they are supporting. They must ensure the company is compliant with all relevant laws and regulations. They coordinate and manage all security audits to ensure the company's processes and policies are current.


A virtual CISO must establish detailed documentation of security policies. Their responsibilities may include:

  • Maintaining a standard process of approval for policy changes (for instance, semi-annual or annual reviews)

  • Contributing to the development and documentation of critical cybersecurity-related policies

vCISO vs CISO: Most Important Task

Determining the most crucial task between a vCISO and a CISO depends on organizational needs. While a vCISO might prioritize cost-effective security strategies and rapid deployment, a CISO could focus on developing comprehensive security policies and fostering a culture of cybersecurity awareness. Both roles aim to safeguard organizational assets effectively. At the core, the primary responsibility of vCISO services is to ensure the company complies with government regulations while proactively managing cybersecurity risk.

What Is the Best Virtual CISO?

Not all vCISO providers are created equal. Below are some things to look for in a virtual CISO:

  • Experience: It is essential to choose a vCISO that possesses a deep understanding of the processes and regulations relevant to your industry, which might include frameworks such as HIPAA, SOC 2, and NIST.

  • Organizational structure: It is essential to consider whether your company would do well with an individual contractor or a team.

  • Bandwidth: Does the vCISO service have the resources to meet your needs, or do they have too many clients?

  • References: Ask for references from other companies your vCISO has worked with. Ideally, these references should be within your industry.

  • Effective communication: A successful vCISO will be good at delivering complex concepts to company stakeholders, handling difficult conservations, and breaking difficult news.

Learn how Trava vCISO and compliance experts helped Champion receive their ISO 27001 certification in less than 1 year.

If we didn't have Trava, the process would've been a much longer haul. Their support was instrumental in guiding us through efficiently, ensuring we didn't get bogged down in complexities. Having a vCISO in our back pocket when needed added invaluable reassurance.

Courtney Crispin
CTO and Co-founder,

Unsure About vCISO vs CISO? Schedule an Appointment With Trava

Hiring a CISO or a vCISO provider hinges on your company's strategy and financial considerations. If uncertain, beginning with a vCISO can establish a foundation before determining the necessity of a permanent CISO. Schedule an appointment to learn more about Trava's vCISO services.


We can help!  Talk to the Trava Team and see how we can assist you with your cybersecurity needs.