The Bill for Cybersecurity: $57,600 a Year

Hackers have made the Internet a scary place to do business, as recent headlines attest. Big companies have been hacked. Small companies have been hacked. As the Pew Research Internet Project reported earlier this week, cyberattacks are likely to get worse.

How much should a small business spend to protect against cyber villains? I asked Eric Montague, president of Executech, an IT firm in South Jordan, Utah, for an estimate. While the answer will vary, depending on the type of business—not to mention the relative optimism of its owner—Montague’s response offers a useful baseline: Some $57,600 a year for a 50-employee company.

Here’s how that estimate breaks down. Montague says his firm would typically recommend secure e-mail hosting at $12.95 per employee per month, an antivirus service costing $3 per employee per month, and online backup at 50¢ per gigabyte. Throw in a secure Internet phone system for $20 per user per month, labor costs for an outsourced IT department at $52.50 per worker per month, and Montague’s monthly estimate for a 50-employee company comes to about $4,800, or $57,600 annually.

Businesses that need less hand-holding from IT staff can cut down those costs, which will help them afford some other services they may need. That may include a new firewall; a good one can run to $1,200 and last five years, Montague says.

They may also need the cyber insurance policies that an increasing number of insurers offer. Those products vary, based on the specifics of businesses that are shopping for insurance and the types of coverage they’re seeking. Deborah Kostroun, a spokeswoman for specialty insurance company Beazley, says that a retailer with $10 million in annual revenue might pay $2,000 a year for a cyber policy that covers up to $1 million in breach response and third-party liability.

All of this adds up to a pretty penny, especially for small business owners who take a cautious view of the overall economy. No amount of security software can guarantee that your business won’t get hacked. If you’re looking for a bright side, there’s this: As demand for cybersecurity increases, increased competition among suppliers may bring prices down.