How to Determine Incident Response Retainer Cost

Cybersecurity incidents can happen at any time, and having a plan in place to respond to them is critical for minimizing the impact on your business. One way to prepare for such events is to have an incident response retainer with a cybersecurity firm.

How to Determine Incident Response Retainer Cost
How to Determine Incident Response Retainer Cost

This retainer provides you with access to incident response (IR) services in the event of a cyber attack or data breach. But how do you determine the cost of an incident response retainer?

Here are some factors to consider:

Retainers come in two main types: No-cost and Prepaid

No-cost retainer

The no-cost retainer, is an agreement with a vendor or service provider that outlines the specifics of how they will help your organization respond to a cyber incident, should one occur.

The retainer agreement outlines the nature of services provided, service level agreement (SLA), process for reporting incidents, and a cost per incident. You only pay for services when the service provider actually provides the services agreed upon.

No commitment but on-demand services

This retainer is used by organizations with a low risk score. It provides on-demand services without any prepayment or commitment.

For instance, let’s say you’re a small business owner who primarily operates online and handles confidential customer data. In this case, a no-cost retainer may be the way to go.

A no-cost retainer is a plan in place to quickly respond to any security incidents that may arise. Giving you the peace of mind that your organization is protected.

Prepaid retainer

With a prepaid retainer, you can secure an incident response agreement by pre-paying a service provider for a specific number of hours per month or quarter.

You can utilize the pre-paid retainer to respond to cyber incidents based on a pre-agreed service level agreement (SLA).

The hours you pre-pay to the service provider can be used as needed.

Moreover, if these hours remain unused, the service provider typically offers additional security services, such as security education or penetration testing for your staff or organization.

Retainer TypePaymentServices IncludedFlexibility
Pre-Paid RetainerPaid in advance for a set number of hoursIncident response, penetration testing, security educationFlexible hours, can roll over unused hours to next period
No-Cost RetainerPaid only if services are renderedIncident responseOn-demand, no commitment to a set number of hours
A general comparison between prepaid and no-cost IR retainers

Note: The services included and flexibility may vary depending on the service provider and specific agreement terms. This table is only meant to provide a general comparison between the two types of retainers.

Guaranteed response time

This type of retainer is best for organizations with higher risk or a greater likelihood of incidents, as it provides a guaranteed response time and a set number of hours to use for incident response.

For example, if you run a small business that operates primarily online and processes sensitive customer data, you may want to consider a prepaid retainer to ensure a rapid response to any cyber incidents. This way, you have the peace of mind that your organization is protected and can act quickly in the event of a breach.

Scope of services

The first factor to consider is the scope of services that the incident response retainer will cover. This can include incident response planning, tabletop exercises, 24/7 hotline support, forensics investigations, and more. The more services you require, the higher the cost of the retainer.

Size of your organization

The size of your organization can also affect the cost of the retainer. A larger organization may require more resources to manage an incident, which can result in a higher cost for the retainer.

Industry regulations

Organizations operating in heavily regulated industries like healthcare or finance may have to comply with specific incident response requirements. This means that the cost of the retainer may increase as the cybersecurity firm may need to customize their services to meet those requirements.

You might want to read:

Geographic coverage

If your organization operates in multiple locations or countries, you may need incident response services that can cover those areas. This can increase the cost of the retainer, as the cybersecurity firm may need to have resources available in those locations.

Level of expertise

The level of expertise required for incident response services can also affect the cost of the retainer. For example, if your organization requires highly specialized forensic investigations, the cybersecurity firm may need to have experts with advanced certifications and experience. This can result in a higher cost for the retainer.

You might want to read:

No one-size-fits-all answer

It is important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of how much an incident response retainer will cost.

Each company is unique, and the cost will depend on a variety of factors, such as the size of the company, the industry it operates in, the complexity of its IT infrastructure, and the level of risk it faces.

Determining costs

The best approach to determining the cost of an incident response retainer is to talk with security providers that offer these services.

They will be able to provide insight into their pricing structure and offer a customized quote based on the unique needs of the company.

To ensure that you fully understand the services included in the retainer agreement and the assistance available in case of a security incident, it’s essential to ask questions and request a detailed breakdown of what’s covered.


An incident response retainer can provide peace of mind knowing that you have a plan in place to respond to a cybersecurity incident. When determining the cost of a retainer, it’s important to consider the scope of services, size of your organization, industry regulations, geographic coverage, and level of expertise required.

You might want to continue reading

Share This Message