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SIEM and SOAR are two common names becoming increasingly common in the world of enterprise network security. But what are they, and how do they differ?

Here’s what you need to know about SOAR versus SIEM.

What Is SIEM?

Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) tools have been around for a while now. Originally coming together as an amalgamation of security event management (SEM) and security information management (SIM), SIEM was the logical next step in this progression.

But what is SIEM, and what does it do for enterprise network security? First, SIEM is a data collection and synthesis tool. Data is present everywhere in organizational networks and technology stacks. Without a comprehensive collection of data from across the board, it’s impossible for those working in IT or a security operations center to respond to threats in a timely manner.

Logging, analyzing, and recording all of this data is another essential feature of SIEM. The ability to look back and see exactly what went down is important for heavily regulated organizations that need to meet certain compliance standards. By incorporating threat intelligence capabilities, SIEM can log and record incidents, as well as recognize them faster and facilitate better preventative measures through data analysis.

What Is SOAR?

While Security Orchestration, Automation and Response (SOAR) interfaces with networks and works on some of the same security issues as SIEM, they aren’t identical tools. It can be difficult for those who don’t know the technologies well to distinguish between their functionalities.

Generally speaking, SOAR is more about the actual in-the-moment response to threats, while SIEM focuses mostly on data collection and analysis. SOAR accomplishes this by collecting security alerts from across the enterprise’s network and technology infrastructure. This information is then used to create more fluid response processes to stop malicious threats from spreading. For instance, alerts from an enterprise’s MDR (managed detection and response), EDR (endpoint detection and response), and others would all be sent to SOAR for more comprehensive responsiveness.

Another defining characteristic of SOAR is the ability to designate various playbooks to quickly respond to different threats. This accommodates triage with minimal on-the-spot decision-making by humans. By having detailed threat response playbooks, with some steps even being automated, SOAR can help stop attacks.

Now that you have a grasp on the basics of SIEM and SOAR, let’s dive into some of the more specific details of how these two technologies differ and overlap.

What Are the Differences Between SOAR Versus SIEM?

To understand the differences between SOAR versus SIEM, it’s important to accept that these tools are meant to compliment each other more than compete. Although they can fulfill some of the same duties, and at first glance seem quite similar, the problems solved by SIEM and SOAR differ on a fundamental level.

The definition of SOAR, according to Gartner, can shed some light on this: “SOAR refers to technologies that enable organizations to collect inputs monitored by the security operations team. For example, alerts from the SIEM system and other security technologies—where incident analysis and triage can be performed by leveraging a combination of human and machine power—help define, prioritize and drive standardized incident response activities.”

The main difference between SIEM and SOAR is where they fall on the security stack. SIEM wouldn’t be able to adequately protect networks without the addition of SOAR and other threat detection and response tools. At the same time, SOAR isn’t going to be nearly as useful to an enterprise without the presence of SIEM and various other network platforms.

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SIEM’s duty is to collect and log data, as well as send out alerts when there’s evidence for a potential attack. SOAR gathers alerts and data from all relevant tools and platforms, such as SIEM, to give the security operations center (SOC) an up-to-date view of what’s happening, and how to respond if there’s a threat.

Organizations can benefit from adopting both SIEM and SOAR. It’s important, however, to understand how they differ before implementing them.