Cyber security has made an impact and has challenged Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in their approaches towards how they protect and secure data. With an increase in more wired and wireless connections and devices on SME networks, unpredictable malicious activities and interruptions have risen. Finding the harmony between the advancement of technology and costs has always been a balancing act particularly in convincing the finance directors of these SMEs to invest in capital towards their IT infrastructure. This paper looks at various devices that currently are in the market to detect intrusions and look at how these devices handle prevention strategies for SMEs in their working environment both at home and in the office, in terms of their credibility in handling zero-day attacks against the costs of achieving so. The experiment was set up during the 2020 pandemic referred to as COVID-19 when the world experienced an unprecedented event of large scale. The operational working environment of SMEs reflected the context when the UK went into lockdown. Pre-pandemic would have seen this experiment take full control within an operational office environment; however, COVID-19 times has pushed us into a corner to evaluate every aspect of cybersecurity from the office and keeping the data safe within the home environment. The devices chosen for this experiment were OpenSource such as SNORT and pfSense to detect activities within the home environment, and Cisco, a commercial device, set up within an SME network. All three devices operated in a live environment within the SME network structure with employees being both at home and in the office. All three devices were observed from the rules they displayed, their costs and machine learning techniques integrated within them. The results revealed these aspects to be important in how they identified zero-day attacks. The findings showed that OpenSource devices whilst free to download, required a high level of expertise in personnel to implement and embed machine learning rules into the business solution even for staff working from home. However, when using Cisco, the price reflected the buy-in into this expertise and Cisco’s mainframe network, to give up-to-date information on cyber-attacks. The requirements of the UK General Data Protection Regulations Act (GDPR) were also acknowledged as part of the broader framework of the study. Machine learning techniques such as anomaly-based intrusions did show better detection through a commercially subscription-based model for support from Cisco compared to that of the OpenSource model which required internal expertise in machine learning. A cost model was used to compare the outcome of SMEs’ decision making, in getting the right framework in place in securing their data. In conclusion, finding a balance between IT expertise and costs of products that are able to help SMEs protect and secure their data will benefit the SMEs from using a more intelligent controlled environment with applied machine learning techniques, and not compromising on costs.