Starting a business is one of the hardest challenges for an individual, so additional items like getting SOC 2 compliant may not even cross your mind.
At the beginning of the startup ecosystem, it’s about attracting new customers, optimizing the product, and growing revenues. Over the first few years, these elements may take up most of your energy. Unfortunately, it’s common for founders to deprioritize certain cybersecurity and compliance areas when they are just starting out. The cost of SOC 2 compliance may also hamper startups from considering this data security framework early in the process.
While founders often push these tasks down the line, once enterprises start evaluating your startup as a vendor, a SOC 2 report may be a critical difference between you and your competitors. The earlier you start looking into SOC 2 compliance requirements, the better it could be for your business in the future.
Is It Necessary To Become SOC 2 Compliant?
For SaaS companies, the decision to become SOC 2 compliant is a strategic business move. Not every customer will care about SOC 2 criteria when looking for vendors, but it may be a key differentiator if you are targeting enterprise customers. The effort required and costs involved require internal discussions between your team to determine if it is a worthy goal.
If you think it will benefit your organization, then knowing where to start and reducing the costs should be your next priority. Here are some of the first steps to consider when starting your SOC 2 compliance journey.
Assessing the Required Effort for Getting SOC 2 Compliant
SOC 2 is a security framework developed by the American Institute of Chartered Public Accountants (AICPA), which requires hiring a certified public accountant qualified to complete SOC 2 audits. While you may understand the value of complying with SOC 2’s Common Criteria, you’ll need to start by estimating the effort.
Asking questions like how much bandwidth you’ll need from your resources and whether you can afford outside expertise for SOC 2 audit preparation is the first step. Allocating more resources (both internal and external) will speed up your timeline for SOC 2 compliance. Starting with a gap analysis between your current controls and the required SOC 2 criteria list can help you develop a plan that accommodates any resource constraints.
Manage the Expectations in Your Organization
Becoming SOC 2 compliant is a process and won’t happen overnight. Some find they can get audit-ready in a few weeks if there are few implementation gaps, though most companies set a timeline of several months. You’ll need to set clear goals at the start and be honest with other stakeholders in the organization about your timeline and SOC audit costs. The aim is to improve your security and data protection posture to a point where you can receive a clear report based on the SOC 2 compliance checklist.
SOC 2 uses five Trust Services Criteria to assess an organization’s data protection capabilities, including:
- Security – Wherever privacy isn’t the primary goal of the control, security needs to be a priority to prevent any fraudulent activity and prevent unauthorized access to the company’s data.
- Privacy – Comprehensive and transparent privacy policies cover how a company stores and manages consumer data using AICPA’s Generally Accepted Privacy Principles (GAPP).
- Confidentiality – Specific types of industry data require elevated confidentiality controls to comply with SOC 2 audits and ensure compliance with how you use customer data according to the consent provided.
- Processing integrity – Organizations need to implement controls that monitor and manage how data moves through their systems and how resources access this information.
- Availability – The final element of the trust services categories covers the resilience and continuity controls you implement to ensure data remains available to customers when you experience a failure in network performance or infrastructure loss.
Security is required in all SOC 2 audits and is usually referred to as the Common Criteria. The other four are optional and you can select which ones to include in the scope of your audit, based on your needs. You should establish what you currently do, how you need to improve your policies and procedures and implement the necessary changes before requesting an audit based on these principles.
Define Your Immediate Goals and Create a To-Do List
Once you’ve identified the criteria for your audit scope, you can prioritize tasks and assign resources. Designing a strong foundation for data security compliance is the best way to start. First, review your current policies and assess their efficacy against the stipulations as defined in the SOC 2 requirements. You’ll be able to save a lot of time if you start out by using Carbide to generate your policies, automatically set up your implementation plan, and manage progress towards compliance.
You’ll need to consider every element of your data operations when assessing your current environment and what changes you need to make. Remaining pragmatic about your current process and defining your goals early will make it easier to receive a clean report from your audit.
Establish the Timelines and Costs Associated with Compliance
Finally, to achieve compliance, you’ll need to arrange an independent audit of all your controls. External resources need to evaluate your environment to determine if you are doing enough and (if necessary) highlight areas where you can improve. Your implemented controls should reflect the risks involved in your business.
Wherever possible, look for ways to automate the system you use for evidence collection and providing endpoint protection. Audits can be expensive, and you’ll need to demonstrate a history of compliance to receive a clean SOC 2 report.
Passing a SOC 2 Audit with Carbide
Remember that a SOC 2 report is the practitioner’s opinion about your ability to ensure data protection, privacy, availability, and confidentiality. After getting a SOC 2 report your organization has permission to use the SOC logo in marketing materials for 12 months, which some people refer to as SOC 2 certification. This is part of the reason most companies do an annual SOC 2 audit, to maintain oversight of their security controls and showcase ongoing compliance.
The best way to ensure you pass your audit is to be proactive and start assessing your current controls internally. You can understand the compliance requirements for your business using Carbide, establishing the necessary controls before moving to the audit stage of SOC 2 compliance.
With Carbide, you can quickly define the necessary policies, implement the new controls, and monitor your compliance progress. Once you’ve identified the gaps, you can prioritize the required improvements and optimize your environment to pass your SOC 2 audit the first time.