Is SOC 1 and SOC 2 Compliance Worth The Cost? Why your company should care about ensuring compliance under SOC

by Adarsh Raj Bhatt in
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Image credit: Unsplash

Key Takeaways

  • SOC 1 statements were created to provide information on a service organizations' procedures that are applicable to their clients' accounting records. SOC 1 audits are designed to help service businesses eliminate possible mistakes related to client information and ensure that their controls are efficient. While a SOC 1/SOC 2 audit could prove to be time-intensive, expensive, and complicated, it’s generally well worth the pain. 
  • A SOC 1 audit may be required by your service organization because a customer or regulatory authority has requested it, or perhaps even because you want to be responsible with data management and integrity.
  • A SOC 1 report shows your customers that you are concerned about the protection of their confidential data. It’s proof that you've contracted a third-party auditing company to inspect if your controls are properly established and running, if you're acquiring confidence, and if your ecosystem is maturing – all of which reassure your clientele that their confidential materials are being managed in accordance with best practices and the SSAE 18.
  • SOC 2 certification confirms the reliability of your business’s services and allows you to present evidence to customers that is documented by a third-party auditor who has observed your security measures in place and in operation. In today's competitive business scenario, having this strategic edge is invaluable.
  • A SOC 2 audit is critical for regulatory compliance, organizational risk management systems, and company governance. In other words, regulatory supervision, vendor management initiatives, internal governance, and risk management all benefit from SOC 2 audits.
  • Moreover, SOC 2 compliance offers two broad benefits. Firstly, it leads to enhanced data security procedures, as the business may better protect itself against cybersecurity threats and avoid breaches by following SOC 2 requirements. Secondly, it helps the business be on significantly better terms with consumers as consumers prefer to deal with service providers which can demonstrate robust data security procedures, particularly when it comes to IT and cloud hosting.

Is SOC 1 and SOC 2 Compliance Worth The Cost?

Over the years, outsourcing has grown significantly, with the global IT outsourcing business projected to be worth $397.6 billion by 2025.

There are no signs of the outsourcing sector’s growth slowing off since it offers several significant benefits to companies, including cost reductions. Indeed, many logistics executives are increasing their outsourcing expenditures.

However, because outsourcing is such an important part of many organizations' operations today, a variety of laws, compliance standards, and clearances are in place to guarantee that all processes are followed to the letter of the law.

Enter SOC (Service Organization Control) audits.

SOC 1 Compliance

An inspection of the internal control systems (including practices, protocols, and techniques) that a service provider has adopted to secure client data is called a Service Organization Control 1 (SOC 1) assessment. SOC 1 audits are conducted in line with Statement on Standards for Attestation Engagements No. 18. SOC 1 statements were created to provide information on a service organizations' procedures that are applicable to their clients' accounting records. SOC 1 audits are designed to help service businesses eliminate possible mistakes related to client information and ensure that their controls are efficient.

Assume that your company is a service provider that specializes in payroll processing. What's the point of having a SOC 1 in this case? SOC 1 initiatives are tailored to the needs of service providers. Considering that you may have an influence on your clients' income statements if you offer a payroll processing solution, your service organization may require a SOC 1. A SOC 1 audit may be required by your service organization because a customer or regulatory authority has requested it, or perhaps even because you want to be responsible with data management and integrity.

A SOC 1 report shows your customers that you are concerned about the protection of their confidential data. It’s proof that you've contracted a third-party auditing company to inspect if your controls are properly established and running, if you're acquiring confidence, and if your ecosystem is maturing – all of which reassure your clientele that their confidential materials are being managed in accordance with best practices and the SSAE 18.

Many service businesses begin by getting an audit done, such as a SOC 1, since it is mandated by a customer or a regulatory authority. We understand that audits may be expensive, time-intensive, and complicated. When a company is compelled to undergo a SOC 1 audit, it can cast an unfavorable light on the process of auditing as a whole. Businesses are hesitant to give the audit their full focus or effort because of this stance toward compliance. Since a SOC 1 audit handles something as essential as internal financial controls, it's crucial that the audit gets all the attention it merits.

It is believed that building a compliance culture within the business is the best-kept trade secret to attaining compliance excellence. Compliance isn't a one-size-fits-all solution to all of the company’s security issues; it is, instead, a never-ending cycle of progress. Audits are beneficial to every business. They help companies see how they can evolve and grow. A SOC 1 audit may help your organization in a variety of ways, especially if you've established a compliance culture. 

The following are the top five advantages of a SOC 1 audit:

  • Ascertaining that your company has the necessary security processes and procedures in place to provide high-quality services to its customers.
  • Examining the rules and processes that you have in place which are critical to your organization's operations.
  • Ensuring clients that their personal information is secure, and fostering overall confidence between service providers and users.
  • Internal blinders are removed as employees frequently can't or won't identify weaknesses that an expert auditor can.
  • Making the surroundings stronger and educating businesses on how to evolve themselves

SOC 2 Compliance

SOC 2 certification confirms the reliability of your business’s services and allows you to present evidence to customers that is documented by a third-party auditor who has observed your security measures in place and in operation. In today's competitive business scenario, having this strategic edge is invaluable.

A SOC 2 audit can also help you be more engaged in your data security and compliance activities. SOC 2 compliance can aid your business to keep loyal customers and attract potential ones, run more effectively, minimize fines for non-compliance or leaks, and, most significantly, convince clients that their confidential information is safe and privileged. From the standpoint of SOC 2, any event that jeopardizes the safety, accessibility, processing integrity, confidentiality, and/or privacy of client data in the cloud is a major no-no. SOC 2 is intended to reassure your clients that you are keeping an eye on suspicious behavior and can respond promptly if an issue occurs. This provides customers the assurance that they require to entrust you with their personal information. Regulatory supervision, vendor management initiatives, internal governance, and risk management all benefit from SOC 2 audits.

SOC 2 compliance offers the following benefits:

  • Enhanced data security procedures - the business may better protect itself against cybersecurity threats and avoid breaches by following SOC 2 requirements.
  • Consumers prefer to deal with service providers which can demonstrate robust data security procedures, particularly when it comes to IT and cloud hosting.

Why is SOC Compliance Important?

Firms depend on service providers to simplify daily activities and assure continuous functionality now more than ever. The advent of cloud computing, data centers, and software-as-a-service (SaaS) startups demonstrates this. However, there is considerable danger associated with these outsourced tasks in addition to their simplicity and convenience.

The capacity to confirm the development and successful execution of internal controls with respect to the services they provide is a major difference between trusted service providers and competing market players. A System and Organization Controls (SOC) assessment is a simple approach to offer this kind of confidence in the service organization to all important stakeholders.

In brief, a SOC audit is produced after a 3rd-party auditor does a comprehensive inspection of a company to ensure that it has an effective mechanism of controls in place for security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and/or privacy. The audit, which is conducted by a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), offers reasonable confidence regarding the planning and operational effectiveness of a service company’s controls and clearly identifies any possible risks for consumers or partners that are contemplating doing business with the company.

There are a few key points you should be aware of in order to grasp SOC terminology:

  • Service Organisation: The “service organization” is the organization that is being evaluated.
  • User Entity: The organization that subcontracts a task or responsibility to a service organization is known as a “user entity”.
  • Control: “Control” is an auditable method or technique for preventing or detecting risk.

When it comes to gaining the confidence of other organizations and their stakeholders, including vendor compliance, internal audits, IT administration, and legal teams, then transparency is critical. Furthermore, the effectiveness of certain controls has a substantial influence on the service organization's reputation, income reports, and sustainability.

When is a SOC 2 Report Required?

SOC 2 refers to a service organization's capacity to reflect on the configuration of their controls (and/or testing and operational efficacy of aforementioned controls). If you are a service provider/service organization that stores, analyzes, or distributes any type of information, you might require a SOC 2 audit report if you want to keep up with the competition, similar to having an ISO 27001 accreditation. A large number of tech-based and cloud computing companies now have these audits ready at hand and will confidently make them available to their clients upon request. 

A SOC 2 audit is critical for regulatory compliance, organizational risk management systems, and company governance. It gives clients peace of mind regarding the security of their data that is stored outside of their premises and that is readily available to their service providers. A SOC 2 audit report can be requested by any business that requires comprehensive data and certainty about a service organization's controls. Firms that provide data holding, colocation, data analysis, cloud storage, and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) are among the kinds of companies that undergo a SOC 2 audit. These service providers must follow the AICPA's SOC rules while transmitting, storing, processing, and/or destroying data. SOC 2 audits may be conducted as part of a normal security program or if the user organization thinks that the service organization is failing to meet several of the security requirements.

SOC 2 audits are unique to each company when compared to PCI DSS, which has very strict standards. Each company builds its own controls to conform with some or all of the trust principles, based on unique business practices. These business reports cover appropriate data concerning how you (i.e., the service provider) handle data, and then communicate these details to not just you but also to authorities, business associates, and other vendors.

SOC reports are divided into two categories:

  • Type I defines a vendor's services and whether or not they are designed to comply with applicable trust criteria.
  • Type II examines the systems' functional efficacy.

Summary

Businesses that engage with third-party service providers prefer to collaborate with entities that are SOC-certified. Outsourcing raises liability issues, and a SOC certification verifies that your company is a reliable partner. This is because SOC audits prove and promote a service providers' reputation and dependability. Being SOC-certified gives your company a competitive edge that is well worth the effort, hassle, and money that it takes to achieve a successful audit.

Early-stage startups may argue that they don't need a SOC assessment since their auditors don't require it. Others might make excuses because they lack the means (people, time, knowledge, etc.) to analyze the influence of service providers on their business and consumers. While the premises may be valid, they simply serve to emphasize the significance of a smaller business receiving a SOC report from its vendors.

A SOC report delivers the following information to a service organization's user or client:

  • An overview of the service organization's service delivery system.
  • A statement from the service provider's administration regarding:
  • Demonstration of the system specifications in a fair manner
  • Controls inside the system being suitable in terms of design (Type I) and operational effectiveness (Type II).
  • An unbiased auditor's test techniques and results relating to the controls stated by the management are specified.
  • An independent auditor's judgment on the integrity of the system description's representation of the viability of design (Type I) and the operational effectiveness (Type II) of system controls.

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