Any company bidding on U.S. government contracts while the company itself uses cloud services for its own IT operations will need to assure that those cloud service providers comply with FedRAMP, the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program.
FedRAMP acts as a seal of approval either for cloud service providers (CSPs) bidding on government contracts themselves, or for government contractors that rely on CSPs. FedRAMP spells out certain cybersecurity standards that CSPs must meet to be eligible for bidding; if you’re not FedRAMP-compliant, government agencies typically won’t consider you for the services they need to buy.
FedRAMP compliance can be complex. Keep reading to learn more about how Microsoft Azure, one of the most popular CSPs on the market, addresses FedRAMP compliance.
What Is Azure?
Microsoft Azure is a cloud computing platform that offers various cloud-based solutions for businesses across multiple industries. The appeal of Azure is its flexibility; the applications can be selected based on your needs and workloads, and Azure can be used in place of, or in addition to, your company’s existing servers. Microsoft Azure’s cloud solutions can help your company with everything from backup data storage to the development of web apps to the Internet of Things (IoT).
Azure itself is not a risk management solution. Still, it provides several internal resources that can keep your cloud processes compliant with any government guidelines to which you need to adhere — like, say, FedRAMP. Azure is not a replacement for your company’s cybersecurity risk management program, but it can be a valuable addition, especially if government contracts are at play.
How Does FedRAMP Certification Happen?
FedRAMP is a standardized assessment intended to serve as a one-stop shop for cloud service providers looking to conduct business with the U.S. government.
CSPs can obtain FedRAMP certification in one of two ways:
- The Joint Authorization Board (JAB), which oversees FedRAMP, can issue approval to operate, which lets a CSP offer its services to any government agency.
- Alternatively, a government organization can vouch for a CSP, which streamlines the certification process.
Although companies can choose the route they want, most prefer obtaining accreditation through agency sponsorship, since the JAB route is extremely competitive and the board only selects 12 systems per year (three per quarter).
Why Would Azure FedRAMP Certification Matter to You?
FedRAMP certification is required for any business that stores or processes government data. If your business relies on cloud-based subcontractors, then you must first confirm that the subcontractor is FedRAMP-certified so that your own business can bid on government contracts without difficulty.
Since so many businesses rely on Azure, and those businesses might want to bid on government contracts, that’s why Azure’s FedRAMP compliance matters to you.
Moreover, the FedRAMP marketplace is open to the public; any private-sector firm can browse the FedRAMP-approved solutions list. So squaring away your FedRAMP compliance issues (with Azure or any other CSP you might use), which then allows your business to be listed on the FedRAMP marketplace, can elevate your business profile with sales prospects looking for trustworthy IT providers.
Is Azure FedRAMP-Certified?
Yes, it is. Microsoft Azure has several cloud-based products that maintain High FedRAMP provisional authority to operate (P-ATO). FedRAMP authorizations at this level are issued by the Joint Authorization Board, composed of several government agencies. Additionally, Microsoft offers a feature called Azure Government, which offers extra controls that provide more security for sensitive information.
Azure also has a service called Azure Policy that can help you comply with numerous frameworks, FedRAMP included. Azure Policy evaluates your security against FedRAMP compliance requirements and enables you to determine what areas need improvement.
What Are the Azure FedRAMP Compliance Levels?
FedRAMP contracts are divided into three categories — low, medium, and high — based on their potential “impact level.” This refers to the amount of damage that would occur should a security breach take place. A low-impact level means that the information is generally acceptable for public access; a high-impact level means the information being processed is very sensitive. Azure and Azure Government services are both approved for FedRAMP High, which means they can deal with this sensitive data.
How to Make Azure FedRAMP Certified?
Many of the FedRAMP-mapped rules are implemented via an Azure Policy Initiative. To review the entire initiative:
- Open the Azure interface and navigate to Policy.
- Go to the Definitions page.
- Find and pick the built-in policy initiative [Preview]: Audit FedRAMP High controls and install particular VM Extensions to satisfy audit needs.
You can use a function called Azure Blueprint to help you map your system to the FedRAMP requirements necessary for your company and your contracts. The templates provided by Blueprints are available for the highest security levels and make it easier and faster to bring your network into compliance with federal government standards.
Manage Compliance With ZenGRC
Government contracts require compliance throughout your entire enterprise, not just your cloud environment. Knowing what compliance standards apply to you and aligning your company with those standards can be complex.
This is especially true if your company uses outdated, manual methods (that is, spreadsheets) to track your risk. If your company seeks government contracts, you’ll need a modern risk management solution to streamline and simplify compliance.
ZenGRC is an innovative software platform that gives you a real-time view of your company’s risk landscape. It provides your organization with a single source of truth – one unified home for all your risks, security controls, and mitigation efforts.
Schedule a demo today to learn how ZenGRC can help create a risk management program that works for you.