What is SOC Compliance?

A business that provides services to other businesses — say, data storage or payroll management — typically needs to provide assurance to those customers that the business won’t expose them to any undue security or compliance risks. The two most common ways to provide that assurance are to pass a SOC 1 or SOC 2 audit.

A SOC 1 audit (the acronym stands for “Service Organization Control”) pertains to businesses that handle financial data for their customers; the audit seeks to assure that the business can properly manage and protect the financial information in its custody. A SOC 2 audit, in contrast, focuses on cybersecurity controls and vendor risk management. Both SOC audits were developed by the Auditing Standards Board of the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA).

SOC 2 reports are formally known as “Reporting on Controls at a Service Organization Relevant to Security, Availability, Processing Integrity, Confidentiality, or Privacy.” Those five issues are also called the five trust services criteria or trust services principles.

SOC 2 audits also come in two types. Type I assesses whether the relevant controls are designed properly at a certain point in time. Type II then assesses whether those controls also work effectively over a defined period of time.

The best steps to take when
planning for your SOC 2 audit

Why Are SOC Audits Important?

Your ability to protect customer data from breaches or theft is important to your clients, so ignoring SOC attestation could drive valuable clients elsewhere. Any organization that has suffered a catastrophic security incident can confirm that the peace of mind from keeping data and IT systems secure is priceless.

A business might balk at first at the notion of investing in a compliance program. That’s short-sighted. A single data breach, on average, can cost more than $3.86 million. So the potential harm from a breach far outweighs the cost of assuring compliance. Plus, as mentioned above, completing a SOC 2 audit can give your organization an edge over competitors since a clean auditor’s report adds to your Organization’s credibility and trustworthiness.

Finally, for organizations responsible for achieving compliance with multiple information security frameworks, SOC audits often dovetail with other frameworks such as HIPAA, GDPR, or PCI DSS. Which means SOC attestation can expedite certification for other frameworks as well.

SOC Requirements At a Glance

Your specific SOC requirements will vary depending on whether you are seeking attestation for SOC 1, SOC 2, or SOC 3. Regardless of the standard, however, the key to a successful SOC audit is preparation.

Before your formal audit, you should spend ample reviewing your compliance requirements and have supporting documentation that validates your efforts.

Here are a few tips from our guide to SOC compliance:


Establish your goals.
What is the scope of your audit? It’s crucial to understand what requirements pertain to your business, what level or type of certification you want and how the requirements apply to your existing sensitive data and systems


Conduct a risk assessment and implement the appropriate remediation and security controls.
In addition to understanding which data is sensitive and should be safeguarded, you should consider security measures such as user access controls, strong passwords, firewalls and two-factor authentication (2FA) for sign-on.


Organize your materials.
The next step is to prepare the documents and correspondence that validate the effectiveness of your security controls.


Conduct a self-audit.
Before submitting your organization for an official audit, it’s important to assure that you’re ready. Otherwise, you face excessive costs associated with applying for a new audit after failing your first. If you can show the assessor conducting your official audit that you’ve remediated any potential compliance issues or are in the process of doing so, your organization will be well on its way to achieving official attestation.


Get help if you need it.
Let’s face it: Between the various types of SOC compliance, the various trust principles, and the different types of audits, SOC certification can be overwhelming. Moreover, SOC 2 (the most commonly sought SOC audit) is a complex framework that changes frequently. So it’s important to get the help you need to achieve compliance and satisfy stakeholders.


RiskOptics Has Your Solution for SOC Compliance

Completing an external audit against for any SOC standard requires considerable investment in time and financial resources, particularly for an organization still using legacy tools and spreadsheets to achieve and maintain compliance workflows.

Also remember: obtaining the initial auditor’s report is only half the battle. After the auditor has issued their report, your organization must keep up compliance management to assure that the new systems, processes and controls don’t degrade over time. Re-certification will come up sooner than you think.

At RiskOptics, our Risk Insiders can help you to prepare your SOC compliance and certification program, expedite the process and minimize the burden on your team.

ZenGRC is an efficient solution to continuous compliance. Businesses don’t have to worry about their compliance stance because ZenGRC monitors it over the entire lifecycle and keeps up with the latest data protection regulations and requirements.

ZenGRC SOC Capabilities

Our fully integrated and automated ZenGRC equips you with a strong foundation for SOC compliance, enabling you to monitor your program over time to ensure you remain compliant and avoid non-compliance penalties. Our capabilities include:

  • User-friendly dashboard with real-time metrics on prioritized risks
  • Pre-built templates that can help you with your compliance audits
  • A central repository for all audit-ready documentation
  • Universal Control Mapping to streamline multiple requirements with a single control
  • Insight into team member progress at fulfilling SOC requirements
  • Tracking functionality for outstanding service provider requirements
Ready to see ZenGRC in action?

Frequently Asked Questions

Public organizations in the U.S. are required to provide annual financial statements to their investors. Often, this requires a SOC report audit process to validate that their business practices and handling of sensitive information are both ethical and in line with SOC compliance standards.

No, SOC compliance is not a legal requirement. SOC audits, however, are considered industry standards that credible service providers should achieve. Furthermore, SOC certification can go a long way in persuading customers that they can entrust their sensitive data to your firm.

Benefits of SOC compliance include:

  • Greater trust and loyalty from clients
  • The assurance that your information systems, PII and networks are secure
  • An edge over competitors who have ignored their own risk assessment and remediation needs
  • The possibility to get a leg up on additional compliance needs through meeting your SOC attestation requirements

While there are no legal fines associated with SOC non-compliance, damages associated with a data breach can be in the millions. Furthermore, non-compliance leaves your organization open to potential civil lawsuits from unhappy customers as well as lost business and reputation.

SOC 2 compliance varies on the size of your business, the complexity of your infrastructure, and the number of trust principles your organization is seeking attestation for. Costs can range from $20,000 to more than $80,000 as a starting point.