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Who Performs a SOC 2 Audit? The Role of SOC 2 Auditors vs. Compliance Software

Data breaches and ransomware attacks continue to dominate the news cycle. To protect data, and position themselves favorably among prospects and customers, companies need to demonstrate a commitment to cybersecurity.  

Enter, SOC 2 (Service Organization Control 2), a popular audit that attests to a company’s ability to protect data and information. It’s a strong validator for any company looking to demonstrate its commitment to cybersecurity to partners and customers.  

Pursuing a SOC 2 audit is a multi-step process, which can seem confusing at first glance given the fact that there are vendors that provide compliance software, and other vendors who are themselves certified SOC 2 auditors.  

This blog will clarify the SOC 2 audit process, as well as explain the role of SOC 2 auditors and compliance software. 

When and How to Use SOC 2 Software Tools 

There are multiple steps to completing a SOC 2 audit. Many companies start with a readiness/gap assessment, which is the process of reviewing existing controls in place and identifying those that need to be improved or implemented. This process can be executed via an audit consultant, or through specialized software tools that help simplify this process (like A-SCEND). 

Compliance software tools typically provide automated workflows and compliance templates, comparing your existing controls against the controls within a selected compliance framework — which, in this case, would be the SOC 2 framework.  

Typically, this software allows you to visualize progress toward compliance goals, assign tasks related to evidence collection or policy updates, and collaborate all in one dashboard. Software tools provide a simple way to understand the framework requirements, assess them against your existing policies and procedures, and manage the process of updating policies. While these tools help to better prepare for an audit and streamline the assessment process, an experienced auditor is still a critical component of compliance. 

When and How to Use SOC 2 Auditors 

Software tools can only take you so far with SOC 2. They can help prepare a company for a SOC 2 audit, but not complete the audit itself. When the actual audit takes place, companies must turn to a SOC auditor. 

SOC 2 audits are regulated by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and must be completed by an external auditor from a licensed CPA firm. This is the only way a company can receive an official SOC 2 report, whether it’s a Type 1 or Type 2 report. 

An official SOC 2 report is valid for one year following the date the report was issued. Future annual audits must also be completed by an external auditor from a licensed CPA firm. 

Working with SOC 2 Service Providers  

A-LIGN is a SOC 2 audit provider that offers multiple benefits for organizations seeking to complete a SOC 2 audit: 

  • A-LIGN is a licensed CPA firm that can issue a SOC 2 report. In fact, we are the top issuer of SOC 2 reports in the world. 
  • With deep experience and expertise, A-LIGN also created A-SCEND, a modern SaaS platform for streamlining compliance and management activities. 

If your organization plans to use software to prepare for an audit, it’s helpful to work with a software partner who can also conduct the official audit (as a certified CPA) because it provides an added layer of convenience throughout the SOC 2 process and results in a reputable report.  

Organizations need to go beyond the data collection by their compliance software tool and conduct further due diligence, such as observations and walkthroughs (conversations) between the audit team and the client. SOC 2 auditors may also find that they need additional data or evidence necessary to validate the design and operating effectiveness of a complete control set. When you use the same company for a technology-enabled audit, and a SOC 2 report, the software is designed to request all audit materials needed, including manually operated controls and supporting evidence. In this convenient scenario, you can save time, resources, and money.  

All-in-One SOC 2 Services with A-LIGN 

A-LIGN provides an all-in-one solution for SOC 2. The A-SCEND platform can streamline the audit preparation process by centralizing evidence collection and simplifying the SOC 2 readiness assessment. To make life easier, it’s an “auditor-assisted” process with real experts standing by to help navigate you through your SOC 2 journey. Leveraging the A-SCEND platform sets you up for success when it comes time to completing the actual report with A-LIGN’s certified SOC 2 auditors.  

Even better, A-SCEND is not limited to SOC 2. You can trust it to help achieve compliance across multiple security frameworks including SOC 1, HIPAA, PCI DSS and more.