Leveraging a SOC 2 Examination to Differentiate Your MSP
IT security is an ever-growing concern from consumers and businesses. The last few years of breaches resulting from insecure IT environments have changed the buying process and selection criteria for many organizations. Securing a business’s critical information is a top priority and with companies outsourcing more and more of their IT services to third parties, there is a greater focus on the security in place at Managed Service Providers (MSPs). MSPs provide various IT services such as network security, backups, infrastructure and software as a service.
In the past, MSPs were able to self-attest to how secure their environment was, but as more companies outsource their IT functions to MSPs, more scrutiny and focus is being placed on having an independent assessment performed to assess the security in place in the MSP’s environment. Many forward-looking MSPs have determined the easiest way to show an independent assurance is to provide their customers with a System and Organization Controls (SOC 2) compliance report – this report is issued by an independently certified compliance firm that issues a formal assessment on MSP’s security controls. Note that as an MSP, you may be familiar with the acronym “SOC” standing for Security Operations Center; in the world of compliance, “SOC” is abbreviated for System and Organization Controls.
What is a SOC 2 Compliance Report?
A SOC 2 compliance report can differentiate your business by providing your customers with assurance regarding the IT controls in place that protects the systems and data critical to operations, as well as their sensitive data. The SOC 2 examination is built on five Trust Services Principles (TSPs): Security, Availability, Confidentiality, Processing Integrity and Privacy – with Security being required in all reports. Depending upon the services provided and the level of access you have to your customers’ data, you can choose one or all five principles to test against, based on the level of security and controls in your environment.
As an MSP, your customers have confidence that their sensitive and critical information is secured, made available and protected from unauthorized access. Although the ultimate accountability of customer information remains with the customer, as part of their vendor risk management program they will request evidence that appropriate controls are in place to protect their data and can be easily shown in a SOC 2 report. Please also note that the SOC 2 framework and requirements will change for SOC 2 reports having a report period end date after December 15, 2018. As part of the changes, the terminology is changing from Trust Services Principles and Criteria to Trust Services Criteria (TSCs).
MSP Benefits From a SOC 2 Compliance Report
A SOC 2 compliance report provides many benefits for an MSP, including the following:
Accelerated business and market growth
One of the greatest benefits of completing a SOC 2 examination is the opportunity to accelerate business and market growth. Showing that your organization is SOC 2 certified opens doors to new opportunities for larger customers and differentiates your business from your competition. MSPs we have spoken with are leveraging their SOC 2 report as a marketing tool – whether it is for new business or to demonstrate to existing customers their continued focus on securing their environment. Further, many prospects see their MSP as a commodity and are not able to differentiate one from the other. Having the SOC 2 logo on your website, your marketing materials and sales proposals sets you apart.
Continuous improvement of your security program
Conducting a SOC 2 compliance report provides an independent assessment of how secure your environment is. The SOC 2 framework is thorough in its security requirements, from assessing overall governance to reviewing the system security controls.
Going through a SOC 2 examination helps formally establish the baseline internal controls in place that secure your environment as well as give you the ability to reassess how well those controls operate year over year.
Increased valuation of your MSP
The SOC 2 compliance report can lead to increased growth and sales. In certain instances, MSPs are acquired only to gain access to valuable customer listings. The SOC 2 assessment can be a major asset for your MSP – and can also be a major contributor to customer success and satisfaction.
Getting Started With a SOC 2 From A-LIGN
As customers begin to enhance their vendor management practices to secure their information, requests for compliance reports such as a SOC 2 report will become more and more frequent. Working with a compliance service provider like A-LIGN, who has certified compliance professionals with extensive experience performing SOC 2 examinations, can set you on the right path in building credibility and trust with your customers. Moreover, A-LIGN is well-versed in meeting the requirements of a broad range of compliance standards and security frameworks including SOC, PCI, ISO, GDPR, FISMA and NIST to help you meet all compliance needs.