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This Key Thing Will Make Your Company's Data Safer and Get You More Customers Data security has always been important, but in our increasingly digital world, it's even more vital. Here's what you can do to make your company's data more secure, shorten your sales cycle and even bring in more revenue.

By Mykola Srebniuk Edited by Kara McIntyre

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In 2021, an average company relied on 110 SaaS (software as a service) apps for its daily operations. With this number rising rapidly year to year, the security of data throughout the network of third-party vendors becomes a priority. It's critical for companies to know who has access to their data and how it is protected.

Assessing every vendor separately, however, isn't practical. That's why the auditing industry came up with various accreditations, from SOC 2 to ISO 27001. Certifications like these act as shortcuts for buyers, proving that vendors are following best security practices.

Ask your sales people how many times they get some variation of, "Sorry, we only work with SOC-accredited vendors."

To give an example, we run an app subscription platform for macOS and iOS that services both B2C and B2B markets, and we used to spend hours manually verifying every single partner in our ecosystem and replying to requests from potential B2B customers regarding our own data security.

Related: Making Data Security Compliance a Revenue Driver

Thankfully, since we passed the SOC 2 Type 1 audit, things got much easier. So what is SOC 2 Type 1, why should you get it right now and why is it important for data security?

What is SOC 2 Type 1?

SOC (system and organization controls) is a reporting framework designed to evaluate the level of data management and security in service organizations.

The framework was created by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), which means every SOC certification requires an independent auditor to verify all claims.

There are three categories of SOC reports you can get:

  • SOC 1 tests finance-related compliance.
  • SOC 2 verifies data controls for SaaS companies.
  • SOC 3 is a simplified version of SOC 2 designed to be accessible to a more general audience.

SOC 2 is further split into two types:

  • Type 1 evaluates security controls at a single point in time.
  • Type 2 tests all controls over a period of time (usually 3 to 12 months).

Unlike other industry audits, SOC is voluntary and very flexible in scope, which means that you choose the exact controls that are going to be audited and featured in the final report. There are five categories:

  1. Security
  2. Availability
  3. Confidentiality
  4. Processing integrity
  5. Privacy

SaaS companies usually start with SOC 2 Type 1, most likely in the security category, and then upgrade to SOC 2 Type 2 over time.

Related: Data Security Basics in the Virtual World

5 benefits of getting SOC 2 Type 1

Even though SOC 2 Type 1 takes a non-trivial amount of work to complete, it recoups the investment many times over. The most important outcome is that you can prove to your customers and partners that you have the best data management and security policies in place.

Here are five other benefits from passing the SOC 2 Type 1 audit:

  1. Get better customers. Since data security is a growing concern these days, given that data breaches can affect hundreds of millions of users, most large and high-value B2B companies have strict data policies for their third-party vendors and prefer them to have the SOC 2 accreditation.
  2. Shorten your sales cycle. With SOC, your sales team will be able to close deals faster, since they won't need to write custom replies explaining your security policies for every prospect.
  3. Increase your team's productivity. While acquiring SOC 2 Type 1 can be rigorous and time-intensive, your team only needs to do it once (as long as your report is valid). After that, anyone involved can focus on more productive aspects of their work.
  4. Update security practices. The process of collecting evidence for SOC 2 Type 1 will highlight any gaps in your data security in a systematic way, giving you an opportunity to actually fix them while you're preparing for the audit.
  5. Leverage SOC 2 for other certifications. SOC is a well-known international attestation, so once you obtain the auditor-verified SOC 2 Type 1 report, your company can leverage it to prove your compliance with other security standards.

Related: Everyone is a Target. Your Business Needs to Take Security Seriously.

How to successfully pass SOC 2 Type 1

There's no time limit on preparing for your SOC 2 Type 1 audit. In our case, it took us the better part of 2021, since there were lots of things we didn't know or anticipate.

For a much faster and easier SOC 2 experience, follow our top five tips.

  1. Find a supportive auditor. Look for an auditor who really understands SOC requirements and can advise you throughout the process. Collaborating with an auditor right from the start increases your chances of success, whereas simply sending final documentation asks for a near-guaranteed rejection.
  2. Limit scope. Since every SOC 2 Type 1 report is unique, you can make a list of essential controls you want checked, without risking being rejected for other controls that are not core to your business.
  3. Use an automated compliance solution. To keep track of hundreds of tasks, from access accounts to code review results, it's highly recommended to use software that monitors your progress toward SOC 2 completion.
  4. Assign team leads for every deliverable. Once you have a clear roadmap laid out, make sure that you also know who is responsible for each deliverable. Get a senior technical writer as well to help structure all the required documentation, from IT processes to customer support.
  5. Budget for more time than you need to. Plan for the process to take longer than you expect to save everyone from anxious all-nighters at the (home) office. Note that even when you send in all the files to your auditor, it might take a month or two for them to be processed.

In the end, you'll get an official report recognizing that you've passed SOC 2 Type 1. As a result, vendor reviews from a security standpoint will become not only easier, but faster as well — and we can say it's definitely worth it.

Mykola Srebniuk

Head Of Information Security at MacPaw Inc.

Mykola Srebniuk has more than 15 years of experience working in computer networking and cybersecurity. Srebniuk is passionate about building and deploying security solutions and processes from scratch, helping companies stay secure and avoid cyber threats.

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