Data management is an increasingly common concern for businesses in all industries and sectors, as regulatory oversight becomes more stringent and consumers become more aware of how their data is handled. But there are a number of strategies that can be leveraged to achieve and maintain compliance with data handling regulations such as SOC 2 and the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Compliance consulting firms can help you maintain SOC 2 compliance, simplifying and streamlining a company’s efforts to manage data in an efficient and safe manner.
What is SOC 2 Compliance?
SOC 2 is a voluntary certification from the American Institute of CPAs, also known as AICPA. An increasing number of consumers seek out SOC 2 compliant companies since this certification serves as evidence that a company is utilizing data management best practices. This provides clients and customers with an elevated sense of confidence that their data will be collected, retained, and managed in a way that preserves data privacy and integrity.
During the SOC 2 audit and evaluation process, a business is assessed by an auditor who examines the organization and its operations relative to a total of five SOC 2 trust principles. Also known as Trust Service Criteria (TSC), the five areas of evaluation include the following.
- Security – Data security practices are evaluated in this segment of the SOC 2 audit, including how the business guards against data theft, data breaches and unauthorized sale of data.
- Processing Integrity – Data processing systems are examined to ensure that they are accurate, secure and in line with data management best practices.
- Availability – The availability portion of the SOC 2 evaluation looks at the company’s handling of data in conjunction with business workflows and processes.
- Privacy Controls – The organization’s data collection, data use, data retention and data disclosure practices are examined in the privacy controls part of the SOC 2 audit.
- Confidentiality – In this portion of the audit, the company’s data confidentiality practices are evaluated, including when and how data is deemed confidential.
A wide range of business types can benefit from SOC 2 compliance, especially companies in the tech sector such as SaaS providers and digital marketing firms, along with retailers and e-commerce businesses, and any other company that collects and stores data from customers or clients.
How Can Compliance Consulting Firms Help Companies Maintain SOC 2 Compliance?
Achieving and maintaining SOC 2 compliance can be a challenge. Data management is a complex discipline, with many technologies involved. Simply understanding the different data storage and data security measures can seem overwhelming, especially when you consider that these technologies are changing and evolving on a near-continual basis.
Fortunately, compliance consulting firms can go a long way toward helping a company to achieve SOC 2 compliance. Here is a look at how compliance consultants can help a business to become SOC 2 compliant.
Data Management Evaluation – A compliance consulting firm can evaluate your company’s data management practices, which can include data collection methods, data storage techniques, data access policies, data retention practices and data security measures. The consultant must have an accurate understanding of an organization’s data management practices because all subsequent steps will build upon this insight.
Reviewing and Developing Data Handling Policies – Many companies lack a formal data handling policy and as a result, their data management practices may be scattershot at best. This makes it extremely difficult to achieve and maintain SOC 2 compliance — or any other form of compliance, for that matter. Companies that do currently have a data management policy in place can also usually benefit from a review.
A compliance consultant will begin by addressing a number of questions. How is data collected? Who is supplying that data? How does your organization use the data it collects? Who has access to that data? How long is a specific type of data retained? What laws and regulations apply relative to data retention? Are you subject to data management regulations such as GDPR?
These are just some of the questions that will be addressed during an evaluation of a company’s data handling practices. Once all of these (and many other) questions are addressed, the compliance consultant can help you to develop data management policies that align with SOC 2 compliance.
Deploying New Practices to Meet the SOC 2 Trust Service Criteria – Developing SOC 2-compliant policies is one part of the equation. Implementing new policies and practices to address the five areas of the SOC 2 Trust Service Criteria is an entirely different matter — one that is critical to your success if you wish to achieve SOC 2 compliance. But many companies are uncertain of how to effectively implement measures such as these.
A compliance consulting firm can guide a business through the process of educating staff on the new policies and procedures. Simply tossing a pile of policy handbooks on the break room table and hoping for the best won’t bring results. The rollout of a new policy or procedure must be far more intentional. A policy deployment may include information sessions where the new policies are reviewed and demonstrations are provided. The latter can be extremely useful in cases where a company is deploying new data management practices.
Compliance consulting firms can also help to develop and implement measures for monitoring and evaluating your company’s data management practices on a long-term basis. This is important for maintaining SOC 2 compliance and data-related regulatory compliance.
By achieving SOC 2 compliance with the help of an experienced compliance consulting firm, your business will be better positioned to avoid issues with regulatory compliance in general since you will have implemented numerous data management best practices.
Practices and policies aside, the right technology is also important for good data handling, whether it’s a data silo, the right type of encryption or a custom enterprise software system for data management. The team at iTech specializes in data services and other aspects of risk management. We develop innovative enterprise risk management solutions, from governance, risk and compliance (GRC) software to more specialized platforms. Contact iTech today to discuss your company’s data management needs and how we can develop a custom data management solution for SOC 2 compliance and beyond.