The majority of modern cloud-based companies rely heavily on data. If your business is responsible for storing, managing, or handling sensitive customer information, it’s important to have a set of security measures in place to prevent unauthorized access, data breaches, human error, and other types of damage.
To ensure that an outsourced business function is compliant with security best practices for protecting client data, a Service Organization Controls (SOC) 2 report is required. This security compliance report has become a standard for many US-based technology companies, and is based on five trust criteria: Security, Availability, Processing Integrity, Confidentiality, and Privacy.
One of the most commonly asked questions is: “How long does it take to obtain a SOC 2 timeline report?”
Factors Affecting SOC 2 Timeline Report
Before discussing the timeline for getting SOS 2 Report, its worth to understand first some factors that can impact the time. To mention a few, some of the factors are:
- Size and Complexity of the Organization:
The size and complexity of the organization can impact the timeline for obtaining a SOC 2 report. Larger organizations with more complex control environments may take longer to audit than smaller organizations with more straightforward control environments.
- Scope of the Audit:
The scope of the SOC 2 audit can have a significant impact on the timeline. For example, if the audit covers multiple locations, business processes, or IT systems, it will take longer to complete. Service organizations can help streamline the audit process by defining the audit scope clearly and by ensuring that all relevant systems and processes are documented and readily accessible.
- Timing of the Audit:
The timing of the SOC 2 audit can also impact the timeline. Service organizations may want to avoid scheduling the audit during peak business periods, such as year-end or during major system upgrades, as this can cause delays and distractions. Similarly, scheduling the audit well in advance can help ensure that there is adequate time to complete all necessary preparations.
- Audit Team Availability:
The availability of the audit team can also impact the timeline. Service organizations should select an experienced audit team with a proven track record of completing audits in a timely manner. However, if the audit team is in high demand, it may take longer to schedule the audit, and the audit team may need to work on multiple projects simultaneously, which can lead to delays.
- Documentation and Preparation:
Service organizations must provide the audit team with documentation and evidence that supports their compliance with the trust criteria. This documentation includes policies, procedures, and controls related to security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy. Collecting and organizing this documentation can be time-consuming, and delays can occur if documentation is incomplete or missing.
- Remediation of Deficiencies:
If the audit team identifies deficiencies or gaps in the service organization’s controls, the service organization must take steps to remediate these issues. This can add significant time to the audit process, especially if the deficiencies are significant and require significant changes to the organization’s policies or procedures.
Timeline for Obtaining SOC 2 Report
Here is a breakdown of the timeline for obtaining a SOC 2 report:
Pre-Audit Phase (1-2 months)
During the pre-audit phase, the service organization selects an audit firm to perform the SOC 2 audit. The organization and the audit firm work together to define the scope of the audit, which includes identifying the systems and processes that will be covered by the audit. Once the audit scope is defined, the organization starts collecting and organizing documentation that will be used to evaluate its control environment.
The organization also performs a readiness assessment to identify any gaps or deficiencies that need to be addressed before the audit begins. This involves assessing the organization’s controls and processes against the trust criteria, which are Security, Availability, Processing Integrity, Confidentiality, and Privacy. The readiness assessment is essential to ensure that the organization is prepared for the audit and that any issues are addressed before the audit begins.
Audit Phase (1-3 months)
During the audit phase, the audit team conducts fieldwork to evaluate the effectiveness of the organization’s controls and processes. The audit team reviews documentation, performs interviews, and tests controls to assess compliance with the trust criteria. The length of the audit phase depends on the size and complexity of the organization and the scope of the audit. If the organization is relatively small and has a narrow audit scope, the audit may take as little as one month to complete. However, larger organizations with a broader audit scope may take longer to complete the audit, typically between two to three months.
Reporting Phase (1-2 months)
During the reporting phase, the audit team drafts the SOC 2 report and presents it to the organization for review. The organization has the opportunity to provide feedback and address any concerns before the final report is issued. Once any issues are resolved, the audit team issues the final SOC 2 report. The length of the reporting phase depends on the complexity of the audit and the responsiveness of the organization to address any issues that are identified during the audit. If the organization provides timely and complete responses to any issues that are identified, the reporting phase may take as little as one month to complete. However, if there are significant issues that require remediation, the reporting phase may take up to two months to complete.
Based on the breakdown of the timeline above, the total time for obtaining a SOC 2 report ranges between three to six months. It is important for organizations to plan accordingly and allocate sufficient resources to ensure that the SOC 2 report process is completed efficiently and effectively. It is also worth noting that obtaining a SOC 2 report is not a one-time event. Organizations should view SOC 2 compliance as an ongoing process that requires continuous monitoring and improvement. Regular assessments and updates to controls and processes are necessary to maintain compliance with the trust criteria and ensure the security and protection of sensitive customer data.
Tips for Service Organizations to Streamline SOC 2 Audit Process
Obtaining a SOC 2 report can be a lengthy and complex process, but there are steps that service organizations can take to streamline the audit process and minimize the impact on their business operations. Here are some tips for service organizations looking to streamline their SOC 2 audit process:
- Define the Audit Scope and Prioritize Controls: It is important for service organizations to define the audit scope and prioritize the controls that are most critical to the organization. This can help to ensure that the audit is focused on the most important systems, processes, and controls, and can help to streamline the audit process. By identifying and focusing on the most critical areas, service organizations can ensure that the audit is comprehensive without being overly broad.
- Establish Clear Roles and Responsibilities: To ensure a smooth and efficient audit process, service organizations should establish clear roles and responsibilities for all parties involved in the audit. This includes identifying key personnel who will be responsible for providing documentation and participating in interviews during the audit process, as well as establishing clear lines of communication between the organization and the audit firm.
- Review and Update Documentation: Service organizations should review and update their documentation regularly to ensure that it is complete, accurate, and up-to-date. This can help to streamline the audit process by ensuring that the audit firm has all of the information they need to evaluate the effectiveness of the organization’s controls.
- Conduct Pre-Audit Assessments: Before starting the SOC 2 audit process, service organizations can conduct pre-audit assessments to identify and address any potential issues or gaps in their controls. This can help to streamline the audit process by ensuring that the audit firm has a clear understanding of the organization’s controls and can focus on verifying their effectiveness.
- Engage with the Audit Firm Early and Often: Service organizations should engage with the audit firm early and often to ensure that the audit process is running smoothly. This includes establishing clear lines of communication, providing timely responses to audit requests, and addressing any issues or concerns that arise during the audit process.
Obtaining a SOC 2 report can be a complex and time-consuming process, but it is an important step for organizations that handle sensitive customer data. SOC 2 reports provide assurance to customers, partners, and regulators that the organization has implemented effective security controls to protect their data. The timeline for obtaining a SOC 2 report can vary depending on the complexity of the organization’s systems and controls, as well as their readiness to undergo the audit process.
However, by following best practices and streamlining the audit process, organizations can minimize the time and effort required to obtain a SOC 2 report. In addition to the timeline, service organizations can also take steps to prepare for a SOC 2 audit, such as conducting internal assessments, identifying key personnel, and ensuring that documentation and controls are in place. By being proactive and well-prepared, organizations can help to ensure a successful SOC 2 audit and a smooth process for obtaining a SOC 2 report.