SOC 2 has a reputation for being difficult and complex. You could argue that this is by design, since you need help from a small group of top-notch, pricey experts to be compliant.
A kinder view is that it’s just how info security operates (there’s no one-size-fits-all fix).
To set up the right protections, a company has to either create them according to the risks they face, or narrow down a huge list of possible controls, again, considering the risks.
In a nutshell, SOC 2 goes with the first option: it sets broad criteria and lets each organization come up with controls to meet those criteria, based on their unique risks. Sounds reasonable, but it’s not exactly a walk in the park for those who aren’t experts.
That’s where both workflow automation and compliance automation software can come in handy.
In this post I’ll introduce you to Drata and Process Street, two essential tools that, when used together, provide a complete solution to help you speed up and simplify your yearly SOC 2 compliance.
Your main challenges with SOC 2 compliance
When you’re trying to achieve SOC 2 compliance, you’ve got a few problems to solve:
Challenge #1: Resource constraints
Problem: SOC 2 compliance can be a real resource hog, taking up a lot of time, money, and people power.
Solution: Use automation tools to improve efficiency and save money.
You can reduce workload by automating compliance tasks using a tool like Drata. Similarly, workflow automation software like Process Street can help you lower operational costs by streamlining tasks like security and performance reviews into handy, simple checklists that can be used as evidence in a SOC 2 audit.
Challenge #2: Lack of expertise
Problem: Most organizations don’t have experts in-house who know how to navigate the SOC 2 compliance process, leading to confusion and frustration.
Solution: Capture expertise in process management templates.
Hire or train personnel with the necessary expertise to guide your organization through the SOC 2 compliance process. Then capture that information into a workflow template to help save costs and improve success rates on recurring audits.
Challenge #3: Complexity of criteria
Problem: The SOC 2 criteria can be super confusing and hard to understand, making it tough to know what applies to your organization.
Solution: Reduce human error & make it easy for non-experts to follow complex processes with templates and workflow management tools.
Work with a qualified third-party vendor to help interpret and apply the SOC 2 criteria to your organization’s specific situation, while leveraging templates and process management tools to scale the expertise of the qualified 3rd party vendor.
Challenge #4: Audit scope
Problem: Figuring out the audit’s scope can be a real pain because it requires a deep understanding of how your organization’s systems and operations work.
Solution: Maintain consistent process & policy documentation.
If you take process documentation seriously in your organization, you will already have a clear overview of internal processes. This provides a great starting point for your vendor partner to define the scope of the audit.
Challenge #5: Security gaps in processes
Problem: The audit process may uncover gaps in your controls that you’ll need to fix, which can take a lot of time and effort.
Solution: Use process management tools to improve process control.
Workflow management software makes editing operational processes quick and painless. Need to tighten up permissions or see an overview of users contributing to a process? It’s easy with Process Street.
Challenge #6: Ongoing maintenance
Problem: Achieving SOC 2 compliance isn’t a one-time deal; you’ll need to keep monitoring and maintaining your systems and controls to stay compliant.
Solution: Use workflows and templates to streamline recurring reports.
Workflow Templates and Runs make recurring processes like SOC 2 reports simple and easy to execute. If you document workflows for all relevant reviews in Process Street during your first audit, you can re-use them in subsequent audits to complete them even faster.
Essential tools for efficient SOC 2 compliance
The simple answer is that most of the solutions to common SOC 2 challenges can be solved with the appropriate toolkit.
To automate tasks you need a system for electronic process documentation & management, and you need to make sure your core processes are already documented.
To properly implement templates you either need time to build them from scratch or access to versatile pre-made template libraries or help from process-building experts.
Let’s look at some essential tools that can help make SOC 2 compliance faster and easier than ever before.
Drata: Designed by auditors and security experts for ease of use
Drata is a security and compliance automation platform. It’s specifically designed to help businesses meet SOC 2 compliance while operating.
Drata is an essential tool for SOC 2 compliance because it:
- Reduces compliance costs with automation.
- Has quick-start capabilities to get you up and running in minutes.
- Eliminates spreadsheets and time-consuming tasks for streamlined audits
- Automatically collects evidence via 75+ integrations with your existing tech stack.
- Comes with 20+ editable, auditor-approved security policies.
In a nutshell, Drata is set up to continuously monitor and collect proof of an organization’s systems and controls while simultaneously streamlining compliance reports to ensure audit readiness.
Drata also helps automate compliance with ISO 27001, GDPR, HIPAA, and PCI DSS.
The main shortcoming of Drata is that it doesn’t always give a way for you to generate the necessary evidence for a compliance policy or procedure.
For example, you need to test your disaster recovery plan every year. Drata can store the plan as a static .PDF, but it has no way for you to run it and show evidence you ran it.
Other SOC 2 compliance tools focused on the process management side, like Process Street, are excellent for making SOC 2 compliance actionable.
You can schedule and perform these annual processes inside Process Street and then upload the completed process reports into Drata as evidence for the SOC 2 auditor.
Process Street: Workflows to automate tasks & capture expertise
Process Street is a cloud-based workflow software that can help you streamline and automate the SOC 2 compliance process by:
- Clearly documenting your core processes for audit scope.
- Quickly & easily creating workflows to check policy compliance.
- Templatizing and automating recurring work to reduce human error.
- Making it easy to edit and improve your processes.
- Improving audit transparency by recording who did what (and when) in a Workflow Run.
- Allowing you to schedule recurring compliance procedures to ensure you don’t miss deadlines.
- Automatically generating audit evidence by exporting Workflow Runs.
- Workflow Runs can then be uploaded to Drata’s compliance management platform for ongoing compliance tracking and reporting.
At Process Street, we even use our own platform together with Drata to achieve SOC 2 compliance! We’re constantly striving to help our customers achieve and maintain SOC 2 compliance, too.
Why use compliance automation software?
The main reason for using compliance automation software is to remain SOC 2 compliant. In the past, SOC 2 compliance was a taxing process that had auditors watching the way businesses operated for significantly longer periods, to evaluate if a business was, in fact, compliant.
It’s easier, quicker and more reliable to use software that ensures you remain compliant the entire year. This way, you don’t need to rush and play catch-up to become compliant again when it comes time for your next audit.
Benefits of using a complete SOC 2 compliance solution
Together, Drata + Process Street provide a complete solution to achieving and maintaining SOC 2 compliance.
Automated reminders about SOC 2 compliance tasks
“Every time we hire a new employee, I will immediately receive an alert from Process Street saying that there’s a new employee and that I need to do A, B and C by a certain date.”– Gabriel Labrada on how Process Street helps improve visibility on SOC 2 compliance tasks
When it comes time to do these annual tests, Process Street’s scheduled workflows are triggered and notifications go out to ensure we meet the deadlines in a timely manner.
For example, when Drata notifies us that we need to conduct our annual Disaster Recovery Plan, the respective Process Street Disaster Recovery Plan Workflow is run and the security manager can work through the various tasks involved in the test until it’s successfully completed.
Once these workflows are complete, the reports can be saved and uploaded into Drata to prove that the procedures have been conducted successfully.
Onboard new hires into security training programs
Drata’s built-in security training functions let you automate tasks to send out reminders regarding document completion. This security training comes in handy whenever we hire a new employee here at Process Street.
“Security training is never a one-and-done. Employees need to be part of the SOC 2 conversation from the get-go. Curricula is a compelling way to make security education fun so employees actually learn from their training.”– Adam Markowitz, CEO of Drata
Our onboarding workflow welcomes new hires into our organization. It takes them through the entire employee onboarding journey, and includes a task to get them set up with Drata.
From here, Drata takes the new employee through:
- Configuring their computer
- Installing the recommended password manager
- Encrypting their hard-disk
- Installing anti-virus/malware software
- Enabling automatic updates
- Applying a lock to their screen saver
Both the security manager and employee get notified if these tasks are incomplete or out of compliance.
Generate SOC 2 evidence on-the-go, automatically
“We noticed while doing our SOC 2 compliance that many of the requirements were recurring processes. Each of these procedures had a list of steps that needed to be followed. Then, at the end, you needed a hard copy as evidence, generally a PDF.
That’s when it became clear that Process Street would be a perfect fit. With Process Street, you can create a workflow that specifies what needs to be done, schedule it to be run each year, and then export the resulting run as evidence.”– Cameron McKay, CO-Founder and CTO of Process Street
Along with monitoring your control systems to ensure you’re constantly compliant, Drata also reminds you about any annual procedures that need to be completed.
But it’s on you to get those procedures done and then upload supporting evidence.
That’s where Process Street is handy – you can export Workflow Runs and submit those as evidence that a procedure has been completed. It’ll contain all of the information relevant to the SOC 2 audit such as who completed the procedure, when it was completed, and if there was any additional information recorded in form fields.
Crystal clear process documentation
Running annual procedures for SOC 2 compliance manually involves following documented processes that address the relevant trust principles and meet the criteria established by the AICPA.
To do this you might develop checklists or spreadsheets to document the procedures, track progress, and assign specific responsibilities to individuals or teams within your organization.
You need your processes clearly defined and documented. That’s so the auditor understands the scope of core processes used in your organization.
If you’re using Process Street, having your processes documented means you can easily generate evidence, too.
Here are some of the procedures you’ll need to follow to be SOC 2 compliant:
- Annual Access Control Review
- Annual Board Oversight Briefings
- Annual Compliance Process Review
- Annual Disaster Recovery Test
- Annual Incident Response Plan
- Annual Key Vendors Review
- Annual Review of Security Policies
- Monthly application of OS patches on virtual machines
- Quarterly Vulnerability Scans
Some of these procedures are pretty complicated, and it can be time-consuming or even tricky to navigate all of them (let alone complete them with 100% success rate).
That’s why it’s useful to have this information documented in a workflow. If you use Process Street, all information for each procedure will live inside the respective Process Street workflow, broken down into easy to understand, actionable steps to complete each compliance procedure.
On-demand reports for your customers
It’s tedious and unnecessary to manually answer security questionnaires whenever a potential customer asks about the safety of your tool. When you have Drata in place, real-time reports from a trusted third-party tool can be generated to provide evidence of compliance.
This is also the case for your auditors. Investing in an advanced compliance security platform allows you to publicly showcase your daily security and compliance measures (without disclosing sensitive information).
Eliminate manual tasks & save time
You likely devote a significant portion of time to tedious tasks like:
- Organizing screenshots and other evidence in shared folders
- Manipulating pivot tables and spreadsheets
- Manually tracking vendors, assets, and incidents
This is only if you run your compliance program manually.
Process Street and Drata pretty much make these tasks disappear. These systems coupled together can manage:
- Onboarding and training of employees
- All necessary evidence collection
- Real-time tracking of incidents, vendors, and assets
- Accurate control mapping
Simple dashboards ensure all processes are kept on track and that your business is constantly compliant while reports can be provided when needed.
And as the saying goes, time is money!
Useful insights into business operations
Security and compliance automation software can help you make more informed decisions. Because your business operations are monitored, you gain valuable insight into how your company is performing. This will let you see:
- How your security can be improved
- If your privacy protections need updating
- If your employees are playing fast and loose with your standards
- How your security program is operating overall
Reduced risks & errors
Automating any process mitigates the risk of errors being made. Repetitive tasks are taken out of your team’s to-do list and are handed over to software where work is completed the same way each time.
Monitoring security controls also lets the system send alerts if there are any changes in human behavior. For example, Drata and Process Street are both designed to send notifications if an employee fails to complete a task in any required security training.
Alerts are also triggered when someone tries to access something they shouldn’t. This will mitigate the risk of any malicious attack on your company’s data or systems. But it will also reduce the risk of genuine mistakes (like forgetting to complete a process or tasks), which could derail your organization’s compliance.
And the fewer manual tasks you have in your SOC 2 compliance procedures, the lower the chance for human error.
Improved experience with your auditor
Effective compliance automation software means happier auditors and faster audits. Your auditors no longer need to assume compliance hasn’t been continuous or rely on spot checks.
Instead, continuous compliance can be confirmed through accurate reports and monitoring system documentation set by Drata and Process Street. Back-and-forth between your company and auditor is significantly reduced while the auditing process is cheaper and faster.
What is the biggest challenge you face with SOC 2 compliance? Let us know in the comments & we’ll see if we can help make your life easier.
Grace is a content writer with a thirst for knowledge and coffee. You'll find her reading in a small café or singing at a rundown jazz bar when she's not overconsuming coffee or compartmentalizing her thoughts into a blog post.