By: Pete Rife, CISA, CISSP, CDPSE, ISO 27001 Lead Auditor
We often receive inquiries for SOC2 audits and the person needing a SOC2 report is hoping to have it completed as quickly as possible. The issue is almost always is a vital relationship with an important client or an opportunity to sign up a new one is in jeopardy because of contractual language requiring the completion of a successful SOC2 examination. They often ask us how fast we can complete the entire process. We absolutely understand this sense of urgency, especially when winning or keeping business is the concern for the party needing the report. Unfortunately, being prepared to undergo a SOC2 examination requires some work and will require time to ensure the organization is ready and ultimately achieves a successful result.
The more prepared an organization is, the timelier the auditor can be. Therefore, having all the required controls in place that are suitably designed and operating effectively is vital. In almost every instance, a company seeking a SOC2 examination will need to invest in a SOC2 readiness process before the audit team arrives. SOC2 readiness is a one-time exercise designed to make a thorough analysis of an organization’s system, and to identify and remediate any gaps that might turn up an unfavorable result when it comes time to perform the audit examination.
The time to complete the SOC2 readiness process can vary widely and is a function of the scope and complexity of the organization’s systems and infrastructure. Another significant factor is the current information security maturity level of the organization. If the organization has a significant number of gaps in internal controls, it may take longer to take appropriate steps to remediate these gaps to an appropriate risk level. The readiness process also allows the organization time to properly draft their System Description, an important component of the SOC2 report. The System Description is a narrative that describes important aspects of the organization’s system and controls. The SOC2 readiness process will typically take 4-12 weeks.
A SOC2 examination is at its heart a risk-based assessment of an organization’s control environment relative to one or more of the five Trust Services Categories: Security, Availability, Processing Integrity, Confidentiality, and Privacy. SOC2 examinations are an exercise in third-party risk, allowing one company to make informed decisions before trusting another company with an important business function or with sensitive client data. The value of the SOC2 is that they are the exclusive product of properly licensed AICPA registered CPA firms, which are subject to strict ethics and independence rules.
Let’s consider the typical timing for an organization getting their first SOC2 Report. Assuming a client has completed the readiness process, the first SOC2 report is completed immediately after. Most organizations complete a SOC2 Type 1 examination for the first audit. The SOC2 Type 1 is a report that is presented as of a certain date (Think of it as a snapshot on a certain day). In a SOC2 Type 1 the auditor addresses content of the System Description, and the suitability of the design of the organizations controls but does not test the operating effectiveness of them. Typically, a final report can be delivered within 30 days after the examination date.
Once the SOC2 Type 1 has been completed, the clock is running on completing the SOC2 Type 2 audit. The SOC2 Type 2 typically will take place 12 months from the completion of the SOC2 Type 1. During this year, the organization will not need to interact much with the auditor, however, when the SOC2 Type 2 audit begins a year later, the auditor will again assess the System Description (including any changes), the suitability of the design of the organizations controls, and this time, the operating effectiveness of those controls throughout the year (Think of it as a movie). After an organization completes their SOC2 Type 1, it’s critically important they continue to ensure that their control environment is working smoothly, as the auditor will return to check during the SOC2 Type 2.
We always strive to work as quickly as we can for our clients while not sacrificing attention to the details. Having completed hundreds of SOC2 examinations for clients around the world, we have developed extensive experience and processes to work with companies in almost every industry. Contact us today to learn more about how long it might take us to complete a SOC report for your organization.