What is SOC 2 automation software and why do you need it? Let's dive in...

86% of IT pros say SOC 2 compliance is important. But, if you've gone through a SOC 2 audit or you run your compliance program manually, you know it can also be time-consuming, expensive, and frustrating.

This is why—as SOC 2 compliance becomes required earlier and more often by more industries—fast-growing companies are turning to automation software to help them get (and stay) compliant without all the headaches of doing it manually.

There is no magic solution that will make your company instantly compliant. However, good SOC 2 automation software can help you understand what you need to do to get compliant, and great software can automate the monitoring and evidence collection of that compliance posture over time, instantly alerting you when gaps form or your posture is at risk.

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What is SOC 2 Automation Software?

SOC 2 automation software helps you stay SOC 2 compliant via 24-7 security control monitoring across your SaaS services.

A good automation tool should give you control across your security program and instant visibility into your compliance status. It should also eliminate the complicated headaches of manual monitoring, evidence collection, and compliance audits, saving your team significant time and money.

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The Benefits of SOC 2 Automation Software

Automation software saves time

If you're running your compliance program manually, you're likely devoting a significant amount of time to tedious tasks like manipulating spreadsheets and pivot tables, organizing screenshots and other evidence in shared folders, and manually tracking incidents, assets, and vendors.

One of the main benefits of SOC 2 automation software is that all those tasks pretty much disappear. The system handles evidence collection, onboarding and training for personnel, tracking of vendors and assets, risk assessment, and control mapping. It provides reports on demand. And it offers simple dashboards where you can check status in an instant.

It's report-ready

When a prospective customer asks for assurance, the manual process of answering security questionnaires can take a long time. With an automated system, real-time reports can be generated to answer security questionnaires and auditors can download available control evidence with only a few clicks. This is simpler for your team, for your prospective customers, and for the auditors.

It saves money

Time is money, as they say, so if your teams are spending hours, weeks, or even months getting your compliance program off the ground or back on track, you're losing money and productivity. Not to mention any budget that goes to partners, consultants, or new tools. With SOC 2 automation software, you can eliminate many of those costs.

It maintains security

SOC 2 isn't just about proving security, it's about being secure. Having the right controls in place for customer data, confidential information, and system availability will keep your business running smoothly, give leadership peace of mind, and save you from potential legal issues and customer churn. Automation software makes sure your security program keeps running smoothly once it's established and in place—not only for audits, but for all the benefits that secure systems bring your business.

It gives you insights

How can you improve security? Do your privacy protections need updating? Are employees playing fast and loose with your standards? Automation software can help you get insights into how your security program is operating at any given point and where you can improve.

It reduces the risk of human error

18% of unplanned downtime is caused by human error. Automation can mitigate this risk, partly because it takes repetitive tasks off our to-do lists and completes them the same way every time, and partly because it can alert us to changes in human behavior.

If, for example, an employee fails to complete the required security training, the system will notify you. If someone tries to access something they shouldn't, it'll trigger an alert. This mitigates not only the risk of a malicious attack on your systems or data, but also the risk of honest mistakes (like forgetting to finish a task) that could derail your compliance.

It makes life easier for your auditors

Good automation software means faster audits and happier auditors.

Instead of relying on spot checks and assuming compliance has been continuous, they can confirm continuous compliance via monitoring and reports.

Instead of collecting evidence from multiple sources and confirming through multiple avenues, they can pull evidence directly from your SOC 2 automation tool.

This means less back-and-forth between auditor and company, which means a faster and cheaper process for both the auditor and the company. Win-win.

Features of Top SOC 2 Automation Tools

What should you look for in your automation tool? The answers boil down to ease of use, depth and breadth of integrations, and features that take the burden of compliance off your team as much as possible.

The best tools are built by companies who practice what they preach. Look for companies with in-depth security and compliance experience, and their own solid SOC 2 compliance program. After all, if your vendor's security is messy, how can they keep yours sharp and aligned with industry standards?

As for features, we recommend looking for a solution that has:

A single-tenant database architecture

Single-tenant DB architecture means your data is never stored with another customer's data in the same database. It means you have your own tenant database where only your company's data lives. This mitigates risk, ensures confidentiality, and allows you more customization options within your tool (since your data isn't connected to anyone else's).

Currently, the only SOC 2 automation software on the market with a single-tenant database architecture is Drata. We built it this way because we believe strongly in walking the walk and earning the trust of our customers - to not take shortcuts when it comes to protecting their data.

Continuous (24-7) control monitoring

Spot checks are no longer enough. You need a system that will monitor your compliance continuously and alert you quickly if your security is at risk. For example, systems should alert you if contractor access isn't terminated at the end of a contract or if a new employee skips part of the security onboarding process, or a new customer database that was created isn't encrypted at rest - now extrapolate across hundreds of controls!

Automated evidence collection

Doing away with complicated spreadsheets, folders full of screenshots, and other manual compliance tracking hassles is the point of automation software. If the tool you're looking at doesn't automatically collect evidence and generate real-time, sharable reports upon request, run in the other direction.

Employee onboarding and offboarding

Trackable, consistent employee onboarding and offboarding is a key part of SOC 2 compliance. Look for a system that lets you automate the process, track security training, get employees to read and sign off on procedures, and flag issues before they arise (for example, flagging if a security training is due by tomorrow and hasn't been completed).

Vendor management

Getting your own internal security ducks in a row is important, but your compliance also relies on your vendors. This is why any good automation software should include vendor management.

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Auditor-approved security policies

Keeping up with the latest security policies is a hefty task. The best automation software gives you a head start by providing auditor-approved security policies you can use as a foundation to develop your compliance program.

Simple, straightforward tools

Your new software should be easy to use and configurable. This means custom controls, a straightforward dashboard, and intuitive interfaces. It should also mean great customer support whenever you have questions about the tool or want to suggest a new feature.

Compliance experts on call

Most tools will offer you some tech support, but the best of the best will also offer you support from compliance experts. In-app messaging and support can make the difference between a good system and one truly set up with customer success top of mind.

Steps to SOC 2 Compliance

So, you know you need automation software and a good compliance program. You understand what to look for. But what now? What are the next steps? Where exactly does your automation software come into the picture?

1. Establish your security program

If you've already purchased automation software, use your vendor's expertise to help you get off the ground. If you haven't, this is the time to develop your security program and evaluate the best software to help you get and stay compliant.

At this stage, you should be thinking about security processes, encryption, firewalls, and other best practices you want to put in place. You'll identify the primary risks to your business and factor these into your early decisions about process, policies, what you'll need to monitor, and when you'll need alerts from your automation software.

2. Monitor, gather evidence, and alert

Make sure you've got automated monitoring and evidence gathering set up and customize your alerts to give you a head's up whenever compliance is at risk based on your specific activity (or inactivity).

3. Simplify your audits

Now that your security program is established and your automation software is providing continuous monitoring, utilize your software's reports and evidence library to simplify the SOC 2 audit process.

4. Maintain your program over time

No security program is set-it-and-forget-it, no matter how good your automation software. Put someone in charge. Make sure they check in regularly, keep an eye on new developments (such as new privacy laws in the markets you serve), and update your automation software as needed (for example: by changing alert criteria or updating your employee onboarding process).

Automation software should make compliance much less complicated and should take a lot of the busywork off your teams' plates, but you'll still need someone keeping an eye on your program and using the new alerts, reports, and monitoring to stay far ahead of any risks.

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