Whether you’re using SOC 2 or another framework such as ISO 27001 or HIPAA, robust security and compliance processes are critical components of establishing trust and growing your customer base. Passing an independent audit and receiving a clean audit report will help demonstrate to your customers that you are a trustworthy partner.
For that, you’ll need to choose an auditing firm, which can be more difficult than you would think. Not only will the right auditor perform the audit, but he or she will also assist you in better understanding how to improve any areas of weakness. If you’ve hired the wrong auditing firm, you may have to deal with audit completion delays, improper guidance, and an eye-popping invoice.
Finding the right SOC 2 auditor is perhaps the most important step of the audit phase of the compliance journey. This is why our compliance experts at Akitra have outlined a few basic rules of thumb you should keep in mind when hiring an auditor or a firm.
Read on to find out more!
What Should Your Auditor be Providing You with?
Audit firm services can involve both broad-spectrum audit services and specific niche services such as risk assessment or even penetration testing.
Are you new to SOC 2 and looking for someone to guide you through the compliance readiness process? Or do you already have compliance experience under your belt, and all you need now is a skilled auditor to conduct the audit?
It will be helpful if you know the answer to these questions before you start looking for the right audit firm to help you with your SOC 2 audit.
When Should You Start Looking for an Audit Firm?
If you are conducting the search on your own, start your search three months or so before you want the audit process to begin if all you need is the audit (no consultation along the way). This will allow you to assess firms, complete paperwork, and get on their calendar.
Start as soon as possible if you choose to employ an audit firm to guide you through the SOC 2 compliance process and assist you as you implement controls and policies. However, keep in mind that the emergence of compliance automation services has made some of these services from audit firms far less relevant. The compliance automation service, along with the support that comes with it, may provide you with all the guidance you need. And the compliance automation firm will likely also provide you with a short list of recommended auditors who already know that automation platform.
If that’s the case and you are indeed using an automation service, you will only need the audit firm for the audit itself. This can drastically cut the cost of compliance, both for the readiness phase as well as the audit phase, of course. Those savings are significant even in Year One, and multiply over the years.
Characteristics of Your Ideal Audit Firm
Here’s what you should be looking for:
1. They are familiar with your industry
It is important to understand that compliance will translate differently based on your specific industry. For example, if you’re a FinTech firm working with banks, your requirements will be different than if you’re a healthcare SaaS company working with big hospitals. If you’re a US-based company working towards SOC 2 compliance, your compliance obligations will be different than if you’re a Europe-based service provider, working towards ISO 27001 compliance.
When selecting an audit firm, look for someone familiar with not just your industry, but also with your size of company. As a result, start your auditor interviews with inquiries about their business experience and requests for industry references.
2. They speak in language you can understand
You should look for an auditor who speaks the language of your industry. If they are unfamiliar with your part of the SaaS industry, talking over your head or using obscure compliance jargon, that’s a red flag. Miscommunication and frustration are much more likely to occur. Instead, you want someone who can explain things to you in a straightforward, industry-specific manner.
3. They know the tools you’re using
Nothing is more annoying than talking to your auditor about the cloud services and platforms you’re using and seeing their eyes glaze over. Do they understand what you mean when you say AWS S3? Github? Bitbucket? Jira? DevOps? If they don’t seem to get it when you start talking about your tech stack and your operations, head for the exit. You want an audit firm that knows something about the tools of your trade.
4. They answer your questions with confidence
Your auditor must be able to answer your audit questions. They should be able to confidently clear away your confusion and allay your concerns.
Before speaking with an auditor, we recommend gaining a fundamental understanding of compliance and then asking them questions such as:
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of SOC 2 Type 1 vs. Type 2?
- Is it possible for you to explain the HIPAA security rule and the breach notification rule?
- What’s the difference between a SOC 2 and an ISO 27001 certification?
- Have you ever worked with a compliance automation system?
5. They have relevant compliance experience
While any CPA firm can legally conduct a compliance audit, you should look for one with extensive security compliance experience. Request references and check to see if they are current and relevant to your industry. If the firm’s previous SOC 2 audit was nine months ago, they’re clearly not focused on the information security area of audit practice so their skills will be rusty. Likewise, they might not be a good fit for you if they have few or no references in your industry.
6. They make you part of the process
You don’t want to be clueless about compliance auditing. It’s a recurring cycle that you have to go through every year, so you want to understand it in sufficient depth to be able to navigate compliance efficiently.
That’s why when you do hire an auditor or a firm, you should be perceptive as to whether they are providing you with explanations as they proceed. They should also ask you sufficient questions to make sure they understand everything about your program and the rationale behind it. And if they do come across a potential issue, you want someone who will bring it to your attention in a timely way so you can figure out if there is a real security vulnerability, or identify missing evidence, and/or simply resolve the problem right away.
Automate Your SOC 2 Compliance with Akitra
Regardless of the audit firm you choose for your SOC 2 audit, you can always make things easier both for your organization and for the auditor by automating the compliance process. Akitra can provide your company with a compliance automation solution that will streamline your SOC 2 readiness process and make you audit-ready in less than half the time and at less than half the cost of traditional, manual evidence-gathering and auditing processes.
To book your FREE DEMO and find out more about Akitra’s solution, contact us right here.