Businesses are becoming increasingly dependent on technology to run their businesses in today’s fast-paced digital landscape. This has led to a proportional increase in the cyber risks they face from bad internal actors, malicious external hackers, and criminal applications like ransomware and malware. In such an environment, it is crucial to guarantee the security and continuity of digital infrastructure. One of the ways to do that is by getting attested to the System and Organization Controls (SOC) 2 compliance framework.
For evaluating the security, accessibility, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy of customer data, SOC 2 offers a thorough set of principles and criteria. The way SOC 2 does this is through extensive documentation—including the creation of a strong business continuity plan (BCP). Organizations need to create a robust business continuity plan to help auditors better assess their data security practices and certify that they are adherent to the principles of the SOC 2 regulatory standard.
When unforeseen disruptions or disasters occur, a well-designed BCP protects crucial business processes and guarantees that services are provided continuously. It provides:
- A detailed road map for reducing risks.
- Cutting downtime.
- Keeping stakeholders’ and customers’ trust.
In this blog, we will explore the fundamentals of developing a successful business continuity plan especially suited for SOC 2 compliance. This article will cover the purpose of a business continuity plan in achieving SOC 2 compliance, the steps to writing one, the questions an organization should ask while formulating their business continuity plan, and the best practices to follow.
What is the Purpose of a Business Continuity Plan?
The main purpose of a business continuity plan is to pinpoint precautions and recovery measures that can help a company resume operations and services as soon as possible after a disaster.
For instance, most company activities rely significantly on technology and automated processes, and even a brief disruption of these systems may have serious consequences. Think about a Zoom outage, for instance. This may affect crucial projects, deals, and meetings with coworkers, clients, and prospects. A business that has a business continuity strategy and has chosen an alternative video meeting tool will be able to recover more quickly than a business without one.
There needs to be aware of potential crises that could have an impact on crucial organizational tools, systems, and competencies, as well as a plan to deal with them if you want to make sure your business continues to run as smoothly as possible despite system failures, cyber-attacks, natural disasters, and other significant disruptions.
Business continuity planning is crucial for achieving and maintaining compliance with SOC 2 and many other security and privacy frameworks. Now, let’s learn the steps to writing the business continuity plan for your company.
How to Write a Business Continuity Plan?
Here are the steps you need to follow to create a well-suited business continuity plan (BCP) at your organization:
- Identify and Investigate Your Risks
The first major task of writing a BCP is identifying the risks or threats in your environment and determining how they might impact your operations. For example, some environmental hazards may cause physical damage to your building. Other types of threats may impact your staff and their families.
The risks most threatening to your operations must be resolved on priority.
- Prioritize the Critical Functions at Your Organization
The next important step is determining the equipment, programs, and abilities that are vital to your business operations and how important it is to ensure their recovery as soon as you can after a significant disruption.
You should assess what resources would be needed to restore these systems, tools, and abilities to resume the mission-critical services and processes they comprise. Some resource requirements include facilities, staff, equipment, software, data files, system components, and essential documents. This will make it easier to order healing activities according to priority levels.
- Determine Processes for Risk Mitigation
Now that you are aware of your organization’s specific hazards and essential components, you are prepared to develop an action plan.
You can start by determining techniques to eliminate the hazards you identified in Step 1. Decide on measures to limit their influence if that isn’t practicable. For instance, it is hard to eradicate the hazard posed by environmental dangers like snowstorms completely. Instead, if a snowstorm makes it impossible or challenging to come to the office, you can set up a method to have your staff members and contractors work remotely. To do this, it will be necessary for each employee and contractor to have access to the same materials, tools, and communications.
These mitigating measures should be implemented as soon as feasible since they are intended to eliminate or decrease the effects of a threat before a crisis.
- Figure Out Ways to Recover the More Critical Elements of Your Business Operations
Your next step is to devise as many ways as possible to cope with the loss of each crucial component indicated in step 2 because it is difficult to eradicate all the risks facing your organization completely.
Installing security systems, fire alarms, and antivirus software, for instance, can all be regarded as tactics to foresee and recover from the loss of essential components brought on by theft, vandalism, environmental risks, cyberattacks, and other dangers.
To plan for and recover from the loss of mission-critical assets as effectively as possible before, during, and after a crisis, it is important to develop as many preparedness measures as possible. You can eliminate tactics that take too much time or are ineffective during the review or testing stage.
- Create an SOP that Details How Your Business Will Respond to Crises
You can take action to enhance the effectiveness and caliber of your organization’s crisis response now that plans and tactics are in place, which will aid in your ability to return to work as soon as feasible.
Create a recovery team to evaluate your losses and launch recovery efforts following a disaster. Your BCP can include a list of the team’s roles and responsibilities.
- Update Your Business Continuity Plan Regularly
Your backup strategy is a dynamic document. It needs to be revised to account for your company’s changing risks and requirements. Your BCP has to reflect these changes, whether you’re implementing new software that breaks unexpectedly or adding a new management team member.
It’s critical to keep this and other documentation current for ongoing compliance.
What Questions Should an Organization’s Business Continuity Plan Answer?
Here are ten questions your organization’s business continuity plan must answer:
- Does the BCP have a risk and impact analysis that includes all important business processes and IT systems?
- Do you have a clear plan for returning to normal operations after a security incident and retrieving your data?
- Do you have a plan for contacting your staff, customers, and other stakeholders in case of an incident?
- Do you have policies to instruct staff members on responding to security incidents, including their roles and responsibilities?
- Does the incident management procedure adhere to ISO/IEC 27035 as a global standard, the standard for information security incident management, which describes the principles, processes, and methods for managing and resolving security incidents and consists of five phases: plan and prepare, detect and report, assess and decide, respond, and learn and improve.
- Do you have a plan to inform and educate staff about incident response protocols and how to report incidents?
- Is the organization’s risk management approach integrated with the procedures for routinely assessing and updating the incident response plan?
- Are incident response protocols evaluated and practiced, and are the outcomes used to enhance the incident response strategy?
- Do the incident response team members have a working knowledge of the BCP’s testing and exercise procedures to ensure their effectiveness?
- Does the BCP periodically reflect changes to the organization’s IT systems and infrastructure? If not, are there mechanisms in place to evaluate and update it?
The answers to these questions can assist you in determining the BCP of your organization’s strengths and weaknesses and the areas that require improvement. It is important to remember that the BCP should be evaluated and tested frequently to ensure it is still relevant and effective.
What are the Best Practices for Business Continuity Planning for SOC 2 Compliance?
Here are three best practices you may follow to ensure that you craft an ideal business continuity plan for your organization:
- Avoid Being Dependent on Your SaaS Vendors
Yes, you can move your infrastructure and other important assets to SaaS. However, by doing so, you take on all of the SaaS vendor’s controls and transfer a full liability in the event of a failure to them. The decision to develop a fail-over strategy and use redundant solutions ultimately rests with you.
You must be careful about the details of your contract with SaaS vendors if you plan to rely on them. Here are some points to keep in mind.
- What occurs if the SaaS services or networks, or systems malfunction?
- How would a lack of connectivity or system availability affect your essential operations and services?
- What time frame for service restoration is anticipated or promised?
- What responsibilities fall under each party’s purview in the event of a failure?
It is especially crucial to consider the last question in advance. Many businesses wait until after a tragedy to determine the who, what, when, where, and why of recovery.
Conduct an Impact Assessment on Your Crucial Business Functions. You must conduct an impact analysis on your system to identify the assets essential to its operation. Your evaluation must include implemented technologies at your company, intellectual property, tools, software, and financial procedures to maintain cash flow, and methods to locate personnels and verify they are still reachable in case of a disaster.
Companies frequently underestimate the size of their network, failing to catalog crucial assets until it is too late. Making an inventory of all the resources in your network is one method to get this exploration started. Numerous paid and unpaid tools may perform this finding and show the physical devices and the software that has been put on them. Start labeling the assets essential to your business operations with this inventory. Remember that data is also a valuable resource. Although it can be simple to categorize a collection of SaaS servers as mission-critical at first, these systems depend on a crucial database or file share located elsewhere on the network.
- Test your business continuity plan in action
The best time to test and improve your plan is ideally before an emergency arises because your plan won’t be perfect the first time. Exercises at the table are a good method to test your idea proactively. You may effectively discuss the plan’s contents and find any gaps or potential areas for development by using these activities, which should be carried out with a cross-functional team. Tabletop exercises are a great opportunity to gather the team and practice recovering a file, database, or even a whole server from a technical perspective. Please consider all the input you get from the exercises, whether positive or negative and utilize it to frequently update your disaster plan to keep it current with your business requirements.
You don’t want your company to be one of the many that shut down following a significant incident. Take the time to examine and modify your SaaS contracts, inventory your software and hardware assets, and create a comprehensive disaster recovery plan as part of your overall risk management approach. As part of your business continuity planning, test this plan frequently. When a calamity comes, doing this preparedness beforehand will save you headaches and possibly your clientele.
SOC 2 Compliance Readiness with Akitra!
Establishing trust is a crucial competitive differentiator when courting new SaaS businesses in today’s era of data breaches and compromised privacy. Customers and partners want assurances that their organizations are doing everything possible to prevent disclosing sensitive data and putting them at risk, and compliance certification fills that need.
Akitra offers an industry-leading, AI-powered Compliance Automation platform for SaaS companies. Using automated evidence collection and continuous monitoring, together with a full suite of customizable policies and controls as a compliance foundation, our compliance automation platform and service help our customers prepare readiness for the SOC 2 compliance standard, along with other security frameworks like SOC 1, HIPAA, GDPR, PCI DSS, ISO 27001, ISO 27701, ISO 27017, ISO 27018, NIST CSF, NIST 800-53, NIST 800-171, FedRAMP, CMMC, and more such as CIS AWS Foundations Benchmark, etc. In addition, companies can use Akitra’s Risk Management product for overall risk management for your company, Trust Center, and AI-based Automated Questionnaire Response product to streamline and expedite security questionnaire response processes delivering huge cost savings. Our compliance and security experts will provide customized guidance to navigate the end-to-end compliance process confidently.
The benefits of our solution include enormous savings in time, human resources, and cost savings, including discounted audit fees with our audit firm partners. Customers achieve compliance certification fast and cost-effectively, stay continuously compliant as they grow, and can become certified under additional frameworks using a single compliance automation platform.
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