It is difficult to imagine where we would be in today’s world of technology if the cloud (or cloud computing) hadn’t become a critical component of information technology (IT) infrastructure and one of the most commonly used technological sources for the on-demand delivery of IT services.
Utilizing the power of cloud technology, you can now provide access to sophisticated operation networks, storage, servers, and so on with just a few clicks of a button. However, cloud computing does more than appear cool; it enables businesses of all sizes to rapidly adapt to changing customer resource requirements.
With cloud services becoming such an integral part of how the majority of businesses and enterprises conduct their day-to-day operations, the United States federal government saw it as necessary to implement the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) compliance standard to ensure the security and dependability of cloud services, particularly those used by the federal government.
What is FedRAMP?
The Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) is a federal initiative that provides a standardized way to evaluate, authorize, and monitor the security of cloud products and services.
It was created by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in collaboration with the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Department of Defense (DoD). It was also assigned to be represented on the Joint Authorization Board (JAB).
With the “Cloud First” mandate requiring federal agencies to leverage cloud-based solutions whenever secure, reliable, cost-effective cloud options exist, the FedRAMP compliance standard is a requirement to do business with federal agencies to sell products and services for commercial enterprises.
Here are five frequently asked questions to learn what FedRAMP is, its applicability for your business, and what you would need to do to implement this regulatory standard if required.
- How does FedRAMP seek to conduct evaluations for cloud computing services?
FedRAMP creates uniform and standard rules and requirements for all agencies by establishing a baseline set of security evaluation criteria for cloud services. It also enables agencies to reuse assessments and authorizations, allowing a cloud service provider to be certified only once rather than multiple times by different agencies.
FedRAMP also provides agencies with standardized sales contract language that includes FedRAMP requirements and best practices they can use when negotiating a sale with a cloud computing provider. In other words, FedRAMP’s do once, use many times strategy reduces costs, saves time, and streamlines and improves the quality of cloud computing security assessments for all federal government agencies.
- Is FedRAMP mandatory?
FedRAMP is required for all executive branch cloud deployments and service models with Low, Moderate, or High-risk effects.
- How is a Cloud Service Provider (CSP) listed on FedRAMP’s marketplace?
The FedRAMP Marketplace offers three advertising designations: FedRAMP Ready, FedRAMP In Process, and FedRAMP Authorized.
- FedRAMP Ready shows that a CSP’s readiness for the authorization process has been attested to by a Third Party Assessment Organization (3PAO) and that a Readiness Assessment Report (RAR) has been reviewed and authorized by the FedRAMP Program Management Office (PMO). The RAR documents the CSP’s ability to satisfy FedRAMP security requirements.
- FedRAMP In Process is a designation given to CSPs actively pursuing FedRAMP Authorization with the Joint Authorization Board (JAB) or a government agency.
- CSPs with the FedRAMP Authorized designation have effectively finished the FedRAMP Authorization process with the JAB or a federal agency. This designation signifies that the CSP’s security package is accessible for review and reuse by the agency. Private cloud offerings are not listed on the FedRAMP Marketplace because they do not meet the do once, use many times purpose, and thus, the security packages must be reusable.
- What is a Third Party Assessment Organization (3PAO)?
3PAOs are important in the authorization process because they assess the security of a Cloud Service Offering (CSO). They perform initial and periodic assessments of cloud systems as independent third parties to ensure they satisfy FedRAMP requirements. The federal government relies on 3PAO assessments to make informed, risk-based authorization choices for cloud products and services. The American Association for Laboratory Accreditation has certified 3PAOs (A2LA).
In addition to their important role in assessing cloud services, 3PAOs are used as consultants by some Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) to help prepare security documentation or provide security advisory services. When CSPs use 3PAO advisors, they must choose a different 3PAO to assess their cloud service to guarantee impartiality. In addition, a FedRAMP-accredited Third Party Assessment Organization (3PAO) must conduct a penetration test as part of the assessment or testing process for Moderate and
- How to validate the independence and the quality of a 3PAO?
To become a FedRAMP-recognized 3PAO, the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA) must conduct an initial assessment of the 3PAO and submit a first evaluation suggestion to FedRAMP for approval. A2LA must conduct a favorable annual review and a full on-site reassessment every two years for a 3PAO to retain its FedRAMP recognition. A2LA assessments guarantee that 3PAOs comply with ISO/IEC 17020 and FedRAMP-specific knowledge requirements.
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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.
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