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SOC 2 vs. ISO 27001 compliance: Why you need both

January 27, 2022

Cybersecurity is a major concern for any business today, and there’s no wondering why. A single data breach, whether the target is your own system or the system of a vendor or partner, can cost thousands or millions in expenses and even more in the loss of business that can come from breaking their customers’ trust. It’s no surprise, then, that many of your large clients or potential business partners will want to know the state of your information security.

Whether your organization is still emerging or your company is well-established, you’ve probably been asked for a SOC 2 certification, an ISO 27001 certification, or both. While these are both information security certifications, they aren’t interchangeable. In fact, let’s take a look at their similarities and differences and why your business needs both.

SOC 2 vs. ISO 27001: Similarities and differences

As you engage with new clients and partner with other businesses, you’ll find that most of them will request either SOC 2 or ISO 27001 compliance, but rarely if ever will you find someone who requests both of them. That’s because both of these security standards are effective ways to keep your data safe in similar ways, but they have several differences that set them apart too.

Similarity: Use cases

SOC 2 and ISO 27001 are designed with the same general purposes in mind. First, they’re both meant to guide you toward implementing crucial best practices for your information security so your data (and your customers’ data) is safer. Second, these protocols are designed to allow you to document your security protocols and practices so that you can give clients and partners a clear picture of how you’re protecting your sensitive information and theirs.

Similarity: Frameworks

In addition to having similar intentions, SOC 2 and ISO 27001 actually have a lot of overlap between the security controls they include. This isn’t surprising because so many of these controls are best practices that are widely agreed upon by today’s top information security experts.

Difference: Compliance requirements

While there is a lot of overlap between the security controls outlined in SOC 2 and ISO 27001, the two standards take different approaches to determining how many of those controls you actually need to implement to be compliant.

Both of these standards indicate that you only need to use the controls that are relevant to your business. However, ISO 27001 requires you to meet a rather wide range of the criteria and implement a large number of the security controls before you are considered ISO 27001 compliant.

SOC 2, on the other hand, is less rigid. It breaks up the security controls into five categories, and only one of the categories is truly mandatory for you to be compliant. For the four other controls, your SOC 2 report will indicate the controls that you have in place and they will make your SOC 2 report more attractive to clients and partners, but they aren’t mandatory.

Difference: Locations for use

SOC 2 and ISO 27001 are both very well-known in the security industry and in the technology industry. But each one is more commonly requested and more highly regarded in different geographical locations.

SOC 2 is generally the go-to security compliance certification in North America, so if you are doing business with organizations in North America, expect to be asked for a SOC 2 report. ISO 27001, on the other hand, is more popular throughout the rest of the world, so if you want to scale your business with organizations outside North America, you’ll need to have your ISO 27001 certification.

Why you need both SOC 2 and ISO 27001 compliance

Most people would consider SOC 2 and ISO 27001 to be more alike than they are different, so why do you need both? There are multiple reasons why having both of these compliance certifications will benefit your organization.

1. Expand your business’s potential

As we noted, most organizations you’ll do business with will want either a SOC 2 or an ISO 27001 certification. In North America, you’ll get requests for SOC 2 while you’ll get requests for ISO 27001 in most other parts of the world. But when an organization asks for one security certification, they typically won’t accept the other one.

While there is a lot of overlap between the two standards, most organizations have an established and extensive vetting process for high-level vendors and partners. This vetting process has been carefully planned, and they aren’t likely to change their criteria because you have a different security certification than the one they want.

2. Strengthen your security

SOC 2 and ISO 27001 don’t just exist as arbitrary paperwork. Following these standards will genuinely make your information security management system safer and more protected. When you’re implementing security protocols that make you compliant with both SOC 2 and ISO 27001, your system will be better guarded than it would be if you only focused on one of the two. That means you have a lower risk for a costly data breach.

How to jumpstart your SOC 2 and ISO 27001 compliance

If you want to protect your organization and open new doors by becoming SOC 2 compliant and ISO 27001 compliant, it is beneficial to use an automated compliance platform. Even more important is using a platform that can manage and automate both standards, so you don’t have to do double the work.

Vanta compliance automation is specifically designed for each of these standards to assess your compliance, give you access to simple templates and resources, and guide you along the way to being compliant with both. Learn more about getting SOC 2 and ISO 27001 certified.