SOC 2 vs SOC 3: What's the difference?
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April 24, 2020

SOC 2 vs SOC 3: What's the difference?

SOC 2 vs SOC 3 reporting and compliance

You’ve heard about SOC reports, and you know there are three of them: SOC 1, SOC 2, and SOC 3. But which ones does your company need? How are they different from each other? Are there any benefits from SOC 2 vs SOC 3?

In this post, we’ll focus on the differences between SOC 2 vs SOC 3, and set SOC 1 aside.

SOC 2 and SOC 3 definitions

SOC 2 and SOC 3 audit and reporting standards are established by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA). Both reports assess and document an organization’s verified security practices. Both SOC 2 and SOC 3 reports are for companies that handle customer data.

SOC 2 and SOC 3 are also used for companies that work with larger enterprises who want to ensure that their vendors are secure. SOC 2 defines criteria for managing customer data based on five “trust service principles":

  • Security
  • Availability
  • Processing Integrity
  • Confidentiality
  • Privacy

All SOC 2 reports include the Security category; the other categories are optional, and relevant to your company depending on the commitments your customers expect. To complete a SOC 2, your company’s security measures must be reviewed and verified by a certified auditor.

SOC 2 reports include detailed information about a company’s systems, and the use of these reports is restricted — companies share their SOC 2 with customers and prospects under NDA. These reports can’t be posted anywhere publicly.‍

What is a SOC 3 report?

SOC 3 reports are developed from the same audit process that yields SOC 2 reports. When it comes to the differences between SOC 3 vs SOC 2 reports, think of SOC 3 as a redacted SOC 2 report. SOC 3 summarizes the material of a SOC 2, and excludes details and results of the testing performed during the audit.

A SOC 2 report must be written in order to prepare a SOC 3 report. Companies can freely post SOC 3 reports on their websites and use them for sales and marketing purposes.

Your company can utilize a SOC 3 vs an SOC 2 report if you have customers or prospects who need assurance about your organization’s verified security practices — but may not need the specific details of a SOC 2 report, or have the knowledge base to utilize its technical information.

Your company should decide if your customer base is seeking the detail provided in a SOC 2, or if they only require the high-level summary of the SOC 3. You will still undertake the same audit process, but you may find that the SOC 3 is most useful to your customers and prospects.

In other words, sharing a SOC 3 report communicates at a high level that you’ve completed the SOC 2 audit process.

The difference between SOC 2 and SOC 3

SOC 2 and SOC 3 reports are both reports that detail your security controls, but how do you know which one is the right fit for your business? Beyond the overviews of each report above, let’s look at some of the details that separate SOC 2 and SOC 3 reports.

Price difference of SOC 2 vs SOC 3

Cost is always a consideration when you decide which security certifications to pursue. So how do the costs of SOC 2 and SOC 3 compare?

The price of both a SOC 2 and a SOC 3 report will vary greatly depending on the complexity of your organization and your security. However, the costs are similar because the steps required in an audit are similar for both, so expect a SOC 2 report and SOC 3 report to cost roughly the same. Because the audits are nearly the same, if you’re pursuing a SOC 2 report, you can often request a SOC 3 report from the same auditor for a small added fee.

Who can perform SOC 2 vs SOC 3 reports?

Both SOC 2 and SOC 3 reports must be prepared by AICPA-approved auditors who are outside your organization. In fact, many auditors offer both SOC 2 and SOC 3 reports, so you can hire the same auditor or auditing firm for both.

Why customers may request SOC 2 or SOC 3 reports

A key difference between SOC 2 and SOC 3 reports is the way they’re used. SOC 2 reports are highly detailed accounts of your information security that customers request so they can know whether their data will be safe in your hands. Many customers, especially those in North America, will only do business with organizations that have SOC 2 reports if there is any data or confidential information involved.

SOC 3 reports, on the other hand, are usually distributed among the public rather than being requested by customers. SOC 3 reports are less technical and are designed as essentially marketing documents that showcase how secure you are without providing private details.

Understanding the differences between SOC 2 and SOC 3 reports

Thus, the primary differences between SOC 2 vs SOC 3 reports are the level of detail in each report, and the ways in which a company can share the report with its customers. One of the most significant differences between SOC vs SOC 3 reports are the levels of detail. A SOC 2 is a highly detailed, restricted-use report, while a SOC 3 is a summarized, general-use report.

Vanta can help your business determine which report is right for you, SOC 2 vs SOC 3. Vanta can also help your company obtain SOC 2 and SOC 3 reports that you can use to communicate your security status and satisfy customer inquiries.

Vanta connects to your tools and infrastructure to continuously monitor your systems for risks and vulnerabilities, and helps your company put robust security controls in place.

Vanta automates and simplifies the process of assessing your company’s security practices to make compliance faster, easier, and more streamlined than ever. Arm your sales force with Vanta security reports so your company can spend its time delivering on your business case. Contact us to get started on SOC reporting.

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PCI Compliance Selection Guide

Determine Your PCI Compliance Level

If your organization processes, stores, or transmits cardholder data, you must comply with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), a global mandate created by major credit card companies. Compliance is mandatory for any business that accepts credit card payments.

When establishing strategies for implementing and maintaining PCI compliance, your organization needs to understand what constitutes a Merchant or Service Provider, and whether a Self Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ) or Report on Compliance (ROC) is most applicable to your business.

Answer a few short questions and we’ll help identify your compliance level.


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Identify your PCI SAQ or ROC level

The PCI Security Standards Council has established the below criteria for Merchant and Service Provider validation. Use these descriptions to help determine the SAQ or ROC that best applies to your organization.

Good news! Vanta supports all of the following compliance levels:


A SAQ A is required for Merchants that do not require the physical presence of a credit card (like an eCommerce, mail, or telephone purchase). This means that the Merchant’s business has fully outsourced all cardholder data processing to PCI DSS compliant third party Service Providers, with no electronic storage, processing, or transmission of any cardholder data on the Merchant’s system or premises.

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A SAQ A-EP is similar to a SAQ A, but is a requirement for Merchants that don't receive cardholder data, but control how cardholder data is redirected to a PCI DSS validated third-party payment processor.

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for service providers

A SAQ D includes over 200 requirements and covers the entirety of PCI DSS compliance. If you are a Service Provider, a SAQ D is the only SAQ you’re eligible to complete.

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Level 1 for service providers

A Report on Compliance (ROC) is an annual assessment that determines your organization’s ability to protect cardholder data. If you’re a Merchant that processes over six million transactions annually or a Service Provider that processes more than 300,000 transactions annually, your organization is responsible for both a ROC and an Attestation of Compliance (AOC).

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Learn more about how Vanta can help. You can also find information on PCI compliance levels at the PCI Security Standards Council website or by contacting your payment processing partner.

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