Working within an established set of guidelines is important for any business. For companies that deal with sensitive information such as customer data, procurement information, and bank transactions, the need for data security is further increased. ISO regulations are aimed at establishing an agreed set of practices that are aimed at increasing the standards of business operations across multiple industries.
Beyond the IT sector, ISO sets standards for manufacturing, data usage and storage, and even environmental sustainability practices.
A description of ISO
Simply put, ISO is a short form for “International Organization for Standardization”. It all began in 1946 with a delegation from 25 countries. The delegation had a mission for coordinating a set of industrial standards that would be practiced by all member states. This set the precedent of establishing a common set of underlying regulations that would be required by all member organizations. ISO has now grown to become a 162-member organization that has over 700 technical committees.
From its humble beginnings as an industrial standardization body, ISO has expanded into many different areas of businesses, such as data security, information storage, and manufacturing processes.
ISO in the IT Sector
The set of standardized regulations that apply to the informational security sector is ISO 27001. This guiding principle is particularly targeted at Information Security Management Systems (ISMS). The ISO 27001 ISMS guidelines take on a risk approach basis to people, IT systems, and processes. They are aimed at outlining and managing the risk of information systems being compromised by unwanted parties.
Because ISO 27001 is based primarily on a risk approach, more companies can implement these standards into their operations in order to gain the necessary certification. Business often needs to understand the needs of their customers and stakeholders when determining the need for ISO 27001 certification. In addition, this certification is based on an on-going basis of systems and processes that are primarily tailored towards maintaining a high level of efficiency and security of information systems.
The potential risks that are associated with poorly managed Information Security Management Systems (ISMS) can be extensive. With more companies dealing with larger amounts of sensitive information, customers and other stakeholders are becoming more aware of how their personal information is being handled by businesses. If your company is unable to ensure the security of its customers’ information, this can lead to a loss of business opportunities. That is one of the reasons why ISO 27001 Certification is important in the IT sector.
What does an ISO Certification involve?
ISO certification mainly involves establishing and adhering to a core set of principles that will ensure your business meets the required standards. In ISO 27001, this core set of standards mainly applies to business processes that deal with information management and security. When a business is being evaluated for certification, there are several important areas that are evaluated. These include:
- Control of documents and records
An intricate process that carefully tracks the issuing, filing and storage of individual documents and records is a key piece of ISO certification. This is because careful record keeping allows the business to retrieve important information whenever it is needed. It is also easier to manage risks that may be associated with any compromised documents within the system.
- Internal review processes
To ensure compliance with ISO, it is important for the business to carry out regular internal audits of its processes. An internal audit can typically be carried out by a company employee or other internal stakeholder who will ensure that the right data safety processes are adhered to. Internal review processes also ensure that you are prepared for the external audit that will directly impact ISO 27001 certification process.
- Evaluation for non-conformance
Non-conformance is the event where something happens within the business that was not planned. For example, information systems could crash or human error could creep-in when handling certain processes. Every business that is seeking ISO certification should have a corrective action plan that is in place to correct for non-conformance issues. This will determine the ability of the business to be flexible to emergent issues that may arise.
Importance of Getting ISO certified
Companies in the data and information technology sector should seek ISO certification for many different reasons.
- To implement better business processes
ISO standardization is not only aimed at compliance, it is also aimed at improving the efficiency of core business operations. In particular, ISO 27001 standards work across industry lines to evaluate what is best for keeping operational costs down while protecting the sensitive data of customers and other stakeholders.
- Attracting more business
Customers typically want to ensure that their information is being handled safely by businesses. This includes financial information and other personal data that may be handled by such businesses.
Companies that are ISO certified have shown that they have implemented ISMS systems and processes that are aimed at reducing the risk factors associated with customer data.
- Understanding ISO Audits
For your business to obtain and continue holding its ISO certification, regular audits will need to be taken to ensure continuous compliance. ISO audits can take on many different forms. Some of the most common audit types include:
- Internal audits
Internal audits involve self-checking mechanisms that are implanted internally by the business. They are aimed at ensuring that the company is ready for the ISO auditors to come in and establish compliance.
- Certification audits
The certification audit is the actual process that involves ISO auditors coming in and establishing compliance to risk factors that affect ISO 27001. Once your business is established as compliant, a certificate will be issued for a 3-year period, subject to on-going audits (surveillance audits) at least once a year.
In conclusion, ISO certification is important for businesses in many different industries. The IT sector is subject to ISO 27001 compliance, which specifically targets ISMS systems. Through a combination of internal processes, audits, and risk mitigation, businesses can ensure that they manage their ISMS systems in a manner that reduces costs and attracts more business.
Ken Lynch is an enterprise software startup veteran, who has always been fascinated about what drives workers to work and how to make work more engaging. Ken founded Reciprocity to pursue just that. He has propelled Reciprocity’s success with this mission-based goal of engaging employees with the governance, risk, and compliance goals of their company in order to create more socially minded corporate citizens. Ken earned his BS in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering from MIT.