Cloud Compliance Basics: How To Keep Your Business Compliant?

Payal Wadhwa

Payal Wadhwa

Apr 04, 2024

cloud compliance

Cloud computing provides agility and flexibility to businesses; however, it has inherent security risks, and each cloud infrastructure type has vulnerabilities. Unless you understand the risks and what steps need to be taken to keep your business safe, you are likely to choose the wrong provider and experience data breaches that can lead to penalties, court cases, reputation damage, and more.

In the face of increased cybersecurity threats on cloud-based systems, cloud compliance guarantees that the cloud provider’s services meet regulatory and internal policy standards. This blog is your quick guide to keeping your data safe in the cloud.

What is cloud compliance?

Cloud compliance is a process of ensuring that your cloud provider is following the regulatory norms laid down by the regulatory bodies where you conduct your business. Much like in driving, where drivers must always follow state and country traffic laws, organizations must also adhere to cloud regulations to maintain data security and confidentiality to conduct business in a particular region. There could be an interplay between local, national, and international regulations, industry standards, and international standards and you need to ensure that your provider is not putting you at risk of violating any of these compliance requirements.

Some top compliance standards accepted internationally for cloud environments include SOC 2, ISO 27001, NIST, PCI DSS, HIPAA, and more. Compliance gaps bring with them the possibility of unauthorized access, heavy fines, lawsuits, failures in Service Level Agreements, and reputation losses. It’s not a matter of penalty evasion but how you win customers’ trust and protect your brand.

Why is cloud compliance essential?

Cloud compliance shows the world that you care about the data of your customers, business partners, and stakeholders. People do business with those they trust, and compliance is the currency of trust as it helps you showcase that your standard for data security and security controls are acceptable to a universally held standard (compliance framework).

Why invest in cloud compliance?

Companies need to invest in cloud compliance as it is the first line of defense against security threats and privacy breaches. A good cloud compliance framework can help businesses minimize risk, avoid penalties and gives them a competitive edge in larger enterprise deals where security posture is a differentiating factor. 

Helps build trust and manage risk

Compliance measures matter since they protect customer’s confidential information from unauthorized persons and prevent breaches. By adopting these cloud compliance requirements, businesses protect people’s sensitive information and minimize operational and reputational risks. Compliance reports or compliance status helps build customer trust as it is seen as a measure of resilience against threat actors.

Avoid legal penalties

Depending on where you do business, you need to be compliant with frameworks laid out by the authorities, for example, to conduct business in the European Union, your cloud server would need to be GDPR compliant. A company that does not meet this may face steep fines for any compliance violation and can be forced to cease operations until they get the necessary compliance certifications and meet the necessary compliance objectives. 

Gives a competitive edge

Comprehensive compliance measures for cloud platforms can aid in establishing business differentiation amidst a competitive marketplace. Demonstrating commitment to data security and ethical practices makes it possible to win the attention of customers and partners who are conscientious about data integrity within their operating systems.

How To Ensure Cloud Compliance: Building A Compliant System

Here’s how you can navigate the complexities and ensure compliance with confidence. From analysis of compliance controls to security requirements, ensure that you take into account the following considerations when engaging a cloud vendor. 

1. Start with goals, outline policies and frameworks based on them.

Define objectives, identify applicable frameworks, policies, regulations, and rules, assign roles, and determine the procedures. A thorough and well-planned goal document is like a map used to maintain compliance and address regulatory complexities and help you get on the same page especially when working with a vendor.

2. Do a comprehensive risk analysis while onboarding. 

The best way to ensure compliance is to gatekeep at the starting line to ensure that you have a strong filter for onboarding your cloud vendor. Ensure you clearly understand what frameworks are important to your business, what compliances you need, and what measures are must-haves and good-to-haves internally before looking for a cloud vendor. Once you have all of these requirements, bake that into your RFP.

3. Create a governance and responsibility system with SLAs

Kick off your compliance process by working out the responsibility model. This model defines the roles of your Compliance team and those of the cloud service providers, which minimizes all security ambiguities and guarantees accountability. Be it Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) or Software as a Service (SaaS), clear split of roles and responsibilities plays a critical role in keeping compliance risk in check. It should also demarcate which party is responsible for different types of compliance tasks, compliance obligations and compliance failures. The best way of giving your Governance model teeth is to bake it into SLA (service level agreement) so if the cloud vendor violates it, there is grounds for termination of contract and also a clear understanding of the process for the same and the costs to be incurred. 

4. Keep all your documentation shareable and referenceable.

Instill and maintain an updated rigorous documentation process to support compliance measures. Ensure you have a shareable repository of policies, procedures, audit reports, and certifications and map them with regulatory requirements and best practices. You can maintain this manually or use a compliance automation system to track the status of relevant documentation. 

5. Use the right tools to ensure adherence & continuous compliance.

Include periodic internal audits and reporting as the key milestones of your compliance system. Audits shed light on gaps and the work that needs to be done. When coupled with exhaustive reporting, these audits become useful for making wise decisions and formulating future policy plans.

Integrating your cloud setup with a compliance automation solution can help you ensure that you aren’t overwhelmed trying to achieve compliance manually. Sprinto is a complete GRC & Compliance platform that lends granular, entity-level control over security policies and procedures while enabling automation at multiple levels. You can now implement and manage controls from a single dashboard and seamlessly adhere to compliances such as SOC 2, ISO27001, PCI-DSS, GDPR, and HIPAA certifications. 

Adopt a continuous monitoring and adaptation culture to stay ahead of compliance challenges. Regularly assess your compliance posture, monitor performance, and adapt measures to evolving regulatory landscapes and technological advancements.

6. Treat violations seriously (but solve them together)

Now that you know how to onboard your cloud vendor the best possible way and minimize your risk of non compliance, you also have to plan for contingencies. The best partnerships are those which have a clear idea of mutual accountability and a plan for when things go wrong. Clearly detail out what is the steps that will be taken at each end to resolve in case of a compliance or security violation and ensure that you stick to the plan if things do. 

Challenges in Cloud Compliance

1. Complexity of cloud environment 

One of the major challenges in cloud compliance is that the environment is ever changing. Just as your company grows and chooses the flexibility of the cloud, that flexibility comes at a cost. The controls that work while you’re processing 1000s of transactions may fail when you hit the millions, especially if you do not reevaluate them periodically. Being cognizant of downstream impact of changes in cloud environment is a challenge which is very often missed in the cloud compliance conversation. 

2. Information asymmetry on vendor controls

This is a typical challenge when you get into any vendor agreement, when it comes to your internal controls, you can understand how they are changing daily. However, unless your periodically monitor vendor compliance, you don’t have any idea of the actions they are taking. Are they rolling out patches on time, are they ensuring role based access, do they have continuous compliance monitoring, all these are good questions to ask your vendor. Also, having a tool in place to assess their compliance status helps you understand risks that may enter due to third party failures. 

3. Inherent problems of the shared responsibility model

Particular challenges of the shared responsibility model inherently give vendors less control over their data infrastructure than on-premise. From information asymmetry on the cloud controls to being unable to influence the security decision-making of the vendor team directly, it can lead to scenarios where teams are not aligned. Hence it is essential to evaluate vendors in terms of transparency of the model as well as drafting an ironclad SLA agreement that ensures that there is minimal chance of violations. However, this is a challenge you must consider before getting into a vendor agreement. 

Cloud Compliance Frameworks: What’s Right For Your Business? 

There are multiple cloud regulations and standards and they can be tough to navigate if you aren’t familiar with them. This is an overview of the top frameworks you should know when you are looking to understand cloud compliance standards. 

1. SOC 2: Adhere to TSC

SOC 2 (Service Organization Control Type 2) helps businesses ensure that the way you process client data is secure across your and third party processing. It ensures that customer data is managed adhering to the Trust Services Criteria (TSC) of Security, Availability, Confidentiality, Processing Integrity, and Privacy. Find out how Sprinto can help you achieve SOC 2 Compliance here

2. ISO 27001: Reinforce Infosec

ISO 27001 certification is designed to help organizations continuously improve their ISMS (Information Security Management Systems). It serves as a blueprint to implement a top-notch security process that guarantees the preservation of the safety, confidentiality, and availability of the data you store. Find out how Sprinto can help you achieve ISO 27001 Compliance here

3. PCI-DSS: Secure Card Holder Information

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard is a security standard that is vital for any company that deals with financial transactions such as credit and debit card transactions. It mitigates these transactions’ risks and keeps the cardholder customer data secure. Find out how Sprinto can help you achieve PCI Compliance here.

4. GDPR: Uphold Data Privacy

General Data Protection Regulation, ensures that the personal information and data of EU citizens are protected and that the transfer of data is regulated. If you are doing business with any of the EU countries, you must ensure that you are GDPR compliant even if you are not based within the EU. Find out how Sprinto can help you achieve NIST Compliance here

5. HIPAA: Safeguard Health Information

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) reigns supreme in healthcare. Its stringent requirements ensure the confidentiality and integrity of protected health information (PHI) in the cloud. Healthcare providers and cloud vendors forge a shield against cyber threats with HIPAA compliance. Find out how Sprinto can help you achieve HIPAA Compliance here

6. NIST: Engage With US Gov

NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) cybersecurity certification is a framework that is a prerequisite for engaging with government and federal agencies and doing business with them.  This certification ensures that the recommendations of FISMA (Federal Information Security Modernization Act) are followed in letter and spirit. Find out how Sprinto can help you achieve NIST Compliance here

Automate cloud compliance with Sprinto

Now that you have an overview of what cloud security entails, how do you go about automating it so that you don’t have to worry about it impacting your data security? That’s where Compliance & GRC automation platforms like Sprinto come in. Whether you are a new startup, growing market leader or #1 in the category, Sprinto can help you achieve the compliance you need for the next stage of growth without the busy work. You can now implement and manage controls from a single dashboard and seamlessly adhere to compliances such as SOC 2, ISO27001, PCI-DSS, GDPR, and HIPAA. 

Sprinto has been consecutively named as a Leader in Security Compliance and a leader in the Cloud Security and Cloud Compliance categories by G2, rated #1 in Ease of Implementation, User Adoption, Usability, and ROI. 

Let’s show you how it’s done. Watch the video to understand the magic of our Common Control Framework. 


What is an example of cloud compliance?

Compliances depend on the use case of your business. If you are in Fintech or looking to deal with card data/financial transactions, you should consider PCI DSS cloud compliance. If you are a hospital or health tech startup dealing with health PII then you should consider HIPAA compliance, to learn more about cloud compliances, refer the compliance frameworks section in this blog. 

Who is responsible for compliance in the cloud?

The shared responsibility model stipulates that businesses and cloud service providers are responsible for ensuring cloud networks’ safety and security. While cloud providers maintain basic compliance standards, you need to double-check and ensure that the appropriate compliances are in place regarding your business data.  This can be the responsibility of the CISO (Chief Information Security Officer), Compliance Manager, CTO, Engineer, or IT admin based on the scale of your organization. 

Payal Wadhwa

Payal Wadhwa

Payal is your friendly neighborhood compliance whiz! She turns perplexing compliance lingo into actionable advice about keeping your digital business safe and savvy. When she isn’t saving virtual worlds, she’s penning down poetic musings or lighting up local open mics. Cyber savvy by day, poet by night!

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