Mastering Data Center Compliance: Your Go-to Guide

Payal Wadhwa

Payal Wadhwa

Jan 16, 2024

A data center houses critical infrastructure and client’s sensitive information. More often than not, the client’s auditor seeks assurance that the data center complies with the relevant standards and has appropriate data protection measures. The clients, in turn, inquire about the certifications it possesses and the strength of the data center’s security processes. Ensuring a data center’s compliance is crucial if it wishes to capitalize on business opportunities and differentiate in the cyber-risk-prone landscape.

In a recent study, the European data center colocation market is expanding at a CAGR of 6.3% and the implementation of GDPR is a key driving factor. Similarly, several industries have mandated adherence to data compliance standards owing to the expansion of data center facilities and the soaring need for information security.

This blog deep dives into data compliance standards and how to achieve them. We also cover some future trends in data center compliance.

What is data center compliance?

Data center compliance is the process of aligning data centers with regulatory requirements and industry best practices to ensure the security, confidentiality and privacy of data. Typically, a data center consists of network, server, hardware, and storage equipment that is used to centralize and store applications and data for third-party organizations. 

Several organizations use data centers to host their applications and services as it is often cheaper than investing in infrastructure. However, customers may find it unnerving to host data on an interface outside their control. And so, cloud service providers and data centers need to ensure continuous compliance to build customer trust.

What are the best data center security standards?

The applicability of data center security standards depends on the type of data you process and industry regulations. All security standards, however, have one common point of focus-maintaining information security. 

The following are the top 5 security standards for data centers you must know:

International Organization for Standardization (ISO 27001)

ISO 27001 is an information security gold standard for deploying and maintaining an effective ISMS (Information Security Management System). The framework provides a structured approach to safeguard information assets and preserve data confidentiality, integrity, and availability. Data centers require this international standard to maintain an effective and risk-focused security management system.

Service Organizations Control (SOC 2)

Service organizations require SOC 2 and that includes data centers. It demonstrates a commitment to protecting customer data based on trust services principles: security, availability, confidentiality, processing integrity and privacy. The standard emphasizes information security, maintaining uptime for systems, implementing internal controls to minimize risk, and ensuring industry best practices. SOC 2 compliance for data centers is therefore crucial to assure their customers.

Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS)

Data centers that handle (collect, process or transmit) payment information must comply with PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards). It ensures that they maintain a secure environment to protect customer payment card data. PCI DSS implementation requires data centers to identify systems and processes connected to the cardholder environment and implement robust controls such as access controls, encryption, regular vulnerability scans and more.

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)

Data centers under HIPAA compliance are business associates that provide services to covered entities such as healthcare providers and clearinghouses. Business associates must be HIPAA compliant as they deal with electronically protected health information (ePHI) and enter into legally binding contracts with the covered entities. They must implement technical, physical and administrative safeguards to ensure the security and privacy of data and measures like encryption for safe transmission of identifiable health information.

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

Data centers that deal with the personal information of European Union customers are required to comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). GDPR is one of the world’s most stringent data protection and privacy regulations. Data centers must adhere to principles such as lawful data processing, storage limitation, data breach notifications, and more to minimize risks. The law also grants individuals the right to access their data or restrict the processing of data.

How to achieve data center compliance?

Data center compliance can be achieved through diligent research, aligning controls with regulatory standards, and implementing certain key principles. It largely depends on the applicability, complexity of individual requirements, and the organization’s security maturity. Starting from scratch can require a deep understanding of the standard being applied as well as impeccable execution. Here are the steps to achieve data center compliance:

Discover applicable regulations

Identify the regulations that apply based on your industry and location. Understand the requirements of the framework and analyze the impact on the organization. It helps you align strategic objectives to reflect compliance goals and plan accordingly.

Risk assessment and gap analysis

Conduct a risk assessment to understand your current risk profile and security maturity to tackle regulations. It helps you identify the gaps and areas where the controls are missing or not implemented. To prioritize compliance efforts, use a risk matrix to understand the severity, likelihood and impact of the risks attached to the gaps.

Get A Real-Time View Of Risk

Policy and procedure development

Draft comprehensive and effective security policies by involving key stakeholders and including implementation guidelines. Develop standard operating procedures, and task timelines and establish roles and responsibilities. Decide on a review period to ensure the policies are regularly updated as per business requirements. Communicate policies to the stakeholders and get policy acknowledgements.

Leverage Sprinto’s in-built policy templates to expedite the compliance process.

Implementation of security controls

Cross-functional leaders must collaborate for implementation. Start with arranging for workforce training. Educate them on compliance requirements and security best practices. Next, there may be a requirement for some technological investments and new product integrations. You must also get the teams onboarded with any new tools. Establish KPIs and metrics to measure performance and set up a monitoring mechanism.

Documentation

Create detailed documentation for corrective actions initiated. Include necessary screenshots, charts, drive links etc. needed for audit purposes. The management must review the documentation regularly and suggest any required changes. Ensure that documents are maintained at a centralized place for easy accessibility.

Internal audits for improvement

Internal audits are an efficient means to show you where you stand in terms of compliance readiness. The compliance officer or internal audit team reviews the documents and conducts scans to test the effectiveness of controls. The findings are recorded and communicated to ensure further improvement and get the organization ready to >90% mark.

External audit

The final step is to get audited by an independent auditor to obtain a compliance report/certification. The auditor will indulge in interviews, observation and testing of controls and will issue an opinion based on the findings. Note that compliance is not a one-time activity and many regulations require re-certification every year.

How compliance impacts data center management?

Data center compliance ensures adherence to industry benchmarks and positively reflects on data center management. The continuous identification and mitigation of risks strengthens the security posture and practices like documentation promote transparency and accountability.

Compliant data centers enjoy the following benefits:

Protection against threats

The volume of data increases the attack surface for data centers and makes them susceptible to unauthorized access, data breaches, and other cyber threats. A majority of data center compliance frameworks mandate risk assessments, vulnerability scans, building a pipeline of security controls and continuous monitoring. Ongoing compliance management helps minimize security risks and threats for data centers.

Customer trust

Having a compliance badge on the website or a security profile can boost trust amongst partners, clients and potential leads. It represents a commitment to security best practices and also minimizes the need to fill out security questionnaires.

Operational efficiency

Data center compliance frameworks provide a systematic approach to managing operations while ensuring adherence. As a result, the workflows are more streamlined, the downtime is reduced and efficiency is enhanced. In the long term, this contributes to a robust security posture and better incident preparedness

Fulfillment of legal and contractual obligations

Various industries and geographical locations require data center compliance. More often than not, customers specify them as contractual requirements before agreeing to services. Meeting both legal and contractual obligations and expanding access to new markets is achieved through regulatory compliance.

Future trends in data center compliance standards

We are in the age of cloud computing, virtual servers, AI, and advanced persistent threats. As technology advances swiftly and threats continue to evolve, the data center compliance standards will see an enhanced focus on privacy and security with stricter enforcement.

See what the future holds for data center compliance:

Privacy enhancement due to AI

2024 is going to be even more AI-driven for every sector, including data centers. While there are significant benefits attached to the usage of AI, there are also security risks associated with it. Attackers can use AI to exploit or manipulate data and cause data breaches. We can, therefore, expect privacy enhancement requirements designed keeping AI in mind for data centers.

New requirements focused on edge computing

Edge computing is the shift to decentralized data centers where data is processed closer to the source rather than traditional centralized computing. The concept is not new but the relevance of edge computing is expected to increase in 2024 for enhanced security and privacy. Keeping critical data at the edge (closer to the source) minimizes the need for transmission through various networks. Emerging regulations can include such requirements owing to increased IoT (Internet of Things) devices.

Green data centers and ESG

As the focus on environmental sustainability expands, 2024 can lead to adopting green data centers. These centers will employ energy-efficient infrastructure for environmentally responsible practices. As a result, we can see greater integration of ESG (environmental, social, and governance) into compliance to incorporate environment-friendly and ethical practices by data centers.

Stricter enforcement and new regulations

The regulatory landscape is ever-changing and adjusting to rising challenges. The future can see new state-level regulations imposed to protect customer privacy. For example, the Texas Data Privacy and Security Act is going to be effective from 1 July 2024. Such regulations will impact the operations of data centers as well.

Maximize savings on your compliance standards

Get your data center compliant with Sprinto

Data center compliance is more than a mere regulatory requirement. It is an instrument to achieve business resilience and a hallmark of trust for prospects resulting in better opportunities. The best part is that you don’t have to champion it with traditional methods anymore. Compliance automation tools like Sprinto have forever altered the way to get compliant.

Sprinto can get you audit-ready in weeks with its adaptive automation capabilities. It is feature-packed with integrated risk assessments, 100+ integrations, role-based access controls, built-in policy templates, training modules and more. Sprinto supports 15+ regulatory standards including popular data security standards such as SOC 2, ISO 27001, HIPAA, PCI and more.

Talk to a compliance expert today and kickstart your compliance journey.

FAQs

What challenges do data centers face in achieving and maintaining compliance?

Data centers compliance challenges include rapidly changing regulations, cloud service complexity, vendor management, technological advancements and staying abreast of cyber threats.

Are compliance obligations different for on-premise data centers vs cloud-based data centers?

Compliance obligations can vary based on deployment models. In the case of on-premise data centers, organizations have control and responsibility to maintain compliance. There can be a shared responsibility model for managing compliance for cloud-based data centers.

Are there any special key considerations for international data centers?

International data centers have to be careful about cross-border data transfers. The centers must be aware of the relevant data protection laws and the rights of the data subjects.

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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