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Importance of ISO Certification: Who Needs it and Why

Data security has become a top concern for many customers, regardless of the type of business you operate. Customers prefer to do business with companies that have taken steps towards safeguarding their processes from potential data breaches.

As a result, ISO certification serves as a benchmark that customers can use to assess your data security environment. Even though compliance with ISO standards doesn’t necessarily signify security, the requirements of ISO compliance provide valuable controls that can be used to assess the state of your data environment.

Also, technology has become the driving force of many businesses in today’s economy. Because a single data breach can potentially cripple the operations of a company, customers have become increasingly wary of data security. ISO compliance and certification serves to strengthen the confidence that customers have in your systems.

Defining ISO Certification

ISO first started as a quality assurance body that governed various industry standards. It was primarily used by manufacturing and engineering companies to establish a common set of standards for member organizations.

Over the years, ISO has evolved to cover many different industries, including IT organizations and data security. For example, ISO 270001 establishes a set of recommendations and industry requirements that govern Information Security Management Systems (ISMS).

Certification vs. Accreditation

There is a difference between ISO certification and accreditation. ISO accreditation refers to the standards that are required for a business to become certified. This doesn’t mean that your business has been inspected to confirm compliance; it merely says that your company is aware of the guidelines that ISO puts in place to define certification.

The Committee on Conformity Assessment (CASCO) typically puts ISO guidelines in place, and they serve as a framework through which third-party assessors must stick to when issuing ISO certifications.

ISO certification refers to your business being reviewed by independent third-party entities to confirm that you meet all required standards. These third-party assessors, referred to as certification bodies, carry out periodic checks on your business’s processes, policies, and documents to establish compliance. After compliance is confirmed, certification can be issued.

The 3 Primary types of ISO Standards in IT

ISO standards play an essential role in the IT space. Indeed, customers working with IT companies would always want to ensure the security of their information. ISO provides a framework for IT companies to meet the regulations established- in an effort towards improving data security.

There are three main ISO standards that apply to IT operations.

       1. ISO 27001

The ISO 27001 standard is perhaps the most well-known ISO standard in IT. It puts in place requirements for securing an Information Security Management System (ISMS). There are many ISO standards within the 27000 families; all of which touch on different aspects of management systems.

You can think of ISO 27001 as a standard that is meant to radiate confidence to both upstream and downstream partners of a business. This is because the standard is aimed at ensuring all data within the management system is confidential, of high integrity, and available as necessary.

ISO 27001 is implemented on a risk-based approach and is carried out in 2 stages. The first stage is a preliminary review, where documentation is collected to determine if your ISMS is ready for the 2nd review stage. Some of the documents obtained as part of the initial review include:

  • Information security policy
  • Statement of applicability
  • Risk assessment plan and report
  • Data use and access control policies
  • Supplier security policies
  • Basic operational procedures regarding data security

       2. ISO 31000

While ISO 27001 is focused on ISMS, ISO 31000 takes on a broader approach. This certification process establishes guidelines for your Enterprise Risk Management System (ERM). It stipulates that the management team and board of directors review all potential threats facing the business, as well as establishing appropriate controls towards mitigating these risks.

During an ISO 31000 audit, the certification body will be looking for documentation that confirms management’s role in implementing a risk management approach, process elements, or maturity approach towards mitigating the identified risks.

       3. ISO 9001

ISO 9001 is primarily focused on quality assurance in internal business processes. This certification model can provide your customers with confidence that your business is taking steps towards prioritizing quality processes and products. During an ISO 9001 audit, your business’s Quality Management Systems (QMS) will be reviewed for compliance with established guidelines.

Because it focuses on quality assurance, an ISO 9001 audit can support many other types of ISO standards- including ISO 31000 and 27001. ISO 9001 also has a specific application to DevOps. The quality assurance model can be used to ensure that a DevOps framework is meeting all guidelines that include designing, building, deploying, controlling, etc. An ISO 9001 audit reviews the products, processes, and systems that are implemented by a particular business.

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