What to Know When Approaching a SOC 2 Audit Process

Scheduling a SOC 2 security testing shows that you are well on your way to demonstrating the trustworthiness of your company with regard to cyber security and risk management. However, scheduling your on-site test is not the end of your preparation. There are some additional steps along the way. Not sure what your timeline is or what to expect? Read on to learn more about each stage of the audit process. 

See our foundational guide on SOC 2 Compliance for relevant points and information about the SOC 2 audit process, requirements, and types.

Key Takeaways

1. A first-time SOC 2 audit generally takes 12 months, encompassing preparation, readiness, and remediation phases.

2. The duration of a SOC 2 audit varies between 5 weeks to several months, with preparation time between two weeks and nine months, depending on prior experience with similar frameworks.

3. I.S. Partners leverages extensive industry experience to guide organizations fluidly through their SOC 2 audit process, aiding in their journey toward compliance.

SOC 2 Audit Timeline

The general timeline is 12 months for SOC 2 compliance for first-time auditing. The readiness, remediation, and document collection phases usually require more time if your organization has not approached SOC auditing before. 

The process tends to be faster for organizations that have already gone through SOC 2 in the past or are simply renewing their annual SOC 2 compliance audit. Since SOC 2 audit reports are only valid for 12 months, compliance and attestation become an ongoing process for service organizations that are committed to upholding the Trust Services Criteria

How Long Does a SOC 2 Audit Take?

The duration of a SOC 2 audit depends on the type of report and the scope of your audit. It can range from 5 weeks to a couple of months. That said, SOC 2 typically has three phases (pre-audit phase, audit window, and the audit phase itself). 

Below you have a more detailed insight into the duration of your compliance journey: 

How Long Does It Take to Prepare for a SOC 2 Audit? 

2 weeks – 9 months 

Getting ready for a SOC 2 audit takes some time and effort. The exact amount of days you’ll need can vary. If you’re approaching SOC compliance for the first time, expect to allocate around eight hours a week for about eight weeks. The preparation features activities like writing policies, documenting procedures, and setting up new processes. If your company has some experience regarding SOC or other information security frameworks, you might be able to fit preparation work into two or three weeks. 

Moving on to the readiness phase, this usually takes between two to five months. First, your team needs to choose whether you want a SOC 2 Type I or Type II report and select the relevant Trust Services Criteria. Then you have some detective work to do – assessing your current systems, identifying any gaps to meet SOC 2 requirements, and finding ways to close these gaps. 

How Long Does It Take to Complete a SOC 2 Audit? 

1 month – 3 months 

Once your team is ready for the actual SOC 2 audit, you can expect the process to move fairly quickly. Your SOC auditor will collect and review all the related documentation, test your security controls based on the relevant Trust Service Criteria, and interview your employees and team members. Finally, the auditor will write the formal SOC 2 compliance report, including the auditor’s opinion. 

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What Is the SOC 2 Reporting Period? 

The SOC 2 reporting period is your engagement window and will determine the time that’s covered in your final SOC 2 report.  

The AICPA’s AT Section 801 states that a reporting period shorter than six months is unlikely to be useful to user organizations and their auditors when performing SOC 2 audits. So, schedule your SOC 2 audit, whether Type 1 or II, at regular 6 to 12-month intervals — to ensure regular and thorough compliance. 

How Much Time Should the SOC 2 Reporting Period Cover? 

A SOC Type 2 report’s duration varies, but it typically covers one year without any settled minimum time. The period a company chooses for its report mainly hinges on two factors – the users’ reporting timeline and the organization’s resources. 

  1. User Entities’ Reporting Periods: The SOC 2 report is most valuable to the user auditor when it overlaps considerably with the period covered by the user entity’s audited financial statements. As a guideline, “considerable” usually means the report should cover at least six months of the user entity’s financial statement timeline.
  2. Service Organization Resources: The organization also needs to decide whether its resources can handle the time and effort needed to follow through with the SOC 2 audit. Therefore, the exam period may be modified so it doesn’t coincide with significant organizational initiatives.

The general rule of thumb is that the reporting period should cover at least six months of the user entities’ financial statement period, with its renewal on an annual basis. Some organizations may require more frequent reports to satisfy various user entity year-ends, which is common for service organizations like payroll or cloud computing companies. 

For first-time SOC 2 preparations, at least a 6-month reporting period is considered ideal. A 1-year SOC 2 reporting window is typical for more mature companies, but the minimum is usually a 3-month window which allows businesses with an urgent need to get their SOC 2 report quickly. 

When is the SOC 2 Reporting Start Date? 

The start date of your audit window depends on when you were ready for the examination and had implemented any necessary remediation activities from the readiness phase or the audit phase. 

For those who have previously issued a SOC 2 report, the start date can be determined by considering any necessary fixed controls from the previous audit or the preferred start time for the next audit window, which should ideally start the day following your first completed audit window. 

Can We Change the SOC 2 Reporting Window? 

Yes, if needed. You’re not bound to a specific window and can adjust the SOC audit reporting duration yearly based on your requirements. You might want to change your audit window if you want to extend your window, move your timing based on clients’ needs, align with other compliance initiatives, or add a new product to the scope.

Lastly, if there’s a gap at the start of the next Type 2 window, ensure you have a valid explanation (with convincing evidence) for your customers. 

How Often Must a Service Organization Schedule a SOC 2 Audit? 

Most SOC 2 reports cover 12 months, but there are times when service organizations perform this audit every six months, depending on the client’s preference and any ongoing concerns in operational control, cybersecurity, and data security. 

Are You Ready to Start the SOC 2 Process? 

The process of getting ready for your SOC 2 report is long. It is important to have the right help along the way. By understanding what is required of you, as well as understanding the scope of the time and effort involved, you can make your certification process go more smoothly. 

Looking for expert help? I.S. Partners has assisted organizations in a range of industries. Fill out the contact form to learn more. 

Resources

AICPA, “AT Section 801: Reporting on Controls at a Service Organization,” 2016. 

SOC 1®, SOC 2® and SOC 3® are registered trademarks of the AICPA (American Institute of Certified Public Accountants). The AICPA® Trust Services Criteria for Security, Availability, Processing Integrity, Confidentiality, and Privacy is copyrighted by the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants. All rights reserved.

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