Have you ever wondered what goes into achieving FedRAMP compliance? While the process can involve a lot of paperwork and be quite costly, it's important to know that the security measures implemented by FedRAMP are necessary for protecting your company’s cloud assets. In this article, we'll break down the different factors that contribute to the cost of FedRAMP compliance and how you can best navigate them. The blog article below is based on typical process and costs associated with the FedRAMP Moderate Baseline.
Introduction to FedRAMP Compliance
The Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) is a government-wide program that provides a standardized approach to security assessment, authorization, and continuous monitoring for cloud products and services. FedRAMP compliance is required for all federal agencies that use cloud computing services. The cost of compliance varies depending on the size and complexity of the organization but can range from tens of thousands to millions of dollars. The process of achieving compliance can take several months to a year or more.
Organizations that are not compliant with FedRAMP may be subject to loss of Authorization, other penalties, or other consequences. For this reason, it is important to understand the requirements of the program and the steps necessary to achieve compliance. This blog article will provide an overview of the FedRAMP compliance process and what organizations need to know about the cost and time involved in achieving compliance.
Benefits of FedRAMP Compliance
The Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) is a government-wide program that provides a standardized approach to security assessment, authorization, and continuous monitoring for cloud products and services. Compliance with FedRAMP allows organizations to reduce the cost and time associated with traditional security assessment and authorization processes. In addition, FedRAMP compliance can provide numerous other benefits, including:
- Reduced duplicate effort across agencies: By leveraging the work already completed by other agencies, organizations can save time and money on their own FedRAMP compliance efforts.
- Improved security posture: The FedRAMP security controls are based on industry best practices and provide a comprehensive approach to securing cloud environments. This can help improve an organization's overall security posture.
- Enhanced credibility with customers: Customers of organizations that are compliant with FedRAMP can be assured that those organizations have met rigorous security standards. This can give organizations a competitive edge when bidding on new contracts.
- Stronger partnerships with government agencies: Organizations that comply with FedRAMP can develop deeper partnerships with government agencies, as they will have confidence in the organization's ability to securely handle sensitive data.
There are many benefits to achieving FedRAMP compliance for your cloud-based product or service. Perhaps most importantly, it sets you apart from the competition. In today’s market, many companies are vying for government contracts. Achieving FedRAMP compliance demonstrates that your company is serious about security and that you have the necessary controls in place to protect government data.
In addition to differentiating your company, FedRAMP compliance can also help you win business. The United States federal government is the world’s largest customer, and they are increasingly requiring their contractors to be FedRAMP compliant. Even if you’re not targeting government contracts specifically, many large enterprises require their vendors to be FedRAMP compliant.
Achieving FedRAMP compliance can be a time-consuming and costly endeavor, but it is worth it in the long run. The process requires careful planning and execution, but our team of experts can help make sure you successfully navigate through each step of the process.
Understanding the Federal Risk & Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP)
FedRAMP is a government-wide program that provides a standardized approach to security assessment, authorization, and continuous monitoring for cloud products and services. The program was created in response to the growing use of commercial cloud services by federal agencies.
FedRAMP is based on the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework (CSF), which is a set of best practices for managing cybersecurity risk. The goal of the program is to reduce the risk of using commercial cloud services by providing a common set of security requirements that can be used by all federal agencies.
To achieve FedRAMP compliance, service providers must undergo an independent third-party assessment (3PAO) and obtain a Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program Authorization Package (FedRAMP AP). The 3PAO assesses the provider’s security controls against the NIST CSF requirements. Once the provider has met all the requirements, they are issued a FedRAMP ATO.
The cost of achieving FedRAMP compliance varies depending on the size and complexity of the environment, but it typically takes several months and can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Cost Components of FedRAMP
There are three primary cost components associated with FedRAMP compliance: Consultation and planning, Implementation and Analysis and Reporting.
- Consultation and Planning:
This includes the initial consultation to assess your environment and develop a high-level action plan. It also includes developing detailed project plans, identifying risks and dependencies, and estimating costs.
This is the phase where all of the work to achieve compliance is completed. This includes tasks such as configuring systems, deploying security controls, conducting testing, and documenting results.
- Analysis and Reporting:
Once compliance is achieved, you will need to continuously monitor your environment and provide regular reports to the FedRAMP program office. This phase also includes ongoing risk assessment and re-authorization every three years.
Overview of FedRAMP Process Steps
- Obtain a copy of the FedRAMP security controls and requirements from the FedRAMP website. This is based on NIST SP 800 Revision 4 or in the future with Revision 5. Make sure you have the right baseline: Low, Moderate or High.
- Review the security controls and requirements to determine which ones apply to your organization’s systems and applications.
- Develop and implement security measures to address the applicable security controls and requirements.
- Test and validate the effectiveness of the security measures.
- Prepare a System Security Plan (SSP) documenting the security measures to the Agency and potentially the FedRAMP PMO for review and approval.
- Once approved, have an independent third-party assessor (3PAO) to conduct a FedRAMP Readiness Assessment to verify that the SSP appropriately addresses all of the required security controls.
- If successful, submit an Authority to Operate (ATO) request to the appropriate federal agency authorizing officials, and then the FedRAMP PMO.
- Upon receipt of an ATO, implement additional monitoring and reporting requirements as specified in the ATO package, and as prescribed in the FedRAMP Continuous Monitoring Guide.
Reviews and Assessments Required for FedRAMP Authorization
In order to obtain FedRAMP authorization, your organization will need to complete a number of reviews and assessments. These include a security assessment, which must be conducted by an accredited third-party assessor which will be reviewed by the Agency Sponsor and the FedRAMP Program Management Office (PMO).
The security assessment is the most important review for FedRAMP authorization. This assessment verifies that your organization's systems and controls meet the security requirements outlined in the FedRAMP tailored approach document. To complete this assessment, you will need to provide documentation of your organizational security posture, including your system security plan, risk management plan, and continuous monitoring strategy.
In addition to the security assessment, you will also need to complete a Penetration Testing your compliance with the FedRAMP requirements. This penetration test is a critical success factor and must be reviewed and approved by the FedRAMP PMO before you can proceed with your application for authorization.
After you have completed all of the required reviews and assessments, you will be able to submit your application to the FedRAMP PMO mailbox for FedRAMP authorization.
There are three main milestones typically required for FedRAMP projects that Agency reviewers will perform before an actual ATO can be processed:
System Security Plan (SSP) review: The SSP is a document that outlines the security controls in place for a system. A review of the SSP is conducted to ensure that it meets FedRAMP standards.
Security Assessment Plan (SAP) review: The SAP is a document that outlines the methodology and approach that will be used to assess the security controls in place for a system. A review of the SAP is conducted to ensure that it meets FedRAMP standards.
Security Assessment Report (SAR) review: The SAR is a document that summarizes the findings of the security assessment conducted on a system. A review of the SAR is conducted to ensure that it meets FedRAMP standards.
Factors Impacting the Total Cost of Achieving Compliance
Organizations looking to achieve compliance with the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) must consider several factors that can impact the total cost of achieving compliance. These include:
- The size and complexity of the organization's IT infrastructure: The larger and more complex an organization's IT infrastructure, the more costly it will be to achieve FedRAMP compliance.
- The number of systems and applications that need to be assessed: The more systems and applications that need to be assessed for FedRAMP compliance, the higher the cost will be.
- The level of security required: The higher the level of security (FedRAMP Baseline) required by an Agency, the more costly it will be to achieve FedRAMP compliance.
- The experience and expertise of the assessment team: Organizations should ensure that their assessment team has the experience and expertise necessary to achieve FedRAMP compliance in a cost-effective manner, specifically on the cloud they are building their solutions.
- Availability and experience of existing resources: Your team should make efforts to understand the underlying FedRAMP Framework so they can design controls appropriately. They also should make sure they have commitment from Senior leadership and project owners to commit resources to a FedRAMP engagement.
- Refactoring existing tools and licensing: One of the main surprise hidden costs that can emerge from a FedRAMP project is that existing tool might not work for the FedRAMP project and associated boundary. This is because tools might be cloud based and may not have required FedRAMP Authorizations to allow integrations, or because they cannot support unique cryptographic requirements. The expenditure to replace or refactor usually adds up depending on the nature of the project.
You can find the Quzara study on FedRAMP Budget and Pricing which includes specific factors for external, internal and 3PAO assessments costs associated with a FedRAMP Moderate project here in our guide below.
Alternatives for Financing a FedRAMP Project
Assuming you are unable to finance your FedRAMP project through appropriations, there are other avenues you can take. The first option is to go through a federal agency that has already been accredited for their own FedRAMP program. These agencies can then sponsor your project and help with the associated costs. Alternatively, you can look into private financing options, such as working with a venture capitalist or an angel investor. Finally, if you are a startup company, you may be able to get funding from the Small Business Administration (SBA).
It is important to understand the FedRAMP compliance process so that you can be sure your company meets all regulations. We hope this article has given you a better grasp of the costs and procedure associated with obtaining a FedRAMP authorization. With the right tools, resources, and guidance from an experienced third-party assessor, companies should have no problem meeting the requirements necessary for achieving FedRAMP compliance. Ultimately, following a few simple steps for each step in the process ensures that organizations remain compliant while reducing both time and money spent on maintaining security standards over time.
As a leading provider of cloud-based solutions, Quzara is committed to helping our customers meet the strictest security standards. We are proud to offer our FedRAMP Authorization service, which helps streamline the process of achieving compliance with this important regulation. If you are interested in learning more about our FedRAMP Authorization service, or any of our other security solutions, please contact us today. Our team would be happy to discuss your specific needs and how we can help you protect your data and meet your compliance requirements.