Almost every business requires IT compliance in some form and at some scale. From local restaurants and other small businesses to large healthcare facilities and national retailers, compliance is something that is necessary across the board. And it is an ongoing effort, not a one-time item that can be checked off once completed. For this reason, an IT partner that can help you meet and maintain your compliance standards and regulations is vital.
What is IT Compliance?
IT compliance is the access to and storage, protection, and transfer of data based on a set of regulations provided by a governing body. In this definition, data can refer to any information, both public or private, that your business has control over. Private information can take many forms, such as social security and credit card numbers, internal company documents, health records, passwords, and other account information. While public information is public, compliance regulations may still lay out how that information is accessed, edited, and deleted.
The governing body that sets the compliance regulations can take many forms. For the most important data, the Federal, State, or local government may enact laws restricting how it is used and shared. In other cases, the regulations may be set by internal or external organizations. An internal organization is your business, or a branch thereof. External organizations are non-governmental organizations that put out industry guidelines that must be followed. They operate similarly to how a homeowners association might set rules for a community. Finally, contracts will often lay out compliance standards when a technology company is involved.
IT Compliance vs. Security
To some, IT compliance does not seem all that different from IT security. After all, both relate to the protection of online data. But, there are some important distinctions between the two.
IT security is the general practice of protecting your business’ and clients’ data and information. Typically, it will follow industry best practices instead of any specific set of guidelines. The easiest way to think of IT security is that it covers what you should do in order to keep your data safe.
IT compliance is the practice of utilizing security measures to meet a specific set of rules, regulations, or laws designed to protect business and client information. These rules, regulations, or laws may be either more or less strict than the best practices associated with IT security. For example, some regulations may be redundant, overly complex, or simply require the bare minimum amount of security (though if that last one is the case, you will want additional security measures in place). There are often also benefits for being compliant and penalties for being non-compliant. The easiest way to think of IT compliance is that it covers what you need to do from a security perspective.
Compliance Types & Regulations
There are different compliance types and regulations you may have to follow depending on your industry. In general, there are internal compliance standards, customer-based compliance standards, and legal compliance standards.
Internal compliance standards are those set by your company for yourself and your employees. This may include the implementation of standard security features such as requiring 2-factor authentication on all work accounts. Or some further security measures, such as the requirement for employees to use work-specific computers and phones, may be required. And the recording of client-facing tasks can even be counted as an internal compliance regulation.
Customer-based compliance standards are protections for the customer and are implemented with the intent of attracting more customers. For example, by implementing general server security measures, you can assure your customers that your online services will be available when they need them. Another common form of customer-based compliance is when businesses use robust encryption to store customer data, like credit card information, that goes beyond the security measures they are legally obligated to take. And even business contracts may lay out compliance regulations that need to be met in order to land a specific client.
Legal compliance standards can either take the form of contracts or laws that a business must adhere to in order to operate. While the standards laid out in contracts may be considered customer-based compliance in some ways, they are legal in others — such as when it comes to penalties associated with failing to adhere to the specified regulations. As for laws that regulate compliance, HIPAA is probably the most well-known. This is the law that requires businesses that handle personal medical information to safeguard it.
Benefits and Penalties
The benefits associated with IT compliance are wide-ranging. For starters, when you are compliant with a set of regulations, your business’ security will generally be improved. And depending on the set of standards you are compliant with, you may be eligible to advertise your compliance — which in turn can lead to an increase in customer trust. And, by being compliant with legal standards, your business can legally operate in certain industries and locations.
Penalties associated with being non-compliant are sometimes the bigger reason for businesses wanting to become compliant. If you are not compliant with a set of standards while all of your competitors are, it can lead to a loss of trust in your business. Additionally, you may receive fines for not adhering to certain legal regulations, or even lose your ability to do business in certain countries, states, or communities. And if you do not comply with the standards laid out in business contracts, then you will lose major companies as clients.
IT Services Group
IT compliance is vital for any modern business. Compliance is the use of IT security to meet specific rules, regulations, or laws designed to protect both business and customer information. The type of compliance and regulations that must be adhered to depend on the specific industry your business operates within. And, there are both benefits associated with being compliant as well as penalties associated with being non-compliant. If you need help making your business IT compliant, we can help. Contact us today to learn more about how the ITSG team can implement all the digital security measures your business needs.