Does Your Business Need to be FedRAMP Compliant?

Does your business need to achieve Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) compliance? Here’s what you should know about whether you need to achieve FedRAMP Authorization to Operate (ATO) and why partnering with a FedRAMP consulting service is the best way to get the job done.

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What Is FedRAMP?

An abbreviation of Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, FedRAMP is a program from the United States government that sets security standards for storing data in the cloud. Functionally, FedRAMP provides the guidelines under which any cloud service provider (CSP) that works with any federal agency must operate.

The U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) created FedRAMP in 2011 as a standard for its new “Cloud First” policy requiring all government agencies to transition to the cloud. The next year, the General Services Administration (GSA) launched the FedRAMP Program Management Office (PMO) to administer FedRAMP standards on a day-to-day basis.

What’s the difference between FedRAMP and FISMA?

A company that works with the federal government might already have achieved Authorization to Operate (ATO) under the Federal Information Security Modernization Act (FISMA), which standardizes security for all traditional information systems used by government agencies. Unlike FISMA, FedRAMP applies only to cloud service providers (CSPs).

So, a company that offers cloud-based services may have to seek ATO for FISMA if its overall system includes a technological footprint that goes beyond the cloud. In addition, FedRAMP requires validation from a Third Party Assessment Organization (3PAO), which FISMA does not. If you’re unsure which is the right model for your business, consult a cybersecurity consultant

How is FedRAMP different from ISO 27001, NIST, or other security frameworks?

How is FedRAMP different from NIST, ISO 27001, or other security frameworks? And if your business already has one in place, what does that mean for achieving FedRAMP authorization?

The difference is that FedRAMP isn’t a cybersecurity framework but an authorization program created and managed by the United States government. Unlike, say, ISO 27001, companies generally don’t choose whether or not to follow FedRAMP. If you handle government data within the cloud, then you must earn FedRAMP ATO authorization.

However because FedRAMP is built upon existing National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) standards, companies with a NIST framework in place already have an important component. And, because there’s significant overlap in the best practices, companies with ISO compliance will likely also have a head-start with FedRAMP compliance. As always, if you’re unsure of where your business stands, consult an expert to get an objective perspective of your cybersecurity posture.


What Businesses Need FedRAMP ATO Authorization?

Any company that possesses or processes data from the federal government via the cloud must receive FedRAMP ATO authorization. This includes conventional models of deployment like Hardware-as-a-Service (Haas), Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). It also includes any business process data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), with some exceptions.

There are three levels of FedRAMP standards, to align with the Federal Information Process Standards (FIPS) 199:

  • Low – there’s no personally identifiable information (PII) — think low-impact software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers
  • Moderate – includes data that may lead to “serious adverse” effects if compromised — harmful, but without a direct risk to the health or financial wellbeing of an entity or individual
  • High – includes data that may lead to “severe or catastrophic adverse” effects if compromised, like health, financial, and law enforcement systems

How do businesses achieve FedRAMP authorization?

There are two ways to achieve FedRAMP authorization: with a Provisional ATO (P-ATO) issued by the Joint Authorization Board (JAB), or directly through a government agency.

As FedRAMP’s main governing body, the JAB chooses about a dozen CSPs per year for P-ATO status. This means the business must later receive full ATO from an individual agency, but may begin working with that entity during the process. Either way, all organizations must eventually achieve standard ATO status, usually by working with an agency like CMS, the Department of Defense (DOD), or the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

In any case, achieving ATO is a three-step process that begins with a FIPS 199 risk assessment, continues through extensive documentation of existing IT system controls (depending on the applicable FedRAMP template), and concludes with verification from a 3PAO.  

Does your business need FedRAMP consulting services?

If your business needs to achieve FedRAMP compliance, is a third-party partner the right choice? Unless your organization possesses a special level of expertise in cloud security compliance, the short answer is yes.

There are several reasons to leverage the expertise of a cybersecurity expert when seeking FedRAMP authorization. A FedRAMP consulting service can work on your behalf to:

  • Formally initiate the ATO process with the appropriate government entity or personnel
  • Initiate and conduct the FIPS 199 risk assessment
  • Meet the paperwork requirements with precision and due diligence, including helping formulate a system security plan (SSP), incident response plan (IRP), IT contingency plan, or other required documentation
  • Choose a 3PAO, coordinate testing, and serve as liaison during the process, both initially and on an ongoing basis, with minimal cost and operational disruption
  • Leverage efforts to correspond with other information security needs like NIST, ISO 27001, or HITRUST to help reduce costly redundancies
  • Ensure the best possible return on what can be a significant investment in your organization’s future


Achieve FedRAMP ATO Authorization with Omnistruct

By giving cloud service providers advance approval to work as a vendor for federal agencies without any additional security checks or audits, FedRAMP ATO authorization opens up an entire sector of opportunities. Authorized companies appear within the FedRAMP Marketplace “a searchable, sortable database” of approved cloud service providers, making them easily accessible to those seeking their services. 

Yet as we’ve seen, gaining that authorization is a big job, requiring considerable expertise. If you’re looking to start the process, or simply have questions about how it pertains to your business, you can trust the experts at Ominstruct to deliver the guidance you need. Schedule a consultation today to discover how we can help your business achieve FedRAMP ATO authorization and reach the next level of cybersecurity preparedness.

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