Wednesday, September 14, 2022

How to get ISO 27001 certification for SaaS companies

If you need a straightforward explanation of ISO 27001 certification challenges, options and details for your SaaS company, you've come to the right place. 

I have crafted this detailed guide so that you can make decisions about your ISO 27001 certification with eyes wide open.

Remember, ISO 27001 accreditation along with GDPR compliance and other such certifications, is considered an international standard for proving that your business objectives align with the security requirements of interested parties, eg. your enterprise customers. 

It's a rubber stamp that shows that your SaaS company takes security and your service level commitments seriously.

Table Of Contents

    What is ISO 27001 certification?

    ISO 27001 is a data security credential for businesses that control and process crucial data. Keeping your customer data secure using this certification regularizes how you approach the certification bodies about your information security threats and sets out what right looks like.

    >This ISO 27001 certification applies to all business sizes and ensures that your company manages risks effectively, regularly, and measurably.

    Who needs ISO 27001 certification?

    If you want help to identify, manage and reduce the severity of regular threats to your information you need ISO 27001 certification. 

    You need to retain valuable data safely, whether that is the information assets that you hold and process them on behalf of your clients.

    A breach of customer data is a solid breach of trust and your users expect information they stored, such as personal, and sensitive info, to be in safe hands.

    Why ISO certification is necessary?

    The most specific motivation for embracing ISO 27001 certification is that it will assist your business to grow.

    How? Buyers of SaaS solutions are now demanding these certifications to reduce their risk. And your opponents already have it. So, if you like to contend at the same level as your peers and ensure your defensive technology is as per your potential clients.

    If your business is not ISO 27001 certified, there is a fair probability that prospective customers will not even shortlist you as their vendor.

    What is the cost of ISO 27001 certification?

    If you’re trying to find out a budget for your ISO 27001 certification, it can be complex to find clear-cut answers about how much ISO 27001 costs. Securing your digital investments comes with a cost tag too.

    Generally, the smaller and less complicated your organization, the less you’re likely to spend. For most SaaS companies of less than 100 people you should budget for anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000 for preparation costs to acheive your ISO 27001 certification.

    ISO 27001 Audit fees

    Audit fees are normally between $600 to $1,500 per day, and the number of days required alters by the size of the company and the scope that you have selected.

    For example, a small firm with a simple scope, e.g. one product, simple organisational structure, one head office, etc. might need one day for a Stage 1 audit, two days for a Stage 2 audit, and an extra day per year for recertification.

    It’s also worth exploring more innovative audit bodies to perform remote stage 1 audits. 

    ISO 27001 Preparation Costs

    Implementing ISO 27001 management can be lengthy and expensive. ISO 27001 certification costs must be considered over a 3-year certification cycle, but these are the major cost groups:

    ISO 27001 Standard Requirements

    ISO doesn’t make its standards freely obtainable, so you must purchase them. Presently, ISO 27001 fees ~ $125 to download a copy of the standard. You’ll probably also benefit from a copy of the ISO 27002 standard, which costs $225 and provides recommendations on enforcing controls.

    Gap analysis

    Gap analysis indicates your current security stance and what you need to do to be ready for auditing. The results of your gap analysis indicate the scope and extent of your information security management system.

    Remember, building Information Security Management Systems from scratch is not an easy job, particularly if your scope is too large or your gap analysis is poorly performed.

    For cloud-hosted corps with 250 employees and a single location, gap investigation costs around $5700, but if this is the only aspect of your ISO 27001 preparation that you get help with then it's worth it - because it could make or break your project..

    Penetration test and vulnerability assessment

    To successfully achieve your certification, you need to work with a penetration testing company to generate a simulated attack on your infrastructure, systems, and applications.

    These ISO 27001 pentesting services will help you understand the vulnerabilities and defects that need to be fixed to enhance your overall security posture and to secure your accreditation.

    Pen tests generally cost between $8000 and $75,000. There are ways cut the cost of pentesting.

    But if you're investing in IS 27001 certification then you clearly take information security seriously and your risk management process might be better aligned with a pentesting-as-a-service model.

    Want my team to show you how to put a scaleable application security structure in place?

    How long does it take to get ISO 27001 certified?

    It can take anywhere from 9-18 months for your SaaS company to become ISO 27001 certified. The exact timeframe depends on the size of your organization and your existing security controls and practices.

    However, a general ISO 27001 certification project can be broken down into these 3 stages:

    • Initial audit and certification audit – stages 1 and 2
    • Lookout audits for Years 1 & 2
    • Then the cycle resumes again, with re-certification every three years. However, recertification timelines are much shorter than the 12 months it takes for initial accreditation, as long as you have actively followed ISO 27001 guidelines and complied with its requirements.

    ISO 27001 certification process

    • Phase one: create a project planPhase two: define the scope of your ISMS
    • Phase three: perform a risk assessment and gap analysis
    • Phase four: design and implement policies and controls
    • Phase five: complete employee training
    • Phase six: document and collect evidence
    • Phase seven: complete an ISO certification audit
    • Phase eight: maintain continuous compliance

    ISO 27001 is a sound starting point for SaaS companies that desire to be recognized internationally and need a competitive advantage in a rapidly developing industry where safety is the top priority.

    What is the ISO 27001 certification process for a SaaS company?

    It is no different to the certification process I have given you above. 

    However, the timlines and costs for certification will vary greatly depending on the specific nature of your SaaS company: size of your team, number of products, existing organisational structure and existing information security structure.

    For this reason it pays to book a discovery call with a top ISO 27001 consulting company to help you understand the the accreditation process with your specific company attributes in mind. 

    Which of my team members will be involved in the ISO 27001 certification audit?

    As ISO 27001 is an all-encompassing accreditation, it requires the involvement of senior management, management across the company, and subject matter expertise from key areas of your institution.

    Your organization may need to obtain an ISO 27001 specialist consultant to help you understand the structure and duties of each project team member, as well as the exact course of activities they should be undertaking.

    A good ISO 27001 preparation service provider will take much of the workload off your team and free you up to concentrate on the important aspects that need their attention.

    Want some free, one-on-one guidance to help you understand the ISO 27001 certification process?

    How will ISO 27001 certification help the risk management process in my SaaS company?

    Risk management can be sometimes tricky to handle. ISO 27001 requires organizations to conduct internal audit management review and treatment of nonconformities and to continuously monitor and improve their information security posture.

    With the increasing number of opponents on the market, more SaaS companies strive to achieve their competitive advantage by displaying their commitment to data security.

    It Provides a Competitive Edge.

    This comprehensive industry-respected family of criteria can help your IT team in its measures to handle the security of assets associated with employee details and human resources, financial information, intellectual property and commerce secrets, and any data placed in your care by third parties.

    It Combines Data Privacy & Cybersecurity.

    ISO 27001 is the ideal tool to weave together the challenges of preserving privacy and implementing cybersecurity international standard measures necessary protection of customers' information security. This management standard delivers a general framework that allows for the protection of information relating to privacy.

    Which ISO 27001 requirements apply to SaaS companies?

    The ISO 27001 certification measure recognizes that every SaaS Company has its unique conditions when developing an information security management system. Therefore, there is no universally compulsory information security control for obedience because not all will be appropriate.

    Critical ISO 27001 requirements SaaS companies

    These are the critical certification requirements when undertaking ISO 27001 accreditation for your SaaS company:

    • Setting a scope to determine the information assets that need to be protected
    • Building your information security management system
    • Conducting risk assessments and then defining a methodology to identify dangers and how to mitigate them
    • Acquiring help from top management
    • Define risk acceptance levels and treatment objectives
    • Carefully monitoring the ISMS to stay in compliance
    • Implementing training and awareness techniques
    • Conducting an external audit
    • After implementing these measures, SaaS companies should regularly conduct management reviews and internal audits to identify examples of non-conformities to enhance the ISMS continually.

    How do ISO 27001 audits work?

    An ISO 27001 requires that an accredited external auditor reviews your ISMS to ensure that it meets the requirements of the certification body, the organization’s data requirements and other legal requirements.

    There is no guarantee that your SaaS company will pass the audit on the first attempt. This is because an auditor usually requires organizations to come back with clarifications or improvements based on the auditor's view of your ISMS and other technical controls.

    A good ISO 27001 preparation service provider carefully helps your team navigate the audit process to make it as quick and painless as possible.

    Do I need ISO 27001 consulting services to prepare for my audit?

    A good spot to start when preparing for ISO certification's journey is with your organization’s yearly review of the quality management system.

    Your project must be led by someone dedicated to overseeing primary security requirements through to success. At this point, you can also determine a schedule for performing more in-depth gap analysis, annual surveillance audits, risk assessment, and internal auditing.

    ISO 27001 certification does take a good deal of commitment and hard work from you and your team, but the results are worth it. If you are wondering where to start the journey, the ISO 27001 experts at Audacix are here to help.

    We assure you that you are ready for the process and that your audit is stress-free. Our specialists can work with you to obtain certification and to keep your organization's cyber security.

    What is an ISO 27001 information security management system (ISMS)?

    An information security management system is a documented management system consisting of a set of safety controls that protect the confidentiality, availability, and integrity of assets from threats and vulnerabilities.

    By using the information security system designing, implementing, managing, and maintaining an ISMS, you can protect your organizations confidential and sensitive data from being compromised.

    ISO 27001 is the international security standard that describes the primary security requirement of an ISMS.

    Besides meaning reasonable recognition, ISO 27001 for SaaS ensures effectiveness in a company, new customer acquisition, and increasing client retention. With the increasing number of rivals on the market, more SaaS enterprises strive to earn their competitive advantage.

    How can ISO 27001 compliance automation speed up certification?

    Absolutely, and this is why we recommend to all our clients that they subscribe to either of the tools listed below. 

    Because Audacix partners with all the tools listed below we can get them working quickly to help minimize the amount of manual effort you will have to put into your certification process.

    The main premise of compliance automation tools is that they give you a ready-made information security management system. 

    So instead of building one from scratch, which is a painful and expensive process, you simply use, adapt and tweak what these automation tools have already done to suit your own SaaS business.

    What are the best ISO 27001 compliance automation tools?

    Audacix partners with both tools listed here and the reason is that your certification process will be a lot faster and easier when these tools are used.

    Despite using any of these tools, you will still need a ISO 27001 consultant to help you prepare for your certification.

    Think of it this way: you can definitely lose weight by doing all the right things by yourself, but having experts like a doctor, dietician and personal trainer to help you will speed up your journey.

    The same is true when using compliance automation tools to meet your ISO 27001 certification requirements faster and more accurately.


    Audacix partners with Vanta to conduct internal audits. Vanta isn’t just an automation platform that will achieve certification faster but It also comes with a key to a team that will make every step of the process clearer and helps you achieve your goals with a continual improvement process.

    With Audacix you’ll have access to a designated Customer Success Manager who will guide you through implementation as well as access to in-house ISO 27001 experts to help you navigate every stage of the process.

    SaaS vendors are expected to be viable, stable, and offer credible mitigations to different types of security threats and Vanta helps you prove this when required by your customers.

    Tuboat Logic

    Tugboat Logic’s ISO 27001 solution is the unique risk treatment plan that draws the complexness of navigating and completing an ISO 27001 audit of highly secure systems. 

    At Audacix, we use Tugboat Logic for SaaS clients who don't necessarily need an enterprise-grade compliance automation tool, but still need it to meet their compliance obligations and sell more to enterprise customers.

    Tugboat offers a more attractive pricing structure than Vanta, particularly for SaaS companies and comes with all the features you might need, inlcuding:

    • Recommended justifications for interested parties
    • Real-time implementation status to follow the status of all your controls dynamically and achieve a competitive advantage.
    • Streamlined the SoA review process to easily track the entire review process and offer security controls and technical measures.

    Which application security activities will I need to conduct before my ISO audit?

    For software companies like yours, application security is a key component of improving your information security standards.

    So to convince your ISO 27001 auditor that your ISMS has the relevant application security controls, you should regularly conduct the following AppSec activities:

    ISO 27001 vulnerability scanning

    Finding cybersecurity risk assessments in your SaaS or cloud software doesn't need years of training. But how do you check vulnerabilities regularly?

    With Cyber Chief web app security testing, your infrastructure is scanned for thousands of vulnerabilities so that you can rectify them easily. 

    Cyber Chief is a vulnerability scanner that helps many ISO 27001 accredited companies and you should help the reader take on a free trial of the tool.

    ISO 27001 penetration testing

    It is recommended that thorough penetration testing is conducted annually to capitulate with the ISO 27001 standards. Aside from it generally being good practice and an excellent way to manage risks in your network, you may be required to conduct a pen test for other reasons.

    Our web application pen testing services team can also assist you to establish a threat management program that includes grey-box ISO 27001 penetration testing services from people who understand the needs, challenges and demands of a SaaS business. 

    Want my team to show you what a "turnkey" AppSec structure would work for you?

    Which is better SOC 2 or ISO 27001?

    The answer to this question depends on your location, who you sell to and your growth goals. Ideally, you should aim to have both accreditations, but prepare for them one-by-one.

    When should you choose ISO 27001?

    ISO 27001 is a suitable choice if you require to create an ISMS or have global clients. Because ISO 27001 is a universal standard around the globe, it is also good for your company if you want to implement a more rigorous assessment standard.

    When should you choose SOC 2?

    SOC 2 audits are great for organizations that already have an ISMS in position and just want to spot-check their existing standards and procedures. They are especially useful for organizations if you conduct business just in North America.  

    When should you get certified for both ISO 27001 and SOC 2?

    ISO 27001 is a good certification to achieve to establish a fully obedient ISMS. This will execute the foundation of your robust security management system. From there, you can execute regular SOC 2 audits to continually improve standards and determine weak points that need handling. 

    Finally, ISO 27001 certification: is it worth it?

    ISO 27001 offers a thorough, risk-based approach to information security and risk assessment, with a strong emphasis on continual advancement to ensure the risk management approach remains effective over time.

    A perfect solution that will solve all your worries is here. Whether your community operates in a sector with strict compliance requirements, such as financial assistance or healthcare, or one where there is more leniency, ISO 27001 certification shows that you’ve gone the extra mile. 

    SaaS Brief