The Basics of IT Compliance: What You Need to Know

If you run a business, you're probably thinking about how to make it more efficient and profitable. But did you know that getting your IT in line with all the rules, regulations, and policies that apply to your company is part of the equation?

Your company's IT infrastructure is a critical piece of your business. It's what allows you to run your company, process transactions and communicate with customers, partners and employees.

Like any other aspect of your business, your IT infrastructure also has legal requirements and standards.

In 2022, 45% of businesses said they are willing to spend more on IT compliance.

What are those standards and how can you be sure that your company is compliant?

This article has all the answers to help you understand what exactly IT compliance means and how you can protect yourself from potential problems if you need to ensure compliance.

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What is IT Compliance?

Just like we have laws and regulations that apply to other aspects of business, such as marketing and accounting, there are also rules for technology.

The bulk of these laws focus on information security and privacy protection, two things which are becoming increasingly relevant to businesses with increased internet dependence.

With that being said, IT compliance refers to businesses meeting all legal requirements when it comes to data and computer systems.

It's the process of ensuring that the technology you are using is in line with the laws and regulations that apply to your business.

For example, if you're a financial services company, then you'll be subject to various regulations that govern how you handle data and information about your customers.

A large corporation might be required by law to report lost or stolen laptops containing employee information.

Did you know that organizations lose roughly $4 million in revenue because of a non-compliance incident?

If your technology doesn't meet these standards (which could happen if it's not up-to-date), then there are serious consequences for both your business and personal reputation.

IT Security vs Compliance

You’ve probably heard of IT compliance many times before, but you may not understand it on a basic level. Compliance and security are commonly used in tandem with each other, but there are important differences between the two concepts that many people don’t know about.

IT security and IT compliance are two sides of the same coin. The main difference between IT security and IT compliance is that one addresses data protection and one addresses corporate governance.

For example, both are designed to make sure only employees who need access to information actually have it—but where IT security limits external access, IT compliance is more concerned with internal access.

When you’re looking at IT security, you’re focusing on how well your systems are protected from outside attack.

When you’re working with IT compliance, you’re considering how your business is abiding by various industry standards and regulations.

And while an IT audit checks for security compliance IT issues like failed password change procedures, there’s no IT compliance audit because it isn’t technically a regulatory requirement.

When is IT Compliance Necessary?

If you're storing data online or use computers in any way in your work, then yes—you need one!

Data shows that 63% of businesses experienced data breach that resulted in the disclosure of sensitive information in the past 24 months.

If you're not sure whether your company should comply with IT regulations, think about why you have an IT department. It's likely to

  • Ensure that all computers are operating properly
  • Protect sensitive information from being stolen or used without permission
  • Ensure that your company complies with laws and regulations

Some examples of laws and regulations include:

  • Banking privacy laws (which require IT professionals to maintain confidentiality)
  • Healthcare privacy laws (which require data backups to prevent patient records from being lost)
  • Criminal record-keeping requirements (which protect individuals against identity theft)
  • Copyright protections (to prevent people from pirating material they don't own)
  • Security safeguards required by credit card companies

IT compliance isn't just important for large enterprises; it's necessary for every organization as it helps protect them from legal and financial risks.

It also ensures that their technology is secure and reliable so they can carry on running smoothly without being held back by any disruptions caused by outdated equipment or systems which may have been left running because "they still work".

The security risks that every business faces on a daily basis can be minimized with technology.

Ensuring that your business complies with its own internal IT policies helps prevent breaches and other potentially damaging situations from occurring.

Also, as a business owner, it's important to know what the law says. If you don't follow the laws and regulations that apply to your business, you could be fined or even serve jail time. IT compliance is all about following these rules.

Ensuring that your business complies with its own internal IT policies helps prevent breaches and other potentially damaging situations from occurring.

6 Common Types of IT Compliance Standards

There are many types of information technology compliance standards. These regulations have been created to protect sensitive information and ensure businesses are complying with industry standards.

Here are the six common ones to consider for your business:

  • The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is an updated set of regulations that protects the digital information of European businesses.
  • The Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) is another regulation that applies specifically to government agencies. This can be a complex issue, because it’s not enough to stay compliant at the state level; you also need to keep your information safe from other countries’ governments. This raises issues such as jurisdiction and cross-border agreements.
  • Compliance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a necessary requirement for businesses who accept debit or credit cards online. The purpose of PCI DSS is to protect cardholder data from loss or unauthorized access while it's in transit over an open network or in storage system environments where it can be accessed by unauthorized persons.
  • The Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) compliance standard requires businesses to disclose complete financial data. This is particularly important for small businesses because they may not be able to afford auditors or consultants who can ensure that they are fully compliant with these regulations.
  • The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) mandates that healthcare providers keep patient information confidential. All businesses that handle personal information need to have a compliant HIPAA process in place.
  • Compliance with the Gramm-Leah-Bliley Act (GLBA) is a crucial part of the financial services industry. Banks, credit unions, and insurance companies must meet certain GLBA requirements such as data security. GLBA regulations vary depending on whether a business is considered custodial or non-custodial.

IT Compliance FAQs

How do I make sure my company remains compliant with changing IT regulations?

Establishing a plan that clearly lays out your IT compliance policies can help you navigate changing regulations.

The most important IT regulations for businesses are those regarding privacy, data security, and PCI compliance.

Make sure your company is following these guidelines by creating policies on password usage, encryption, encryption keys, and how you'll respond in case of a data breach or another potential issue.

Be aware that new regulations could be enacted at any time--meaning companies should remain vigilant with their policies in order to ensure legal compliance.

How do I communicate concerns about specific issues in my industry?

Every industry has its own specific compliance regulations. In order to communicate concerns about IT issues in your industry, it's important to know exactly what those regulations are—and where you can look for more information.

For example, if you're concerned about large payments being taken from a single credit card, you should research that industry's credit card regulations and talk with your bank about how they handle payments.

Before taking steps toward addressing any potential concern, consult an attorney who specializes in data security or compliance (just be sure not all lawyers are created equal) who can help guide you through researching laws and policies surrounding compliance issues so that you can make an informed decision on whether or not your issue is worth pursuing.

Are there different levels of certifications for meeting IT requirements?

IT standards and requirements are often set at a national level, but smaller regions or individual companies can create their own.

In most cases, different levels of certification show that an organization has completed certain assessments and meets necessary requirements.

These certifications are generally voluntary (though not all organizations comply with them) and they're a great way for businesses to stay on top of IT developments.

Let's take a look at two examples: The European Cyber Security Certification is issued by ENISA (the European Network and Information Security Agency).

In contrast, California requires that any government entity using electronic voting systems must first demonstrate its ability to run those systems in compliance with CA’s IT security requirements through annual testing reports from independent third parties.

IT Compliance: Final Thoughts

No matter the size of your company or the type of work that you do, it's still just as important to ensure compliance and security in your network as it is in larger organizations.

Whether you're a small business owner, a freelancer or an independent contractor, knowing about IT compliance can help you have peace of mind in your day-to-day tasks and activities.

Get the most out of your IT plan by making sure your organization is compliant with all rules, regulations, and policies that apply to it.

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