Modern IT compliance demands a continuous approach
Modern IT compliance demands a continuous approach

Corporate compliance has never been more important than it is today. New guidelines such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the revised Payment Services Directive (PSD2) are forcing all businesses to re-consider the necessary actions required to meet their compliance goals. 

However, too many businesses focus solely on the initial goal of achieving compliance, and fail to consider the longer-term picture. 

Nowadays, all organisations need to ensure they are maintaining IT compliance on a continuous basis. This is essential in a landscape that is constantly evolving and introducing new regulations that need to be taken into account. If a business successfully achieves compliance and then simply thinks its work is done, it won't be long before it runs into unexpected complications that could've easily been avoided. 

Addressing the challenges 

There are several challenges to successfully adopting a continuous compliance mindset — most notably the sheer number of various risk management and compliance frameworks that organisations must adhere to. The NIST Cybersecurity Framework, for example, has close to 400 specific requirements that need to be met. When you then consider the fact that most businesses have to work in accordance with multiple frameworks, you start to understand the true complexity of the issue. 

A lack of internal knowledge and understanding can also hamper continuous compliance efforts. IT teams may not have the right skillset to translate compliance and controls in the physical world to the virtual world. In addition, while teams might be good at manually carrying out continuous compliance, they don't necessarily have a broad industry view; an understanding of what other similar organisations see as challenges and how they are overcoming them. 

This begs the question: How can businesses overcome these challenges in order to successfully achieve continuous compliance in today's business landscape? 

The answer depends upon the specific needs and goals of individual businesses, but part of the solution lies in cloud technology, which can help to ease the strain through the elimination of hardware limitations. 

IT compliance in the cloud 

The use of cloud technology also factors into continuous compliance. Almost all technology-related business decisions nowadays have a cloud component of some sort, whether it's business intelligence, analytics or the Internet of Things (IoT), and this can translate into an additional challenge. 

However, while there are indeed technical and security-related obstacles to consider, the advantages that cloud technology has to offer from a compliance perspective certainly outweigh anything else. Businesses have already realised the potential of reducing operational complexities, and these benefits can also be transferred to the world of continuous IT compliance.

Most significantly, using cloud technology to monitor and control IT compliance offers a tremendous amount of transparency: being able to audit, query alert and resolve any cloud infrastructure changes through virtual means is an incredibly powerful tool to have at your disposal. This helps significantly in the acceptance and continued adoption of the technology, and in the organisational approach to continuous compliance. 

Cloud technology can also deliver significant cost savings and streamline workflows through automating certain processes, simplifying reporting and cutting down on the number of compliance and reporting tools needed. 

Looking more specifically at how this might help organisations achieve a continuous compliance approach, it largely comes down to unification. A cloud-based platform can enable businesses to integrate all its relevant compliance-based data and information into a single view, thanks to the ability to consolidate existing tools and data sources. This enables the standardisation and normalisation of the data before querying against a policy engine that incorporates a subset of rules that aligns to multiple regulatory frameworks. 

When implemented and configured in the right way, this can provide operators with an intuitive compliance dashboard that combines data sources from across the organisation, which allows them to see what they're doing right and where they're going wrong, at-a-glance and in near real-time. It also enables automation and manual remediation to fix non-conformities and further prevent breaches. 

The use of cloud technology in this way can also allow organisations to continually track their infrastructures and trigger alerts when necessary instantaneously. Using pre-defined rules and bespoke policies, a cloud-based platform can continuously pull information and check it against the controls it has in place to identify any instances of non-conformities, which makes it simpler for any issues to be resolved. 

Conclusion 

Compliance is a tricky issue. With so many regulations and frameworks to think about, it can be a real challenge just to reach the stage of initial compliance. But this simply isn't enough — nowadays organisations need to look further into the future and focus their efforts on a continuous approach to compliance. Thankfully, the agility of cloud technology can make this easier and provide much-needed reassurance for businesses. 

Contributed by Javid Khan, CTO, LayerV, a Pulsant company. 

*Note: The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of SC Media UK or Haymarket Media.