FedRAMP is a government-wide program that provides a standardized approach for assessing and monitoring the security of cloud products and services. It aims to accelerate federal cloud adoption while ensuring proper security controls are in place. There are two main ways that cloud service providers demonstrate FedRAMP compliance through certification or assessment. Understanding the key differences between these two pathways is important for CSPs looking to serve federal agencies.
The fedramp certification process is the most rigorous way for a CSP to demonstrate compliance. It involves undergoing a comprehensive, independent third-party assessment of the CSP’s entire information system and all relevant security controls. To start, the CSP works with an accredited Third Party Assessment Organization (3PAO) that will evaluate its system against over 300 controls outlined in the FedRAMP security baseline. The 3PAO will test the system, identify any gaps, and work with the CSP to remediate them.
Once the assessment is complete, the 3PAO issues a report and an authorization package is submitted to the FedRAMP Program Management Office (PMO). The PMO reviews this documentation and makes the final determination on certification. If certified, the CSP’s authorization package is made publicly available on the FedRAMP marketplace. It allows federal agencies to leverage the existing certification package instead of requiring the CSP to go through a separate lengthy assessment process for each agency.
- Rigorous 3PAO assessment of the entire CSP system and all baseline controls.
- FedRAMP PMO reviews 3PAO documentation and grants certification.
- Certification is reusable across federal agencies.
- CSP must maintain compliance and renew certification periodically.
A FedRAMP assessment provides a more flexible and streamlined way for CSPs to show they meet FedRAMP security requirements. With this pathway, the CSP works directly with a federal agency sponsor and leverages their existing system authorizations. The process begins when a federal agency expresses interest in using the CSP’s services. The agency acts as the sponsor to authorize the system for its use.
The CSP and agency perform a gap analysis to determine which controls have already been assessed based on previous system authorizations or compliance frameworks like ISO 27001. Only the remaining controls are evaluated through a focused assessment process. Once all necessary controls have been assessed, the agency issues a formal Authority to Operate (ATO) for that specific agency’s use. The CSP then reuses this initial ATO when signing up additional federal customers.
- The tailored assessment approach focused on controls not previously authorized.
- The single agency acts as a sponsor and issues ATO for their use.
- Reusable across other federal agencies after initial authorization.
- Less rigorous than full FedRAMP certification process.
By weighing factors like these, CSPs chart the best FedRAMP course for their organization and federal cloud goals. Both certification and assessment have benefits and involve significant effort. Working with knowledgeable FedRAMP advisors and allocating the necessary resources is key to successful execution under either model. Achieving and maintaining FedRAMP compliance enables access to lucrative federal opportunities and demonstrates a commitment to security.