FedRAMP certification for small businesses – Challenges and solutions

The FedRAMP provides standardized security requirements for cloud products and services used by US government agencies. Achieving FedRAMP certification validates that a cloud provider adheres to rigorous baseline controls and practices. For small businesses, the path to FedRAMP certification is arduous. Limited budgets and resources make it difficult to implement the lengthy list of security requirements.

  1. Challenges for small businesses pursuing FedRAMP

The costs associated with FedRAMP certification include preparing documentation, implementing required controls, undergoing assessments, and sustaining ongoing authorization. For resource-constrained small businesses, these costs are prohibitive without sufficient capital and staff. Many small businesses do not have dedicated compliance teams like larger providers. Most small businesses have limited experience with security frameworks as stringent as FedRAMP. They may be unfamiliar with exactly what evidence, documentation, and processes FedRAMP obligates. The initial learning curve is daunting without relevant experience.

FedRAMP expertise shortfall

Given their limited exposure to FedRAMP, most small businesses lack specialized resources who deeply understand requirements and processes. Without this expertise, interpreting complex FedRAMP standards becomes challenging. Small businesses attempting this certification primarily rely on manual processes and spreadsheets for security control implementation and compliance tracking. The manual effort involved does not scale well to the 300+ controls required.

Weak baseline security posture

Many small businesses have security gaps and immature practices that must be remediated before attempting FedRAMP. Weak baseline postures substantially increase the work needed to comply with standards. After achieving initial authorization, small businesses must sustain compliance through continuous monitoring and periodic re-assessments. The ongoing costs and manual effort are unsustainable.

  1. Solutions and strategies for small businesses

Automation tools significantly streamline FedRAMP readiness by generating documents, tracking controls, testing security, and enabling continuous monitoring. It reduces the manual labor needed by small teams. By participating in a FedRAMP cooperative, costs are distributed across members to make certification more affordable. Co-ops also provide guidance and shared services. Engaging outside consultants who have specialized expertise in FedRAMP compliance supplements knowledge gaps within small businesses.

Start with a limited scope

Seeking FedRAMP authorization for a smaller, more focused set of cloud offerings or services reduces initial costs and effort. After achieving fedramp certification, the scope is expanded. Leveraging aligned standards like ISO 27001 or NIST 800-53 that the company already meets provides a foundation for FedRAMP readiness. Taking an incremental, step-by-step approach to pursuing FedRAMP helps small businesses implement requirements over time. Trying to do everything at once is unlikely to succeed. While limited, dedicating at least some staff time to own the FedRAMP process is key. External help supplements but does not fully substitute for internal personnel.

Focus on documentation rigor

Meticulous documentation is crucial for FedRAMP. Investing time in polishing and reviewing documentation pays dividends during assessments. Before FedRAMP, assessing existing IT policies, processes, and controls to identify any gaps informs the level of remediation required. Gaining sponsorship from a government agency interested in the cloud service helps offset costs through reimbursement. With limited resources, small businesses face challenges in obtaining FedRAMP authorization. FedRAMP compliance is achievable even for small businesses with the strategy.