By Corey Clements

“The Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, or FedRAMP, is a government-wide program that provides a standardized approach to security assessment, authorization, and continuous monitoring for cloud products and services.”

FedRAMP could be described as an assessment. Therefore, a pre-assessment before the assessment might be considered redundant and unnecessary. But the reality is that FedRAMP compliance can be an arduous and lengthy process without the right partner. Much like climbing Mt. Everest, you need an experienced guide, in addition to working independently to prepare in advance. Pre-assessment services can help you ensure you’re ready to head to basecamp. (And if you’re not, thankfully, unlike Mt. Everest, you won’t have to wait until next season.)

How FedRAMP Pre-Assessments Help

Much like properly lacing up your crampons before a big climb, pre-assessments are designed to help you figure out your current status, and what you need to do in order to reach a point where you’re ready to successfully climb the FedRAMP Mountain. You don’t have to prepare too extensively for a pre-assessment but the first thing you need is a 3PAO.

A 3PAO (Third Party Assessment Organization) is an organization that has been certified to help cloud service providers and government agencies meet FedRAMP compliance regulations. FedRAMP requirements specify 3PAOs perform initial and periodic assessment of CSP systems and provide evidence of compliance, as part of their on-going role. Going through a FedRAMP Pre-Assessment with a 3PAO provides the following:

  • Answers: talk to experts and gain clarity on the critical questions that are holding you back from moving forward on your compliance strategy and partnering decisions
  • Applicability and Scope: run faster by gaining perspective on how your solution is viewed from a FedRAMP requirements perspective and understand the depth and breadth of the business impacts that come with FedRAMP compliance efforts
  • Confidence: know where your solution and operations stands on the FedRAMP path, key efforts that lie ahead, and the resources required to achieve FedRAMP readiness and authorization

Additionally, a 3PAO can conduct a pre-assessment to gauge your organization’s readiness to become FedRAMP authorized. The deliverable of this engagement should be a list of significant gaps that will need to be addressed, along with a roadmap for how to close them. Your 3PAO should outline a pathway for your organization to become FedRAMP-ready.

Pre-Assessment One Size Fits All?

Many components of a FedRAMP pre-assessment will be similar in all engagements, such as personnel interviews and documentation review. However, other components can be customized, such as performing vulnerability assessments or advising on the development of System Security Plans (SSP). Find a 3PAO that can partner with you early on in your FedRAMP authorization process, as well as into the future.

Selecting a FedRAMP 3PAO Assessor

By definition, a 3PAO is certified and performs security assessments using FedRAMP-developed templates as a guide. So are they all equal? Should you just hire the first one you come across? The certification process does ensure all 3PAOs meet minimum standards, but, like all service providers, they are definitely not created equal. We’ll be offering tips on making a selection in a blog next month. But for now, specific to FedRAMP pre-assessments, look for a firm that is flexible and can tailor a solution to your company’s needs, increasing the chances of achieving FedRAMP authorization on your first attempt, and eliminating the need to make a second trek.