DFARS Checklist: How to Comply with DFARS Regulations
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How Much Will NIST Compliance Cost?
If you are a government contractor, compliance is non-negotiable. Protecting sensitive information the government has entrusted to you comes with a big responsibility – aligning with National Institute of Standards and Technology data security recommendations. If you want your data to be secure and to remain an eligible government contractor, NIST compliance is the first place to start.
While you may worry that the cost of complying with NIST standards is too high for your business to take on, there are actually a number of cost solutions to fit every budget. To learn more about the costs associated with NIST compliance, you should start by learning more about NIST standards and the factors that impact cost.
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Who Needs to Comply with NIST Standards?
NIST compliance is essential for all persons or entities with access to CUI (Controlled Unclassified Information). So, if you possess, store, or transfer CUI, you’re subject to NIST compliance standards -- specifically NIST 800-53 and NIST 800-171.
NIST is applicable to both government agencies, like the Department of Defense, and also government contractors, like suppliers and manufacturers. Most of the entities subject to NIST are in the defense sector, but NIST compliance can be required by any companies who work with federal government agencies on a contractual basis.
What is CUI and Who Uses It?
The primary objective of NIST regulations is to keep CUI secure. What is CUI? While not classified, CUI is still sensitive data that is relevant to the national security interests of the United States. CUI can come in any form of data – files, emails, blueprints, contracts, and more. So, while an email about a government weapons contract may not include classified information, it could include sensitive information about when and where weapons are being manufactured. This information is sensitive enough that you may not want it to fall into the wrong hands.
Determining the Cost of NIST Compliance
NIST compliance can come at a different cost for every organization. The total cost of compliance is contingent on a number of factors, including the size of your organization and how your organization operates. For some companies, NIST compliance will be costly, but fortunately, there are viable options for companies with smaller budgets. Below are outlined some of the indirect and direct costs you could encounter in your efforts to comply with NIST.
One of the biggest indirect costs of NIST compliance is the amount of time your stakeholders will be required to invest in the compliance process. Always keep in mind, you will need to monitor and manage compliance internally. This could mean allocating your current resources or hiring new personnel.
If you choose to implement and manage compliance measures yourself, you may think that you are avoiding the high cost of outsourcing compliance efforts. Instead, you are really contributing to the indirect costs of the solution. What do these indirect costs entail? First, you need personnel to manage the compliance process. If you already have team members on staff with experience in compliance matters, you can assign them to this area. If you do not have team members with NIST compliance experience, you may need to hire someone (a high cost in terms of annual salary and benefits).
Next, you need to consider the time allocation for compliance. Your compliance team members will likely need to view compliance as their full-time jobs. Compliance isn’t a one-time event. Once your data security measures are in place, you will need to continuously monitor your efforts to ensure they are up to NIST standards.
Direct costs include the consultants you may choose to work with, the actual security measures you may need to invest in, and the solutions you use to ensure compliance.
- Compliance Consultants - If you don’t want to implement compliance measures or conduct ongoing assessments yourself, you can hire outside compliance consultants to manage this work for your business. The costs for these consultants can be around $100,000, but that number depends on the size of your business, the amount of data you’re protecting, and your ongoing needs. You can work with these consultants to reduce costs to fit your budget. One option may be to work with consultants to implement NIST compliance measures, but assign ongoing assessments to your in-house team.
- Compliant Solutions - You have two options when it comes to keeping your data secure: you can purchase and build your own data storage solution in-house or you can partner with a file sharing solution provider. The cost of building your own in-house solution can be anywhere from $25,000 to $35,000 in initial and ongoing costs. Using a managed secure file sharing solution provider, on the other hand, can range from $5,000 to about $10,000 annually, depending on the vendor and plan you choose. Ultimately, it’s far easier to use a managed file sharing solution since the vendor does all the implementation and maintenance for you. Plus, you can find a NIST compliant solution like FTP Today, ensuring all the appropriate compliance measures are in place before you every adopt the solution.
- Non-compliance Costs - Despite the costs listed above, the cost of non-compliance outweighs them all. Your business could be on the line for potentially millions of dollars in fines if you fail to compliance with government regulations regarding data security. In addition to the actual cost of the fine, there are other financial burdens you would take on too, like legal fees and lost business. Your business could lose your license to act as a government contractor, which would cost you potential revenue in the future. A damaged reputation could spell disaster for the future of your organization. It’s difficult to put a monetary price on non-compliance, but the risks are so great that your entire organization could be in jeopardy.
Ultimately, the cost of NIST compliance is different for every organization. Working with vendors and consultants or investing security measures all come at a price, but that price is nothing compared to the risk of non-compliance consequences. Investing some funds now is far better than losing your entire business in the future.
The best place to start your NIST compliance efforts is choosing a secure file sharing solution, especially if that solution is NIST compliant. A vendor like FTP Today will allow you to be compliant from the minute you adopt the solution. With built-in compliance measures, you will feel confident that your data is secure and you’re aligning with NIST standards.
Start your NIST compliance efforts today. Download this DFARS compliance checklist to learn more about the steps you should take.
Need Guidance on NIST Compliance?
Download our free checklist on complying with NIST, DFARS and other regulations.
About Martin Horan
Founder of FTP Today and an expert in secure file transfer and Internet protocols. A software and IT geek since a young age, Martin has successfully led his companies through the digital age by spotting market niches and filling them with quality IT services.