The Trust Services Criteria
The Trust Services Criteria consist of five categories, each addressing a specific aspect of a service organization’s system:
1. Security: Protecting the system from unauthorized access, both physical and logical.
2. Availability: Ensuring that the system is operational and accessible for use as committed or agreed upon.
3. Processing Integrity: Ensuring that the system processes data accurately, completely, and in a timely manner.
4. Confidentiality: Protecting the confidentiality of the information processed by the system.
5. Privacy: Protecting the personal information collected, used, retained, or disclosed by the system.
When the Availability Trust Services Category Applies
The Availability Trust Services category is crucial for organizations that provide services that depend on continuous or near-continuous access to information systems and data. The Availability TSC is applicable in situations where a service organization’s customers depend on the continued operation and accessibility of the system to carry out their business processes. The primary focus of the Availability TSC is to provide assurance that the service organization has the necessary controls and processes in place to maintain system availability as agreed upon with their customers.
Questions to Determine if the SOC 2 Availability TSC Applies
- Is the availability of your system critical or key to your customers’ operations?
- Does your company have service level agreements (SLAs) in place with customers that include availability requirements?
- Do your customers express concerns or expectations related to the availability, uptime, or performance of your services?
- Have you experienced any significant downtime or service disruptions in the past that have impacted your customers’ operations or your organization’s reputation?
- Does your organization operate in an industry or environment where high availability is crucial, such as e-commerce platforms, healthcare, financial services, or other critical services?
- Does your organization rely on third-party vendors for critical services or infrastructure, and are their availability controls relevant to your organization?
- Are there any industry-specific regulations or legal requirements governing the availability of your organization’s services?
- Answering these questions can help service organizations evaluate whether the SOC 2 Availability Category is applicable to their operations and determine the appropriate controls to implement for compliance.
Scenarios Where the Availability TSC Applies
- Cloud service providers: As businesses increasingly rely on cloud services for hosting, storage, or computing services, ensuring high availability of cloud infrastructure is critical to prevent downtime and maintain customer satisfaction. Downtime could lead to loss of productivity and potential contract breaches. The Availability TSC is applicable in such cases, as it provides confidence in the service organization’s commitment to maintaining system uptime and addressing potential disruptions.
- E-commerce platforms: Online retailers must ensure that their websites and payment processing systems are consistently available to provide a seamless shopping experience for customers and avoid lost sales due to outages, customer dissatisfaction, and damage to the company’s reputation. Ensuring that the platform is accessible and operational is vital for the success of the business, making the availability TSC relevant in this context.
- Software as a Service (SaaS) providers: SaaS providers offer software applications to customers over the internet, often on a subscription basis. Customers rely on these applications to perform critical business functions, and any downtime can have severe consequences. The availability TSC is applicable to SaaS providers as it demonstrates their commitment to maintaining system availability.
- Financial services: Banks, payment processors, and other financial services organizations need to ensure that their systems are highly available to facilitate transactions, provide account access, and maintain regulatory compliance. Unavailability could lead to financial losses and compliance issues.
- Telecommunications providers: Telecommunication service providers need to ensure that their networks are available and reliable for their customers to use. This includes voice, data, and internet services, where any disruption can have significant impacts on the customer’s operations. The Availability TSC is applicable in this scenario, as it provides assurance of the service provider’s ability to maintain network availability.
- Healthcare providers: Hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare organizations need to ensure that electronic health records, patient management systems, and other critical applications are available to support patient care and comply with regulatory requirements. Availability is critical, as system downtime could impact patient care and potentially lead to life-threatening situations.
- Transportation and logistics companies: Airlines, railroads, shipping companies, and other transportation providers must ensure that their systems are available to manage reservations, track shipments, and support other critical functions.
- Utilities and energy providers: Utility companies must ensure that their systems are available to monitor and manage power grids, water supplies, and other essential services, as well as to support billing and customer service functions.
- Government services: Government agencies need to ensure that their systems are available to support essential services, such as public safety, benefits administration, and tax collection.
- Manufacturing and industrial control systems: Companies with automated manufacturing processes or industrial control systems must ensure that their systems are available to prevent production downtime, maintain quality control, and support supply chain management. Downtime could lead to disruptions in the supply chain, resulting in financial losses and operational inefficiencies.
- Customer relationship management (CRM) systems: Organizations that rely on CRM systems for managing customer data, sales pipelines, and marketing activities need to ensure availability to maintain customer relationships and support business operations.
- Online learning platforms: Educational institutions and e-learning providers need to ensure their platforms are accessible for students to access coursework, submit assignments, and participate in discussions. Unavailability could disrupt the learning experience and impact student progress.
In each of the scenarios above, the Availability Trust Services category is applicable because the organizations involved must maintain reliable access to their systems and data to support their core business functions, customer needs, and regulatory requirements. Implementing robust controls and monitoring procedures for system availability can help organizations prevent downtime, maintain customer satisfaction, and comply with relevant standards and regulations.
The availability Trust Services category is applicable in situations where a service organization’s customers depend on the reliable operation and accessibility of their system. Organizations should assess their specific requirements, risks, and dependencies to determine whether the SOC 2 Availability category is applicable to their operations. By adhering to the availability Trust Services category, service organizations can demonstrate their commitment to maintaining system uptime and addressing potential disruptions. This assurance helps build trust and confidence between service organizations and their customers, fostering strong business relationships based on transparency and accountability.