How to Build a SOC Report

How to Build a SOC Report

SOC reports are crucial in providing assurance and validation for safeguarding your organization’s critical information and processes. In today’s rapidly evolving business landscape, understanding the intricacies of SOC reports, particularly SOC 2, is essential for maintaining stakeholder trust and mitigating risks. Let’s delve into the comprehensive journey of a SOC report, from its inception to its practical applications, and understand how your role in this process is instrumental in upholding your organization’s credibility.

Understanding the Basics of SOC Reports

A fundamental structure for evaluating and communicating the effectiveness of internal controls in service organizations is provided by System and Organization Controls (SOC) Reports. For companies like software as a service (SaaS) providers, these independent auditor attestations are essential. They testify to the organization’s commitment to operational integrity and data security, reassuring clients and stakeholders. The SOC reporting architecture is designed to meet a wide range of requirements, focusing on evaluating controls related to financial reporting, cybersecurity measures, and the protection of client data from unauthorized access and misuse.

The essence of SOC reporting lies in the distinction between the various SOC reports. Each report is tailored to address specific organizational controls and user entity requirements. This strategic customization enables organizations to align their reporting efforts with client expectations, regulatory obligations, and industry best practices. These reports go beyond mere compliance; they testify to an organization’s dedication to maintaining a secure and dependable control environment.

The importance and urgency of SOC reports in today’s business ecosystem, particularly cloud-based outsourced services and data centers, cannot be overstated. With the rise in these services and the associated data security and privacy risks, the careful preparation and understanding of SOC reports are essential and pressing. They are the key to showcasing operational excellence and reliability. They are vital in reinforcing the organization’s credibility and assuring stakeholders of their unwavering commitment to maintaining exemplary internal controls and risk management practices.

Distinguishing Between SOC Reports

Navigating the landscape of SOC reports requires a keen understanding of the nuanced distinctions between the different SOC examinations. Each report serves a distinct purpose, caters to various audiences, and provides unique insight into an organization’s control environment.


SOC 1 Reports, consisting of Type 1 and Type II, primarily focus on internal control over financial reporting (ICFR). This designation makes them particularly valuable for service providers that handle financial transactions or information that could impact their clients’ financial statements. A Type 1 report evaluates the design of a service organization’s controls at a specific point in time. In contrast, a Type II report extends this examination over a period of time, assessing both the design and operating effectiveness of controls. By obtaining a SOC 1 Report, organizations can assure stakeholders of the integrity and reliability of their financial services, thereby supporting stakeholders’ financial reporting obligations.


On the other hand, a SOC 2 Report is structured around the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants’ (AICPA) Trust Services Criteria, which encompasses security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy. This type of report is crucial for organizations that manage or process customer data, making it an essential component of risk management and cybersecurity programs. This attestation report, also available as Type 1 and Type II, is aligned with Trust Services Criteria, covering security controls, data privacy, and confidentiality, among others. A SOC 2 Type 2 report assessing the operational effectiveness of these controls over a period of time offers a comprehensive view of the organization’s commitment to safeguarding sensitive data, thereby fostering trust among clients and stakeholders. SOC 2’s detailed examination of an organization’s controls related to these criteria offers a comprehensive overview of its cybersecurity posture and operational integrity.


While based on the same Trust Services Criteria as SOC 2, a SOC 3 report is designed for a broader audience. It provides a general summary of the examination’s findings without the detailed and technical disclosures in SOC 2 compliance reports. This makes a SOC 3 Report ideal for organizations that wish to demonstrate their commitment to maintaining a robust control environment without disclosing sensitive or proprietary details.

SOC for Cybersecurity

The SOC for Cybersecurity Report is designed to showcase an organization’s dedication and efficiency in managing cybersecurity risks to its stakeholders. It serves as a vital communication tool by illustrating the robustness of cybersecurity controls in a structured and comprehensible manner, thereby fulfilling the informational needs of stakeholders seeking assurance about an organization’s cybersecurity risk management program.

SOC for Supply Chain

The SOC for Supply Chain report gives its stakeholders comfort by addressing the efficiency and comprehension of the production and distribution controls in place with relation to supply chain-related risks.

The selection of the SOC examination depends on the specific needs of the service provider and its stakeholders. By understanding the target audience and required level of detail, organizations can strategically choose the type of SOC report that best aligns with their operational goals and stakeholder expectations. This strategic choice is critical in reinforcing trust and transparency in an organization’s control environment and operational effectiveness.

The Architects Behind a SOC Report

Crafting a SOC report is not merely an administrative task but a meticulous endeavor that demands a specialized skill set, extensive knowledge of auditing standards, and a profound understanding of the service organization’s operational landscape. This critical role is assumed by an independent certified public accountant (CPA), who possesses the requisite expertise in attestation and risk management services and is committed to integrity and due diligence.

The CPA’s role transcends the boundaries of a conventional auditor. Close engagement with the service organization is required to ensure a smooth integration of detailed system knowledge and auditing expertise. The relationship is significant because it allows a thorough look at the control environment, making the CPA a crucial SOC report architect.

To begin this rigorous process, the CPA undertakes an initial engagement phase, wherein the scope and objectives of the SOC audit are carefully defined in collaboration with the service organization. This phase is critical, as it outlines the path for a tailored audit plan that aligns with the organization’s specific nuances and operational intricacies.

Following this, the CPA firm analyzes the effectiveness of the controls, leveraging their expertise to navigate the complex web of internal controls, trust services criteria, and regulatory mandates. This examination is not just about identifying gaps but also recognizing the strengths within the control environment, thereby enabling a balanced and comprehensive portrayal of the organization’s operational integrity.

The CPA is the mainstay of the SOC report writing process; it turns a convoluted combination of criteria, controls, and compliance requirements into a logical, trustworthy story that appeals to clients, regulatory agencies, and stakeholders alike.

Their role is paramount in translating technical control frameworks into strategic insights, empowering organizations to fortify their control environments and safeguard stakeholder trust.

The Optimal Frequency for SOC Report Updates

Determining the ideal cadence for updating a SOC report is a decision that hinges on several critical factors, including the dynamic nature of the service organization’s operational environment, the evolving landscape of cybersecurity threats, and the ever-changing regulatory requirements. Organizations should undergo an annual SOC examination and report issuance to maintain compliance and ensure that the trust vested by stakeholders remains unshaken.

This annual cycle allows organizations to adapt and respond effectively to new vulnerabilities, operational structure changes, or regulatory mandate shifts. It provides a structured framework within which organizations can systematically review and enhance their control environments, ensuring their risk management strategies are robust, relevant, and aligned with best practices.

However, it is also essential for organizations to remain vigilant and proactive outside of this annual cycle. Significant system or control environment changes, such as implementing new technology platforms, major operational shifts, or introducing new regulatory requirements, may necessitate an interim SOC report update. These updates are crucial for addressing specific changes or enhancements in the control environment, offering timely insights into the organization’s commitment to maintaining a secure and reliable operational stance.

In summary, while an annual review cycle is generally recommended for SOC report updates, the need for interim updates should be assessed continuously. Organizations must stay attuned to the internal and external factors that could impact their control environments, ensuring that their SOC reports accurately reflect their current state of controls, compliance, and risk management initiatives. This approach supports compliance and stakeholder trust and reinforces an organization’s dedication to operational excellence and cybersecurity resilience.

The Components of a SOC Report

Exploring the architecture of a SOC report reveals a carefully planned story, with each component designed to highlight every aspect of an organization’s control framework.

Management Assertion

The journey begins with the Management Assertion, where the service organization’s leadership avows the precision and completeness of the presented information, laying the groundwork for transparency and accountability.

Auditor’s Report

Following this foundational assertion, the Independent Service Auditor’s Report offers an external perspective, validating management’s assertions objectively. This segment serves as a seal of trust, signifying that the examination has been conducted by the rigorous standards set forth by the AICPA.

System Description

At the heart of the report lies the System Description. This section paints a detailed portrait of the organization’s systems and controls, including the operational business processes, types of services offered, and the specific controls to mitigate identified risks. It serves as a blueprint of the operational landscape, providing stakeholders with a comprehensive understanding of the organizational ecosystem and its control mechanisms.

Analysis of Criteria and Controls

The evaluation continues with an in-depth analysis of the Applicable Trust Services Criteria and Related Controls. Here, the report delineates the criteria relevant to the organization’s operations and the controls established to address those criteria, offering insight into the organization’s alignment with established trust principles as reflected in the auditor’s opinion.

Tests and Results of Controls

The Tests of Controls section documents the procedures and methodologies the auditor employs to assess the operating effectiveness of the service organization’s controls. At the same time, the Results of the Tests deliver a candid evaluation of the findings, highlighting the strengths and potential areas for enhancement within the control environment. Together, these segments form the empirical backbone of the report, providing a critical evaluation that underpins the overall assessment of the organization’s control environment.

The Path to Obtaining a SOC Report

Acquiring a SOC report involves several planned procedures, each intended to guarantee a thorough evaluation of an organization’s controls and compliance with industry norms by a qualified independent third party.

Self-Evaluation and Readiness Assessment

The start-up phase embarks with a Self-Evaluation and Readiness Assessment. In this critical reflective process, the organization assesses its current control environment against the stringent requirements of the SOC framework. This preparatory step is instrumental in identifying gaps or areas of improvement that must be addressed before the formal examination begins, setting the stage for a more focused and effective SOC audit process.

Examination Phase

Following this internal assessment, the organization enters The Examination phase, where an independent CPA, armed with expertise in attestation and a deep understanding of the SOC framework, conducts an in-depth evaluation of the organization’s controls. This phase is not merely about compliance but a detailed exploration of the organization’s operational integrity and risk management practices. It involves rigorous testing of the controls in place, ensuring they are designed appropriately and operating effectively over a specified period.

Report Delivery

Upon completing the examination, the final step in the journey is Report Delivery. Here, the CPA compiles their findings, assessments, and recommendations into the SOC report, delivering a comprehensive document that encapsulates the organization’s dedication to maintaining a robust control environment. This report, a testament to the organization’s commitment to operational excellence and information security, becomes a powerful tool in building trust with stakeholders, clients, and regulatory bodies, marking the culmination of a rigorous yet rewarding process toward achieving SOC attestation.

Leveraging a SOC Report to Enhance Organizational Processes

A SOC report is now more than just a document that must be completed to comply with guidelines; it is a strategic tool that highlights opportunities and strengths in an organization’s control environment.

Empower Your IT Team

Utilizing these insights allows IT teams to precisely target and remediate vulnerabilities, fostering a culture of continuous improvement. By scrutinizing the detailed findings and recommendations outlined in the report, organizations can refine their internal control mechanisms, thus significantly bolstering their defensive posture against potential security breaches and operational inefficiencies.

Examine Your Vendors

Examining vendor controls through the prism of a SOC report also enables an organization to ensure that its external partners adhere to similarly rigorous standards, safeguarding the integrity of the supply chain and reinforcing mutual trust among stakeholders. This meticulous evaluation aids in identifying critical dependencies and potential risks emanating from third-party engagements, allowing for more robust oversight and control measures.

Improve Effectiveness of Internal Controls

Moreover, by systematically addressing the identified areas for improvement, organizations solidify their security frameworks and enhance the reliability and efficiency of their operational processes. This proactive approach to leveraging the SOC report underlines an organization’s dedication to safeguarding its assets and data. It demonstrates a forward-thinking commitment to upholding the highest risk management standards and operational excellence.

The Journey of a SOC Report

In summing up the journey of a SOC report, it’s evident that this framework is not just about compliance but also a strategic asset for enhancing trust among business partners and potential customers. As organizations navigate the complexities of outsourcing and maintaining a robust control environment, leveraging the right technology becomes crucial. Compliance management and risk management software emerge as invaluable tools, streamlining the process and ensuring that organizations stay ahead of the curve in operational excellence and risk mitigation. A SOC report’s diligent preparation, acquisition, and application underscore an organization’s commitment to integrity, security, and continuous improvement.


Cindy Kuan is a Manager of Product Solutions at AuditBoard. Prior to joining AuditBoard, Cindy spent 5 years with EY Los Angeles and 1 year with The Walt Disney Company specializing in technology audits, SOX/ICFR, and SOC Reporting across Biotechnology, Technology, and Real Estate industries.