Improve Your Cybersecurity Posture in One Year with StateRAMP

Published February 13, 2024
by Jordan Hickam

While it’s a relative newcomer to the world of cloud risk management, StateRAMP has emerged as a powerful resource and standardized approach to security and risk assessment management. Public agency RFPs may require service providers to obtain StateRAMP certification for their products or services to receive consideration. Earning a StateRAMP security status helps organizations that need to enhance their cybersecurity posture to work with state and local governments or within K-12 or higher education institutions. 

What is StateRAMP?

While strengthening a security posture isn’t an immediate or one-time transaction, StateRAMP stems from a “verify once, serve many” concept that saves time and cuts costs for both service providers and public sector entities. With authorized products certified by StateRAMP, governments, from IT to risk management to procurement, can have confidence in providers’ product capabilities without requiring repetitive additional assessments in each jurisdiction. 

As of December 2023, nearly three dozen states, local government agencies, and public school systems or universities have already engaged with StateRAMP, adopting standards that ensure their organizations procure effective and efficient cloud security solutions. 

Just as FedRAMP authorizes providers to work with the federal government, StateRAMP uses similar standards and NIST guidance to ensure providers at the state and local levels protect citizen data, save taxpayer and service provider dollars, and lessen the burden on IT, risk management, and procurement personnel while promoting cybersecurity awareness and best practices.

What is the StateRAMP Process?

With many wide-ranging products and services from a diverse pool of providers and organizations of various sizes or in unique industries, the time required for organizations to navigate and complete StateRAMP certification can vary dramatically. StateRAMP is, by design, flexible and scalable. Organizations can implement security controls based on the specific requirements of their cloud services. As a result, the efforts and time required for certification can differ significantly from one organization to another. 

The time required of organizations to achieve a StateRAMP status can depend on several factors, including the complexity of their IT infrastructure, the readiness of their security controls, or familiarity with similar certification processes. 

StateRAMP certification can take as little as a few weeks. However, on average, assessing, preparing, and implementing necessary security controls can take several months or up to a year or more. 

Providers’ products with federal authorization are eligible for the StateRAMP Fast Track process, which can take weeks instead of months. The StateRAMP Program Management Office (PMO) accepts and authenticates all the required security documentation previously used for federal authorization.

Steps to Achieve and Maintain StateRAMP Certification

  1. Become a Member. Whether or not a provider’s product is Fast Track eligible, providers must first become StateRAMP members before engaging with the PMO. 
  2. Complete a StateRAMP Security Snapshot. A jumping-off point toward achieving a verified StateRAMP security status, the Security Snapshot assessment provides a gap analysis to validate a product or service’s security maturity needed to achieve StateRAMP’s minimum mandatory requirements. StateRAMP aims to complete its assessments to ascertain and deliver Snapshot scores within three weeks.
  3. Engage an Approved Third-Party Assessment Organization (3PAO). If the Provider hasn’t already done so, they should choose a qualified third-party assessor from the list of StateRAMP-approved assessors. Their initial readiness assessment may take up to four weeks. Providers must complete a collection of documentation, including security controls and plans of action, as well as any paperwork required to complete a StateRAMP Security Assessment Plan and Security Assessment Report. Engaging with a qualified 3PAO early in the process can help ensure a smoother and more efficient certification process.
  4. Request StateRAMP Review. Your 3PAO partner will assemble and submit the authorization package to StateRAMP, which will review all documentation and assessment results while potentially asking for additional information before deciding. A StateRAMP security status is awarded following a 3PAO attesting to the provider’s security controls and the StateRAMP PMO verifying the findings. A government sponsor or the StateRAMP Approvals Committee, made up of government officials from across the country, must also authorize the provider’s security package prior to a StateRAMP security status being awarded.
  5. Continuous Monitoring: Service providers must maintain a continuous monitoring program upon obtaining their StateRAMP security status.

The timeline required for each step in the process of enhancing your security posture with StateRAMP can vary based on factors such as the organization’s size, resources, or the complexity of its assorted cloud services. It’s common for providers to invest up to one year or longer in the StateRAMP process.

For companies and organizations looking to qualify for work with more state and local public sector entities, while it isn’t legally required or mandated by law nationwide, StateRAMP authorization is quickly becoming a competitive must-have for doing business in many states. Through careful planning, a trusted 3PAO partner, and a thorough understanding of the process’s timeline, providers can help streamline their StateRAMP authorization efforts. 

Improve Your Cybersecurity Posture

Learn more about the benefits of StateRAMP membership, and explore the best strategies for getting started with StateRAMP. You can explore potential 3PAO partners, connect with stakeholders committed to strengthening security posture at the state and local level, and learn more about cyber defense at RAMPxchange. Connect with our team today to learn more and join.