Businesses looking for serious compliance street cred often turn first to ISO 27001. ISO 27001 is a globally recognized framework that outlines and defines information security management system (ISMS) requirements. Because being ISO 27001 certified demonstrates an organization meets best practices for information security, ISO certification can give businesses a significant competitive advantage. If you’re weighing ISO 27001 vs. SOC 2 compliance, read here to determine which is a fit for your organization.
ISO 27001 compliance enhances an organization’s reputation and ensures they comply with legal and regulatory requirements. It also potentially saves on penalties for data breaches; the average $4.35 million that a data breach costs an organization is significantly higher than the costs of ISO 27001 certification. Let’s break down the costs of ISO 27001 certification by stage.
Estimating ISO 27001 certification costs
The cost of ISO auditing varies with company size and how much groundwork you have already laid. Organizations with 10 or fewer employees might spend around $10,000 on an audit that lasts about five days. For companies under 425 employees, the process can span at least 15 days and cost around $30,000.
Company size is just one factor in determining audit costs. Other influential factors include ISMS complexity and scope, the number of IT platforms and networks you may use, outsourcing and third-party arrangements, and more. In addition to the audit itself, there will likely be costs associated with the work required to prepare for an audit.
The ISO certification process
Phase one: Planning
Determine how your organization will oversee the certification and ongoing compliance process. Do you have an individual or team who can oversee the process? If so, they may benefit from compliance automation software to streamline and expedite the process. If you don’t have an appropriate internal stakeholder, a consultant might be a wise investment. However, ISO 27001 consultants can run around $1,500 per day as of 2023.
Phase two: Scope and readiness
The first part of this stage entails determining what kind of information your company deals with that needs protection. You’ll need to provide your auditor with abundant documentation, which will require you to:
- Identify where you store sensitive information
- Conduct a risk assessment (an ISO 27001 audit requirement)
- Write a Statement of Applicability that summarizes the security measures you will take and the reasoning for measures you don’t take
- Write a Risk Treatment Plan that outlines how risks identified in the risk assessment will be mitigated, by when and who will be responsible
- Deploy policies and controls to counter those risks
- Measure the success of your plan
For an extensive checklist of requirements, check out our ISO 27001 program audit checklist.
If you haven’t yet defined the scope of your ISMS, your preparation costs can run anywhere between $5,000 and $60,000. This estimate includes potential software and tools you may need to help you meet compliance standards, though the estimate does not include the cost of employee time. If you already use a workflow management tool like TrustCloud, your preparation costs will likely be lower. You’ll also need to conduct employee training, which generally costs $1,000 per year.
Should you choose to perform a gap analysis, which identifies what’s missing in your organization’s existing ISMS, that could cost $5,000-6,000. That up-front cost could uncover deficiencies that need mitigating before you reach the external audit stage. If your organization uses a compliance automation software like TrustCloud, you will not need to pay for a gap analysis.
Phase three: Conduct an ISO 27001 internal audit
Before an external auditor comes, an internal team or independent auditor can conduct an internal audit. An independent consultant does not need to be a certified ISO 27001 auditor in order to conduct internal audits.
On average, an independent consultant costs about $140 an hour. An internal audit takes as little as 24 hours or up to 160 hours depending on your ISMS scope and complexity.
Phase four: External audit
The official ISO 27001 certification audit takes place in person. Small businesses with one location may experience an audit of a few days; larger companies with multiple locations could take up to a month.
On average, certified ISO 27001 auditors cost between $5,000 and $18,000 for companies under 100 people.
Phase five: Surveillance audits
After initial certification, organizations must conduct an internal audit and a surveillance audit in years 1 and 2. In year 3, there will be a recertification audit. Each audit costs around $7,500, and the recertification audit will cost the same as the first external audit.
Phase six: Maintenance
If your business adds new services or locations, the scope of your ISMS and audits may expand, which adds time and expense. Many companies also opt to contract vulnerability assessments and penetration tests to identify weaknesses and make proactive updates.
ISO 27001 certification cost breakdown
These price ranges are averages and don’t account for company size, ISMS complexity, or internal staff experience. Use these numbers as general guidelines when you estimate your ISO 27001 certification costs.
*Cost may be minimized or avoided if using a platform like TrustCloud
Benefits of ISO 27001 certification
These costs can seem dizzying, especially lumped all together. But an ISO 27001 certification also helps a business in numerous ways.
Increased revenue opportunities
Many companies – especially larger firms – require their vendors to meet regulatory frameworks, which may include ISO 27001. Complying with this framework has the potential to qualify your firm for important contracts, and accelerate the security review process.
Displaying that ISO 27001 badge on your site and touting it in sales material adds extra shine to your reputation and marketability. Your partners want vendors they know they can trust, and ISO 27001 certification goes a long way in proving that.
Standardized processes and designated stakeholders
The clarity of ISO requirements ensures your teams have clear processes in place for data security, access management, communications security, supplier relationships, and more.
Security posture understanding and strength
With the frequent reviews and protocols the ISO standard requires, you’ll always have a clear understanding of your security posture. As cybersecurity worries compound and risks only grow, meeting these standards will ease the worries of your board of directors and your clients and prospects.
Data protection regulations are becoming increasingly rigid. Even if they apply in only one region or location (i.e. GDPR or the California Consumer Privacy Act), your business still has to ensure its operations and data practices adhere. Otherwise, you could face fines, legal fees, and contractual penalties.
Have any questions about the ISO 27001 certification process? Check out our complete guide.
Frequently asked questions
Is the ISO 27001 certification cost worth it?
ISO 27001 is the premier international data security framework and standard. Companies with an ISO 27001 certification prove their dedication to security and compliance, opening up a wealth of new business opportunities. The rewards pay off in increased business opportunities, lower security risks, more customer confidence, and avoiding fines from data breaches.
How long does it take to get ISO 27001 certified?
The length of the certification process depends on how well your organization currently handles information security. For a small company already dedicated to information security, the process can take as little as three months. For larger companies with more complex processes, ISO certification can take around a year.
How difficult is ISO 27001 certification?
ISO 27001 certification is perceived as difficult because healthy information security practices are rigorous. If your organization already prioritizes information security, the ISO certification process will be reaffirming. If information security has not been a priority, or you have a large, complex organization, establishing new, integrated processes will take a bit more time and effort.