Cloud

Cloud approval can cost over $2 million

Shutterstock image (by world of vector): cloud in the shape of a money bag with hanging coins.

Although it can be tricky to arrive at a baseline cost estimate for cloud service providers to obtain authority-to-operate certification, the program's manager said about $2.25 million would do it.

In a Sept. 8 blog post, Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program Director Matt Goodrich cited that number as the median cost midrange CSPs spent on their efforts to get an ATO. The cost "splits pretty cleanly with about 50 percent of that being on engineering costs and 50 percent on the process itself," he added.

CSPs can expect to spend an additional $1 million a year to maintain their security posture under continuous monitoring, according to Goodrich.

However, he said the differences among CSPs make it difficult to come up with common cost estimates.

"One of the reasons this is a hard question to answer is that comparing cloud providers to each other isn't even like trying to compare apples to oranges -- those are both at least fruit," he said.

Even among similar vendors, Goodrich said costs can vary tremendously, with one CSP paying $500,000 and another spending more than $4 million on their efforts to obtain an ATO.

However, the big cost areas for CSPs should be balanced against the benefits, he added. For instance, bringing in outside consultants to help with documentation could increase upfront costs but decrease the amount that needs to be spent on later reviews by third-party assessment organizations and the Joint Authorization Board.

Goodrich added that third-party assessments can take one to six months, with obvious increases in costs as the process lengthens.

Furthermore, companies that had to retrofit their systems to meet FedRAMP requirements incurred greater costs than companies that built their systems with federal security requirements in mind, he said.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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