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IT Compliance: Understanding the Basics

February 14, 2021

Topics: Cloud Insights Elementary6 minute read

What is IT Compliance?

Both compliance and security drive organizations to protect their digital assets. However, compliance is practiced differently in that it revolves around third-party requirements. The purpose of IT compliance is to meet the privacy and security requirements of certain governments, markets, and customers.

IT compliance ensures that organizations can do business with various entities upholding different privacy standards. For example, some countries enforce strict privacy laws (like California’s privacy act), some markets (like finance and healthcare) are heavily regulated, and there are often clients that require compliance with their unique high confidentiality standards.

This is part of an extensive series of guides about Network Security

In this article, you will learn:

Common IT Compliance Standards


On May 25, 2018, the European Union (EU) started enforcing a set of regulations that protect the information of European citizens. The complete set of regulations is called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and it applies to any entity handling the data of European citizens.

Whether the entity is located in the EU is of no importance—if they want to do business at the EU and handle the private or financial data of EU citizens, or set up a website that processes the data of EU citizens—the entity must comply with the GDPR.

For example, before collecting the data of individuals, organizations must ask the permission of the individual, providing them with a way to opt-in or opt-out of data collection. The organization must delete all previously collected information if the individual opts-out.


The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) was created for the purpose of regulating the protection of financial card information. The regulation applies to all entities storing, transmitting, and otherwise handling the data of debit, cash, and credit card information.

Compliance with PCI DSS often fosters more transparency and increases the trustworthiness of entities handling transactions. It ensures customers that their financial information is protected and they can safely make purchases.

Organizations complying with PCI standards must actively protect the data of card holders. There are various ways to achieve compliance, including setting up monitoring solutions to actively seek threats and respond in a timely manner. Implementing granular access controls can also help ensure data security.


The Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) helps promote transparent and accurate disclosure of financial information. SOX ensures the general public and shareholders receive accurate information about publicly traded companies and initial public offerings (IPOs).

Compliance with SOX can help prevent accounting errors, deter fraudulent practices, and promote more accurate corporate disclosures. SOX audits often improve earning reporting and provide organizations with practices that streamline their processes.


The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulates the security of medical records. HIPAA applies to any and all entities storing, collecting, transferring, accessing, and otherwise handling healthcare information, including third-party integrators and any business associate directly or indirectly handling the data.

Here are key standards enforced by HIPAA:

  • Privacy regulations of this HIPAA ensure healthcare information is not disclosed without first obtaining the consent of the patient.
  • The security standards of HIPAA regulate electronic protected health information (ePHI), and ensure that there are protective administrative, physical, and technical safeguards in place.
  • Notifications can help maintain HIPAA compliance, ensuring that relevant parties are informed when a breach occurs.

IT Compliance: Goals and Challenges

The main purpose of IT compliance is to create a strategic, procedural, and technical framework that outlines how organizations attain ethical and legal integrity. The framework serves as proof of compliance while providing actionable policies, procedures, and mechanisms.

IT compliance can help prevent various losses associated with the non-compliance issues and, consequently, data breaches. This includes:

  • Loss of customer trust
  • Loss of brand authority
  • Loss of revenue
  • A decrease in stock value
  • Loss of market opportunities
  • Overhead spent on remediation activities, such as fines, capital acquisitions, legal costs, and purchased consumer protections.

While compliance is beneficial to businesses and customers alike, it is often difficult to attain, often due to the interpretive nature, as well as scope and complexity of new statutes and regulations. Additionally, there are key challenges every organization faces.

Shadow IT and the use of unauthorized applications are particularly difficult challenges. However, employee training can help prevent or reduce the scope of this matter. Properly dealing with service providers, like cloud vendors, also critically impacts compliance. This can be solved, too, by thoroughly auditing and monitoring cloud services for compliance.

Governance, Risk and Compliance Solutions

Governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) software provide organizations with controls for managing data access and IT compliance.

GRC helps organizations align their IT strategy with various company departments and reduce silos. The software helps all employees and relevant stakeholders remain aware of compliance requirements and properly meet these standards.

GRC solutions can help organizations meet goals while streamlining risk profile and protecting value. For example, organizations can leverage GRC to reduce online threats, identify errors, and discover fraudulent activities.

Here are key capabilities typically provided by GRC software:




Policy management

Risk management

Automated compliance management

Document and information management, such as, audit trail, archiving, and version control

Risk mitigation

Audits and inspection management


Training record manager

Incident management, such as corrective action (CAPA) tools and root cause analysis and

Ongoing monitoring of business processes

Access and privilege control


Third party and supplier risk management

Reporting tools

GRC Software Considerations

When choosing GRC, there are certain aspects that should be taken under consideration.

Business-wide GRC vs system-specific GRC
Different GRC tools offer different capabilities for governance and compliance. Some solutions provide end-to-end solutions for data governance and compliance across the entire organization. Other tools, on the other hand, focus on certain environments, like Office 365, or data specip processes, like integration.

Compliance-focused vs process-focused
GRC solutions provide capabilities that achieve two main goals—maintaining data loss prevention (DLP), and meeting compliance regulations. While the majority of GRC tools help organizations achieve both goals, many tools prioritize one goal over another. Resource control-focused GRC solutions, for example, prioritize DLP, while compliance-focused systems focus mainly on providing capabilities for reporting and auditing.

IT Compliance with NetApp Cloud Insights

NetApp Cloud Insights is an infrastructure monitoring tool that gives you visibility into your complete infrastructure. With Cloud Insights, you can monitor, troubleshoot and optimize all your resources including your public clouds and your private data centers.

Cloud Insights helps you find problems fast before they impact your business. Optimize usage so you can defer spend, do more with your limited budgets, detect ransomware attacks before it’s too late and easily report on data access for security compliance auditing. 

In particular, NetApp Cloud Insights ensure corporate compliance by auditing user data access to your critical corporate data stored on-premises or in the cloud. Additionally, NetApp Cloud Insights provides targeted and conditional alerts you can customize precisely to your needs.

Cloud Insights includes Cloud Compliance, which delivers always-on privacy and compliance controls for data privacy regulations such as the GDPR, CCPA and more. Driven by powerful artificial intelligence algorithms, Cloud Compliance gets your business application data and cloud environments privacy ready. 

See Our Additional Guides on Key Network Security Topics

Together with our content partners, we have authored in-depth guides on several other topics that can also be useful as you explore the world of network security.

Cloud security solutions


Authored by Frontegg

Network Firewall

Authored by Cato