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Blog > How to Understand SOC 2 Compliance and Data Security Standards for EdTech

How to Understand SOC 2 Compliance and Data Security Standards for EdTech

VComply Editorial Team
June 23, 2024
9 minutes

SOC 2 compliance comes out of the box as an important standard for providing data security in the EdTech sector. This article explores the significance of SOC 2 compliance for EdTech, the underlying trust principles, and practical steps for implementation.

The digital and technological development in the education field has unboxed many perks. These perks range from improved accessibility to better learning experiences. However, a severe challenge has also come onboard with this transformation – data security. 

Educational institutions and EdTech companies manage a huge amount of sensitive data, including personal information of students, educators, and administrators. This makes strong and solid data protection measures not just a priority but a need. 

SOC 2 compliance comes out of the box as an important standard for providing data security in the EdTech sector. This article explores the significance of SOC 2 compliance for EdTech, the underlying trust principles, and practical steps for implementation.

What is SOC 2 and SOC 2 Compliance?

Running an edtech business through the rigorous process of SOC 2 audit proves that the firm is serious about the safeguarding of data for potential clients and themselves. 

SOC stands for System and Organization Controls – a security framework that defines how businesses should protect customer data from unauthorized access, security breaches, and other sensitive cases. Created by the AICPA in 2010, SOC 2 offers auditors guidelines for assessing the operational effectiveness of an organization’s security protocols.

The SOC 2 security framework outlines how companies should manage customer data stored in the cloud. Fundamentally, the AICPA designed SOC 2 to build trust between service providers and their customers. SOC2 sets the yardstick for managing customer data based on five “trust service principles”— security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy.

To help you get a better understanding of the difference between SO2 and SO2 compliance, we’ve put down a table.  

AspectSO2SO2 Compliance
DefinitionSOC 2 (Service Organization Control 2) is a standard that specifies criteria for managing customer data based on five “trust service principles” – security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacySOC 2 Compliance refers to an organization meeting the requirements of the SOC 2 standard. It means that the organization has applied suitable controls and practices to protect customer data as per the SOC 2 criteria
GoalTo establish criteria for service organizations to manage customer data effectively.To see that a service organization is following SOC 2 criteria through audits and certifications.
ElementsHas five trust service principles and two types of audits (Type 1 and Type 2).Involves using controls, undergoing audits (Type 1 or Type 2), and gaining certification.
ScopeFocuses on the principles that must be followed to protect data.Involves the actual application and verification of these principles within an organization
Audit TypesSOC 2 includes Type 1 (design and application at a point in time) and Type 2 (operational effectiveness over a period).SOC 2 Compliance involves undergoing these audits to prove adherence to the SOC 2 criteria.
OutcomeProvides a framework and criteria for data security and privacy management.Results in a report or certification showing that the organization meets SOC 2 criteria
ApplicationApplicable to all service organizations handling customer dataSpecific to organizations that have successfully implemented SOC 2 principles and passed an audit.
VoluntarinessSOC 2 is a voluntary standard developed by the AICPA.SOC 2 Compliance is voluntary but often required by clients or customers for business credibility.
FocusEstablishing standards for data management and protectionProving that these standards are met through documented practices and audit results

To put it simply, SOC 2 is a standard and SOC 2 Compliance is the state of adhering to that standard.

SOC 2 includes both the security framework and the audit that confirms a company’s compliance to SOC 2 standards. It outlines requirements for managing and storing customer data based on five Trust Services Criteria (TSC):

  • Security
  • Availability
  • Processing integrity
  • Confidentiality
  • Privacy

SOC 2 Compliance means that a company has successfully undergone a SOC 2 audit and has met the necessary criteria to prove that its security protocols and processes are effective in protecting customer data. 

Achieving SOC 2 compliance shows that the company is committed to safeguarding data, hence reassuring potential clients of the company’s dedication to data security and operational integrity.

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Types of SOC 2 Audits: Type 1, Type 2 and Type 3

There are three tiers of SOC audits – SOC 1, SOC 2, and SOC 3. However, SOC 2 is the standard that companies typically need from potential vendors before entrusting them with their data. 

SOC Audits in a Nutshell

  • SOC 1: Focuses on the internal controls over financial reporting. It is designed for businesses that manage financial data, ensuring that their systems and processes are sufficient enough for protecting that data.
  • SOC 2: Focuses on the controls related to security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy of data. It is widely used to assess service providers that store customer data in the cloud.
  • SOC 3: Similar to SOC 2 but intended for public consumption, provides a high-level summary of the SOC 2 report without disclosing detailed information about the controls and test results.

SOC 2 Audits: Type 1 and Type 2

SOC 2 audits are conducted in two distinct types: Type 1 and Type 2.

Type 1 Audit: This audit checks the design and application of a company’s system and controls at a specific point in time. It finds out whether the system is aptly designed to meet the trust service principles. Basically, it verifies that the necessary controls are in place and that the system is structured correctly to meet its security goals.

Type 2 Audit: This audit goes a notch above by assessing the operational effectiveness of these controls over a period, typically six months to a year. It does a more detailed evaluation, signifying that the controls are not only designed effectively but are also operating as intended over time. This type of audit offers a higher level of assurance to stakeholders about the consistent performance of the company’s security measures.

For EdTech companies, achieving both Type 1 and Type 2 compliance cements the fact that their security measures are well-designed and consistently effective. This dual compliance is important for building trust with clients and maintaining a strong reputation in the industry.

What is the Relevance of SOC 2 in EdTech?

The relevance of SOC 2 in EdTech is in its role as an extensive framework for securely managing customer data. SOC 2 compliance is important for EdTech companies to showcase and make a mark on their dedication to safekeeping sensitive educational data, maintaining the trust of students, parents, and educational institutions. 

SOC 2 compliance plays a key role in protecting student data, aligning with the needs of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) – a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. 

By following the SOC 2 standards, EdTech firms can use structured data management practices that meet strict security criteria, helping to comply with FERPA requirements, protecting valuable educational information, and building trust with educational users and institutions.

SOC 2 Compliance vs. Other Data Security Standards

SOC 2 is often compared with other data security standards such as ISO 27001 and GDPR. While all these frameworks are built to protect sensitive information, they differ in scope and focus:

ISO 27001: This is a comprehensive framework for information security management systems (ISMS). It provides a broad set of guidelines for managing information security risks across an organization. While SOC 2 focuses on operational effectiveness and trust principles, ISO 27001 offers a more general approach to managing security risks.

GDPR: The General Data Protection Regulation is a legal framework that sets guidelines for the collection and processing of personal data of individuals within the European Union. Unlike SOC 2, which is voluntary, GDPR compliance is mandatory for any organization handling EU citizens’ data.

SOC 2 is specially designed for service organizations, including EdTech companies, providing a detailed and systematic approach for achieving strong and secure data security practices.

What are the Five Trust Principles of SOC 2

  1. Security: Protection of Data Against Unauthorized Access

The security principle is the cornerstone of SOC 2 compliance. It ensures that system resources are protected against unauthorized access, both physical and logical. For EdTech companies, this involves implementing strong access controls, encryption, firewalls, and intrusion detection systems. By safeguarding against unauthorized access, companies can protect sensitive student and educator data from cyber threats and breaches.

  1. Availability: Checking the Functioning of System Operations

Availability ensures that systems are operational and accessible as needed. This principle is critical for EdTech platforms that rely on consistent uptime to deliver educational content and services. Measures to ensure availability include system redundancy, disaster recovery plans, and regular maintenance to prevent downtime and ensure that educational services are always accessible to users.

  1. Processing Integrity: Completeness, Validity, Accuracy, Timeliness

Processing integrity focuses on ensuring that data processing is accurate, complete, and timely. For EdTech companies, this means that all educational content, student records, and administrative data must be processed correctly without errors or delays. Implementing rigorous data validation checks and regular audits can help maintain the integrity of the system’s processing capabilities.

  1. Confidentiality: Protecting Sensitive Data During Its Lifecycle

Confidentiality ensures that sensitive information is protected throughout its lifecycle—from collection and storage to processing and disposal. For EdTech companies, this involves implementing encryption, access controls, and secure data storage solutions to protect personal data, educational records, and proprietary information from unauthorized access and breaches.

  1. Privacy: Managing Personal Data in Line with the Company’s Privacy Notice

The privacy principle requires organizations to manage personal information in accordance with their privacy policies. This involves collecting, using, retaining, and disposing of personal data in a manner that respects the privacy rights of individuals. EdTech companies must ensure that their privacy policies are clear, comprehensive, and consistently followed to protect the personal information of students, educators, and other stakeholders.

Benefits of Starting the SOC 2 Compliance Process Early 

Starting the SOC 2 compliance process early in an EdTech company’s lifecycle offers significant advantages. Early adoption of SOC 2 standards helps build a strong foundation for data security, ensures regulatory compliance, and enhances the company’s reputation. 

It also positions the company as a trustworthy provider, which can be a key differentiator in a competitive market. Additionally, achieving SOC 2 compliance early on can smoothen future audits and compliance efforts, saving time and resources in the long run.

Strategic Preparation for the SOC 2 Audit Process

Strategic preparation is crucial for a successful SOC 2 audit. This involves understanding the specific requirements of SOC 2, conducting a gap analysis to identify areas for improvement, and implementing necessary controls and processes. Engaging with experienced auditors and consultants can also provide valuable insights and guidance. Key steps in the preparation process include:

  1. Defining the Scope:Determine which systems and processes will be included in the SOC 2 audit.
  • Conducting a Risk Assessment: Identify potential risks to data security and develop strategies to mitigate them.
  • Implementing Controls: Establish and document security controls that align with the SOC 2 trust principles.
  • Training Staff: Ensure that all employees understand their roles in maintaining SOC 2 compliance and data security.
  1. Key Considerations: Security Measures, Data Privacy, and Risk Management

Applying SOC 2 compliance requires careful consideration of several key areas:

  • Security Measures: Implement robust access controls, encryption, intrusion detection systems, and regular security assessments to protect sensitive data.
  • Data Privacy: Develop and enforce comprehensive privacy policies that govern the collection, use, and disposal of personal data.
  • Risk Management: Establish a risk management framework to identify, assess, and mitigate potential threats to data security. This includes conducting regular risk assessments and updating security measures as needed.

How to Do Consistent Compliance and Security Monitoring?

Continuous compliance and security monitoring are essential to maintain SOC 2 standards. EdTech companies should implement ongoing monitoring and review processes to ensure that their security measures remain effective and compliant with evolving regulations. This proactive approach helps in quickly identifying and addressing vulnerabilities, ensuring sustained protection of sensitive data. 

Key strategies for continuous compliance include:

  • Regular Audits: Conduct periodic internal audits to assess the effectiveness of security controls and identify areas for improvement. One of the best audit and incident management software solutions is VComply, which is designed to improve audit quality and deliver valuable insights.
  • Monitoring Tools: Utilize advanced monitoring tools to detect and respond to security incidents in real-time.
  • Continuous Improvement: Stay updated on the latest security trends and best practices, and continuously refine security measures to address new threats.

SOC 2 Compliance: What are the Challenges and Solutions?

The EdTech sector faces unique data privacy risks due to the handling of vast amounts of personal and educational data. Addressing these risks requires doing extensive data protection measures to promise the safety and confidentiality of student and educator information. 

Here are some key challenges and solutions to consider:


  1. Data Classification
    • Challenge: Categorizing data based on its sensitivity to prioritize security efforts.
    • Solution: Relying a strong data classification system to ensure that the most sensitive information receives the highest level of protection.
  2. Data Anonymization
    • Challenge: Reducing the risk of exposure and protecting individuals’ privacy while retaining data utility.
    • Solution: Using techniques such as masking, tokenization, and aggregation to anonymize data effectively.
  3. User Education
    • Challenge: Minimizing the risk of human error through proper user education.
    • Solution: Regular training sessions and awareness programs to educate users on best practices for data privacy and security.
  4. Data Storage and Transfer Vulnerabilities
    • Challenge: Protecting data during storage and transfer from unauthorized access and breaches.
    • Solution: Implementing advanced encryption techniques, secure transfer protocols, and rigorous vendor management practices.
  5. Scalability of Security Practices
    • Challenge: Ensuring that security practices can scale with the growth of the organization.
    • Solution: Adopting flexible and scalable security solutions to handle increasing data volumes and complexity.


  1. Encryption
    • Solution: Encrypt data both at rest and in transit using strong encryption algorithms to protect it from unauthorized access.
  2. Secure Transfer Protocols
    • Solution: Use secure protocols such as TLS/SSL for data transfer to prevent eavesdropping and man-in-the-middle attacks.
  3. Vendor Due Diligence
    • Solution: Conduct thorough due diligence on third-party vendors and perform regular audits and assessments to ensure they comply with security standards.
  4. Modular Security Solutions
    • Solution: Implement modular security solutions that can be easily scaled as the organization grows, allowing for the addition of new security components without overhauling existing systems.
  5. Automation
    • Solution: Utilize automation tools to streamline security processes, manage repetitive tasks, and respond to security incidents more efficiently.
  6. Continuous Training
    • Solution: Provide ongoing training to employees on the latest security practices and technologies, ensuring they are informed about new threats and measures to address them.

What is the Future of EdTech Security?

Staying abreast of these cybersecurity and data protection developments and adapting security practices accordingly is essential for EdTech companies for a continued compliance and data protection. Future trends include:

  1. AI and Machine Learning
    • Solution: Leverage AI and machine learning to enhance threat detection and response capabilities by analyzing large volumes of data in real-time, identifying patterns and anomalies, and responding to threats quickly and accurately.
  2. Blockchain
    • Solution: Utilize blockchain technology for secure and transparent data management, providing a decentralized and tamper-proof method for storing and sharing data.
  3. Regulatory Changes
    • Solution: Stay informed about new regulations and standards impacting data security in the EdTech sector, and adapt practices to comply with evolving regulations.
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Tips for Better Data Security Practices and Competitive Benefit

Achieving and maintaining SOC 2 compliance is a consistent process that gives major competitive benefits for EdTech companies. This process requires ongoing improvements in data security practices, adding the latest technologies and methodologies to protect sensitive information effectively. Here’s how EdTech companies can amplify their data security and use SOC 2 compliance to gain an edge over competitors:

  • Proactive Security Measures

Solution: Use rigorous security measures such as regular risk assessments, penetration testing (pen testing), and vulnerability scans. These practices help identify and bring down potential threats before they cause harm. This will make sure that the company’s data security is strong and up-to-date.

  • Regular Training

Solution: Conduct regular training assessments on employees on the latest security threats, best practices, and incident response procedures. Continuous education ensures that staff are well-equipped to handle new security challenges and adhere to compliance requirements effectively.

  • Collaboration

Solution: Collaborate with industry peers and experts to stay current on the latest security trends and best practices. Participating in industry forums, attending conferences, and sharing knowledge can help companies continuously improve their security practices and stay ahead of emerging threats.

Competitive Advantage of SOC 2 Compliance

SOC 2 compliance can serve as a major competitive bonus in the EdTech market. It shows a commitment to data security and regulatory compliance, building trust with educational institutions, students, and parents. 

Companies that achieve SOC 2 compliance can make themselves stand out as leaders in data protection, attracting more customers and partnerships. Benefits include:

  • Growing Reputation: Building a reputation for strong data security practices can attract more customers and partners. SOC 2 compliance signals that an EdTech company takes data security seriously, enhancing its credibility and appeal.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Ensuring compliance with data protection regulations can reduce the risk of legal issues and fines. SOC 2 compliance helps EdTech companies meet regulatory requirements, avoiding costly penalties and reputational damage.
  • Customer Trust: Showing commitment to data security can build trust with customers, leading to increased loyalty and retention. Parents, students, and educational institutions are more likely to choose EdTech providers that prioritize data protection and comply with recognized security standards.


SOC 2 compliance is an important component of data security for EdTech companies. By following these standards, EdTech firms can protect sensitive information, ensure regulatory compliance, and build trust with their users. Achieving SOC 2 compliance involves strategic preparation, consistent monitoring, and addressing challenges. 

As cybersecurity is growing, maintaining SOC 2 compliance will be essential for EdTech companies to stay current, secure and at top in the market. By using SOC 2 compliance as a competitive bonus, EdTech companies can position themselves as leaders in data protection and gain a significant edge in the education technology market.
Ready to kickstart your compliance journey with VComply? Schedule a live demo with us and learn how VComply helps to make your SOC 2 experience smooth and hassle-free.