As someone who owns or operates a small business, your decisions regarding information technology are vitally important. Use of and adaptation to technology is critical to achieve the type of competitive advantage your organization needs to prosper and grow. Since having the right IT infrastructure in place is so important, undertaking periodic IT audits is crucial if you want to ensure that your IT systems are operating to your company’s greatest advantage both from a business operation and from a compliance standpoint. IT auditing is the only way to make sure that your IT infrastructure is sound, safe, and effective so you can successfully meet today’s business needs as well as those of your company’s future.
This article covers what you need to know about conducting an IT audit for your small business. After providing an overview of the different types of IT audits and the role IT auditing plays in risk management, this article goes on to cover how to prepare for and conduct an IT audit, as well as what to do with the findings once your audit is completed. Finally, best practices for IT audit services are provided along with recommended resources to help you move forward with this important aspect of operations and risk management.
Understanding IT Audits
An information technology audit is a structured assessment of an organization’s internal IT systems, processes, controls, and procedures. Conducting a thorough IT audit is a way of evaluating how and if your current IT infrastructure comports with industry standards, meets any and all applicable legal and regulatory requirements, aligns with company operational requirements, and protects corporate information and assets.
In essence, IT auditing is designed to determine whether and to what extent your IT infrastructure is meeting the needs and objectives of the organization. IT auditing also ensures that the tech needs of all of your company’s stakeholders — including employees, shareholders, investors, clients, customers, and vendors — are being met.
It is also important to note that a good IT audit isn’t just about finding problems. The right audit team will take a holistic approach to your company’s information technology, providing post-audit advice that includes concrete steps for improvement, where warranted. The right IT audit team will work with you on continuous improvement, helping your in-house IT team make sure corrective measures are implemented and your organization stays in compliance going forward.
Different Types of IT Audits
IT audits are typically designed to align with a particular organizational function, such as finance, compliance, operations, or security.
Financial IT Audits
Organizations undertake financial IT audits in order to assess the security and efficacy of their financial technology infrastructure. Auditing your company’s financial IT functions and related processes helps determine whether and to what extent your data is both reliable and protected.
Compliance IT Audits
Compliance IT audits are designed to ensure that your organization’s data management and information systems are following the regulatory requirements of your industry as well as your company’s own policies and internal control procedures. These audits typically assess your IT-supported compliance infrastructure as it pertains to data security, recordkeeping, and controls on information access and dissemination.
Operational IT Audits
An operational IT audit focuses on how the company’s IT systems support and enhance its overall operational efficiency. For instance, a solid operational IT audit will address how well a company’s IT systems align with specific business strategies and support stakeholders.
Security IT Audits
Security IT audits are conducted to assess how certain data and information retrieval, retention, and dissemination measures stack up from a risk management perspective. This type of IT audit typically reviews functions related to access controls, incident response policies, and other procedures designed to protect a company’s intellectual property, proprietary business information and systems, and customer and other stakeholder information.
The Role of IT Audits in Risk Management
IT audits are a vital part of your company’s risk management protocols, ensuring that vulnerabilities and risks are identified and then addressed.
Identifying Vulnerabilities and Risks
Arguably, the most important role of IT audits in risk management is identifying any vulnerabilities and risks in the first place. This is done by assessing the current state of your IT infrastructure to determine where potential security threats lie.
Enhancing data security
Once vulnerabilities are identified, it is the function of the IT auditor to provide concrete solutions for protecting your company’s sensitive information by safeguarding against data breaches and ensuring that access is closely controlled and monitored.
Ensuring Regulatory Compliance
Keeping up with the myriad external compliance protocols needed to meet financial and industry is an enormous undertaking for most businesses. You need your IT infrastructure to not only fall squarely within all compliance parameters but also support your organization’s commitment to compliance with all applicable regulatory requirements. Regular IT audits are the best way to mitigate the financial and legal risks that are part and parcel of operating in today’s regulated business environment.
Improving Operational Efficiency
IT infrastructure can make or break a company’s operations. Streamlining IT processes translates into greeting operational efficiencies. By shoring up IT infrastructure through regular IT audit reviews, companies reduce or even eliminate the risks of system breakdowns.
The IT Audit Process
Typically, the IT audit process consists of four steps: pre-audit preparation, IT assessment and evaluation, reporting conclusions and recommendations, and following up to correct deficiencies and shore up IT infrastructure with an eye toward continuous monitoring and improvement.
Preparing the IT Audit
Before the IT audit begins, the auditor will gather information about the company’s IT infrastructure, including determining what IT-related systems are in place and what its current policies, processes, and procedures are relative to these systems. Once this information is ascertained, the auditor can define the scope of the audit and create an audit plan that addresses functionality and risks.
Once the audit objectives are defined, the auditor will assemble their team, often choosing someone with operations and IT familiarity for each internal function or department being audited, and proceed with collecting relevant documentation regarding the cyberstructure of the company.
Conducting the Audit
Following the parameters of the audit plan created during the preparation phase, the audit team will make its way through the company’s information systems, scrutinizing each aspect of the organization’s IT infrastructure. They will be evaluating the company’s security measures to determine how well they hold up to testing protocols designed to find security lapses and areas for compliance improvement.
Reporting and Recommendations
As the auditors work their way through the relevant systems, they’ll be documenting their findings. Once the audit is completed, these findings will be compiled into a report detailing any security, compliance, or operational lapses. The auditors will also provide concrete steps for correction actions. Any security or compliance lapses or issues that could put the company or its stakeholders at risk are red-flagged so they will be given priority for immediate remedial action.
Follow-up and Monitoring
As the company proceeds to assess the auditors’ findings and implement the recommended changes, the auditors will schedule a follow-up assessment to ensure that proper corrective measures have been implemented.
Best Practices for Effective IT Audit Services
As you consider creating an IT audit regimen for your company, consider adopting the following best practices for effective IT audits.
- Establish a regular audit schedule. Whether you schedule your IT audits annually, bi-annually, quarterly, or on some other regular schedule, it’s important to make room for this important compliance assessment in your company’s operations timetable and in its budget.
- Engage qualified auditors. An audit is only as good as the professionals conducting it. Make sure you engage qualified auditors who have experience providing IT audit consulting services as well as the knowledge of industry best practices to both find and solve problems.
- Foster a culture of security and compliance. An IT audit is not a one-and-done proposition. To be successful, there has to be compliance buy-in at all levels of the organization.
- Leveraging audit findings for strategic planning. The benefits of IT audits go beyond merely fixing systems issues or shoring up permissions for compliance purposes. If you have the right IT audit services team in place, you’ll be able to leverage the insights gleaned from the review to enhance forward-pointing initiatives.
Trust Your IT Compliance to Computer Resources of America
As a small business owner or manager, you already know how important it is to invest in the right technology to keep your business running smoothly. Finding and implementing the right IT solution for your business can be an arduous and expensive proposition, and it’s arguably one of the most important decisions small business owners will make.
The best way to ensure that you are purchasing and implementing the right tools to keep your business running smoothly and compliantly is through regular IT audits. And there’s no better IT audit consulting services team to meet your small business needs than Computer Resources of America.
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