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Tyler Thepsiri

By: Tyler Thepsiri on May 16, 2024

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NIST 800-171 Compliance: How Much Does NIST Certification Cost?

Cybersecurity | Compliance | Cost

Business leaders have a lot to contend with. There’s the balance sheet, inventory, and IT resources to name just a few. Compliance requirements add a level of complexity to the mix. If you are a government contractor or subcontractor, you most likely are aware of the increasing emphasis on cybersecurity and NIST Special Publication 800-171 (NIST 800-171).

This publication outlines the security controls necessary to protect Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI). On top of that, with CMMC certification being mandatory for organizations that work with the Department of Defense (DoD), the NIST 800-171 cybersecurity framework has become a vital guideline and steppingstone.

Related Article: Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification In 2024: What You Need To Know

We handle the IT needs of companies of all sizes, including those that are contractors, subcontractors, or suppliers for the U.S. government. We’ve helped organizations just like yours through NIST 800-171 certification, so we know the steps involved.

Now you may have already begun your compliance journey and have your timeline planned out, but one of the most important questions you may have is “ how much does NIST 800-171 certification cost?”.

Related Article: How Long Does NIST 800-171 Compliance Take? 4 Key Stages And Factors

This answer may not be the one you like, but the truth is “it depends”. NIST 800-171 compliance is unique for each organization and the cost is affected by a wide range of factors.

In this article my goal is to help you understand what these factors are, highlight strategies to keep your budget in check and your timeline on track.

What Factors Affect The Cost Of NIST 800-171 Compliance?

1. Company Size and Complexity

A larger company with complex IT infrastructure and systems will naturally cost more than a smaller one. The number of employees your organization employs, the types of data you handle, and the scope of CUI you need all contribute to the cost equation.

The more sensitive and confidential the data or CUI, the more security controls you will need and the higher your cost will be.

Additionally, if your organization has a more established and robust cybersecurity program with firewalls, defined access controls, and best practices like employee security awareness training in place, your compliance journey will be a lot smoother and less expensive.

2. Gap Assessment & Remeditation

Conducting a gap assessment and identifying areas where your security is lacking is a crucial first step. Fixing those gaps is even more important and can involve anything from software upgrades, hardware upgrades, staff training or policy changes, all impacting the overall cost.

Related Article: What To Expect From A NIST 800-171 Gap Analysis

3. External vs. Internal Resournces

If you have an in-house IT team that has compliance and data security knowledge and expertise and can focus on NIST compliance while still providing you with IT support, you maybe able to manage your compliance journey internally.

However, if you lack an internal IT team or your IT personnel have limited compliance and cybersecurity experience, a managed IT services provider will add to the overall cost but may save you time and be more cost-effective in the long run.

What Can You Do To Keep Your Costs Down And Budget On Track?

Implementing all the controls required to be NIST 800-171 compliant may see like a financial black hole, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are some cost-effective ways to optimize your budget and keep your NIST compliance certification journey on track:

1. Plan Early

It’s important to start your NIST compliance journey as early as possible. By giving yourself adequate time to plan and allocate sufficient resources to implement the controls that align with the NIST 800-171 cybersecurity framework correctly, it will help you avoid potentially higher costs and delays later.

2. Understand Your IT Environment & The NIST 800-171 Framework

Make sure you understand your IT environment and are familiar with the NIST controls that apply to your organization.

3. Prioritize Controls

Don’t try to tackle your entire NIST 800-171 compliance journey in one shot. Not all controls are equal and it’s essential to prioritize controls that apply specifically to your organization and present the highest security risk.

Implement them in phases so you can manage your budget and allocate resources more efficiently without stalling your compliance timeline.

4. Focus On Proactive IT Maintenance

Don’t look at NIST 800-171 compliance as a cost. Instead think of it as an investment and focus on proactive IT maintenance to keep your IT infrastructure current and cybersecurity posture ahead of the curve.

Related Article: How Does Proactive IT Help Avoid Budget Surprises?

What’s The Bottom Line?

After reading this article, you now have a thorough understanding of what factors affect the cost of NIST 800-171 compliance and what you can do to make your compliance journey more cost effective without compromising your timeline.

The path toward NIST compliance is unique for all organizations, but the goal remains the same: a more secure organization and more importantly, preparing for CMMC certification.

Related Article: NIST 800-171 vs CMMC:What’s The Difference? How Do They Work Together?

Many large organizations may have a full complement of internal IT experts who can help them implement the NIST 800-171 controls effectively. Other smaller and medium-sized organizations may have a small staff or no IT staff at all.

These initiatives will require an investment of time and IT skills. If you find your internal resources lacking in either, consider partnering with a managed IT services provider. 

A managed IT services provider with proven experience in NIST compliance can help streamline your compliance efforts and ultimately free up your internal IT team to focus on core business functions.

At Kelser, a managed IT services provider, we help businesses navigate their compliance journey every day. We believe that no matter where you are in your compliance journey, it’s a good idea to adopt a continuous improvement mentality.

But again, we know that managed IT support isn’t the right solution for every organization. 

If you are considering managed IT support for your NIST compliance journey, read this article to find out what managed IT support includes and what it typically costs.

Already evaluating managed IT providers? We encourage you to compare several providers to see which is the best fit for your organization. Here are the important questions to ask when evaluating IT providers

We're serious about comparing several providers and we believe so strongly in comparison shopping that we’ve even done some of the work for you! Here’s one of several articles in our Learning Center that provides an honest comparison of Kelser and one of our competitors. This article compares Charles IT and Kelser.  

Remember, investing in cybersecurity and compliance isn't just about meeting government requirements – it's about safeguarding your data and positioning your organization for success.

If you are feeling overwhelmed and just want to talk to a human, we get it too! The button below will connect you to a simple form. Provide your name and email and one of our IT compliance experts will reach out to schedule a 15-minute call to learn about your current technology situation, pain points, and compliance goals. (No sales pitch; just a conversation.)

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About Tyler Thepsiri

With more than 10 years in the IT industry, Tyler is able to adapt quickly to almost any technological issue. He understands how systems should work, and specializes in security and compliance.

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