PCI vs SOC 2 Compliance: Know The Difference

pci vs soc

In the interconnected world of digital business, managing and protecting data has never been more vital. The decision between different compliance standards like PCI and SOC 2 is a crucial consideration that companies face today. This article aims to provide a comprehensive face off at these two prominent standards: PCI vs SOC 2 Compliance.

What is PCI Compliance?

What is PCI CompliancePCI DSS, short for Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, is a compliance framework designed to safeguard credit card information. It’s a set of requirements all companies that handle cardholder data must meet to provide a secure environment. This protocol covers areas such as network security, data protection, vulnerability management, access control, monitoring and testing, and information security policies.

Importance of PCI Compliance

The primary importance of PCI compliance lies in the protection of sensitive cardholder data. This security measure:

  • Protects Customers: By ensuring that credit card data is secure, PCI compliance helps protect customers from potential financial harm resulting from data breaches.
  • Builds Trust: When customers see that you’re PCI compliant, they’re more likely to trust your business with their credit card information. This can enhance your reputation and encourage customer loyalty.
  • Avoids Penalties: Non-compliance can result in penalties from credit card companies and banks, and in severe cases, the loss of the ability to process credit card payments.

What is SOC 2 Compliance?

What is SOC 2 ComplianceSOC 2 Compliance refers to adherence to the Service Organization Control 2 (SOC 2) standards. It’s an auditing process that confirms service providers manage and secure data appropriately to safeguard their organization and client interests. The five principles of SOC 2 are: Security, Availability, Processing Integrity, Confidentiality, and Privacy.

Importance of SOC 2 Compliance

SOC 2 compliance is essential in demonstrating the security of a service provider’s system. Its significance includes:

  • Ensures Data Security: SOC 2 compliance ensures that a service provider’s system is secure, reliable, and effectively handles client data, making it less vulnerable to breaches and leaks.
  • Builds Client Trust: Clients have peace of mind knowing that their service provider is SOC 2 compliant, which can strengthen business relationships.
  • Gains Competitive Advantage: Being SOC 2 compliant can provide a competitive edge, as it indicates that the company takes data security seriously and can effectively manage risks.

PCI vs SOC 2 Compliance: Key Differences

Key Differences between PCI and SOC 2While both PCI and SOC 2 compliance standards aim to safeguard sensitive data, there are several key differences between the two:

  • Applicability: PCI compliance applies specifically to businesses that process, store, or transmit credit card information. On the other hand, SOC 2 compliance applies to a wider range of companies, specifically those providing services that store, process, or transmit customer data.
  • Scope: The scope of PCI compliance is focused on credit card data security, with its 12 requirements detailing specific actions necessary to protect cardholder data. SOC 2, however, is broader, covering five Trust Service Principles – Security, Availability, Processing Integrity, Confidentiality, and Privacy. These principles assess how well an organization handles customer data.
  • Industry requirement: PCI compliance is mandatory for any entity dealing with credit card transactions, enforced by the major credit card companies. SOC 2 compliance, while not legally mandatory, is often required by clients in certain industries where data security is paramount.
  • Audit: For PCI compliance, businesses can sometimes perform a self-assessment, depending on their transaction volume. For SOC 2, an independent Certified Public Accountant (CPA) firm must perform the audit.

These differences underscore the need to carefully consider the specific needs, risks, and expectations related to your business before choosing the appropriate compliance path.

Determining the Right Compliance for Your Business

Choosing between PCI and SOC 2 compliance depends largely on your business needs, industry, and the nature of the data you handle. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Type of data: If your business handles credit card data, you’ll need to be PCI compliant. If you store, process, or transmit sensitive client data in providing services, you may need to consider SOC 2 compliance.
  • Industry standards: Some industries have specific requirements or norms. For instance, if you’re in the financial or healthcare sector, customers might expect SOC 2 compliance. On the other hand, any business processing card payments will be expected to be PCI compliant.
  • Client requirements: If your clients demand a particular compliance, you’ll need to meet their expectations to do business. For example, many large corporations require their vendors to be SOC 2 compliant.
  • Risk management: If your risk assessment identifies vulnerabilities in your data handling processes, a certain compliance standard might be more suitable for mitigating these risks.
  • Regulatory requirements: Certain regions or jurisdictions may require specific compliance. Always ensure you understand the legal and regulatory landscape in the locations you operate.


In summary, both PCI and SOC 2 compliance play vital roles in safeguarding sensitive data, with each suited to different types of businesses. In essence, if your business deals with credit card transactions, you will need to ensure PCI compliance. On the other hand, if your business processes or stores sensitive client data, SOC 2 compliance might be the right choice.

However, as with most things in business, the decision isn’t always clear cut. Some businesses might find that they need to adhere to both standards, depending on the nature of their operations and the expectations of their clients.

Ultimately, it’s about understanding your specific needs, the nature of your data, and the requirements of your industry and clients. By doing so, you can make an informed decision about which compliance route to take. If you are looking to implement any of the Infosec compliance frameworks such as SOC 2 compliance, HIPAA, ISO 27001, and GDPR compliance, Impanix can help. Book a Free consultation call with our experts or email us at  [email protected] for inquiries.