How to get TX-RAMP Certification

At its core, TX-RAMP offers two certification levels, guided by the rigorous NIST 800-53 standards: Level 1 for low-impact systems and Level 2 for those managing moderate to high-impact, sensitive data. TX-RAMP provides three certification routes, including a handy 18-month provisional status. However, wrestling with hundreds of intricate requirements to create the compliance documentation can be expensive and soul-sucking. Dive into our comprehensive guide below to navigate these complexities and ease your certification process.

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Like FedRAMP, TX-RAMP is rooted in the NIST 800-53 standard, yet the interpretation and application of these standards differs based upon their respective jurisdictions and security priorities. Moreover, TX-RAMP offers a fast track for vendors already authorized by FedRAMP, StateRAMP, or other states' “X-RAMP” programs. If you're trying to grasp the nuanced differences between these two programs, dive into our comparative analysis.

TX-RAMP’s Two Baseline Security Levels

TX-RAMP Level 1:
If you're dealing with public information or low-impact systems, this is your category. It’s based on the NIST 800-53 Low Impact Baseline assessment which includes 117 controls. 

TX-RAMP Level 2:
For vendors handling confidential or regulated data in moderate or high-impact systems, Level 2 is where you'll land. It demands compliance with the NIST 800-53 Moderate Impact Baseline assessment that consists of 223 controls.

Certification – What are Your Options?

Primary Certifications (Level 1 & 2):
Once you initiate the certification process with the Texas Department of Resources (DIR), undertake a baseline assessment, and provide all required evidence, you'll be granted the appropriate certification by the Texas DIR. An interesting alternative? TX-RAMP offers a fast track for vendors certified by FedRAMP. StateRAMP-approved vendors also qualify to be fast-tracked into TX-RAMP.

Provisional Certification:
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by this process there's a one-time, 18-month provisional certification. It's a window of opportunity to prepare for TX-RAMP's full requirements. You can either approach DIR directly or have an agency sponsor your application.

Utilizing Third-Party Reports:
Have an existing third-party assessment report? Vendors can receive a provisional certification by submitting an accepted third-party assessment report to DIR. Some examples:

State Agency Sponsorship:
In cases where agencies are your sponsors, they'll ask you to conduct a risk self-assessment. DIR recommends using the Higher Education Community Vendor Assessment Tool (HECVAT) for these self-assessments.

Don't Forget Continuous Monitoring

Being certified isn't the end. TX-RAMP mandates regular assessments of vendors. Depending on your certification level, you'll need to complete either a quarterly (level 2) or yearly (level 1) vulnerability reports of identified vulnerabilities and mitigation activities to the DIR through the SPECTRIM Vendor Portal. It's then up to agencies to interpret the results and relay any urgent findings back to DIR.

The Documentation Labyrinth of TX-RAMP

Documentation, while fundamental to TX-RAMP, often emerges as the most arduous aspect of the certification journey. The intricate nuances and requirements can be daunting:

Volume and Detail: TX-RAMP's System Security Plan (SSP) document requires you to provide a comprehensive outline of the security controls, policies, and procedures you’ve implemented. It’s a detailed and extensive document, often hundreds of pages long, designed to give Texas agencies a complete understanding of how a cloud service protects data. 

Cost: If you’re manually writing your TX-RAMP compliance documentation, don't be surprised to be spending well into the 6-figure range. Generally expect between $90k-250k for a Level 2 TX-RAMP document package. If you go with a compliance documentation tool like Paramify, it’ll be a small fraction of that cost.

Dynamic Nature: Regulations evolve, and so do their associated documentation requirements. What may be deemed compliant one year might necessitate revisions the next. Staying updated with the changes utilizing manual methods can be a taxing endeavor.

Redundancy and Interconnectivity: Each piece of the documentation puzzle is interconnected. A change or update in one segment can lead to required adjustments in multiple areas, ensuring the consistency and accuracy of the entire package.

Resource Intensiveness: Crafting compliant documentation isn't a task for the uninitiated. It requires specialists familiar with both the regulatory landscape and the specifics of TX-RAMP, often necessitating dedicated teams, costly consultants, or a tool like the one Paramify provides.

Iterative Reviews: Ensuring documentation's accuracy is paramount. This usually means multiple internal reviews, revisions, and then external audits, all of which can elongate the certification timeline.

Inadequate Tools: Many organizations use general-purpose tools like Word, Google Docs, or SharePoint for their TX-RAMP documentation, especially the large System Security Plan. While versatile, these tools aren't designed for large-scale compliance documents, resulting in inefficiencies, errors, and frequent crashes. 

In essence, while the documentation underscores a vendor's dedication to security, the journey to compile, maintain, and update this paperwork is strewn with challenges that can strain resources, both in terms of time and money. Fortunately there are now tools like Paramify that can ease the burden of TX-RAMP documentation for a fraction of the cost.

How Paramify's Risk Solutions Platform Tackles TX-RAMP Documentation Challenges

Amidst these complexities, Paramify’s Risk Solutions Platform helps you create accurate TX-RAMP documents with unrivaled speed and ease for a fraction of the traditional cost.  

Streamlined Volume and Detail Management: With Risk Solutions companies can automate accurate TX-RAMP documentation with unrivaled speed and ease.

Adapting to the Dynamic Nature of Regulations: Paramify is regularly updated to adapt to the latest regulatory changes. When regulations change documentation standards, you only have to update the affected controls once. 

Eliminate Redundancy: Each piece of the SSP is interconnected via our Risk Solutions Platform. A change or update in one segment or control is automatically updated throughout the entire SSP and ATO Package. Gone are the days of manually updating hundreds of pages of documentation with countless copy and paste commands.

No advisors necessary: Expert-driven guidance within the platform, removing the need for external consultants. Our Risk Solutions reduce the need for specialized TX-RAMP knowledge. Paramify also utilizes collaborative features to allow teams to work synchronously, allowing subject matter experts to get involved in the documentation process, minimizing the time and effort spent while ensuring accurate documentation.

Streamlined Iterative Reviews: Built-in review and approval workflows to fast-track internal reviews and ensure accurate documentation. Easy export and sharing options for external audits, coupled with detailed change logs.

Value: Save time and money in your TX-RAMP certification journey with Paramify. Enjoy all the advantages we offer at only a fraction of the hefty six-figure costs associated with conventional documentation processes.

Learn how MyEducator leveraged Paramify to quickly and affordably achieve their TX-RAMP goals.

Sound too good to be true? Try it for free!

See the power of the Risk Solutions Platform for yourself with our free proof of concept.

The result of the free, no risk session will be your own:

  • TX-RAMP, FedRAMP, or CMMC Readiness Percentage Summary
  • Risk Solution Implementation Summary
  • Risk Priority Summary
  • Sneak peak of your SSP (System Security Plan) in DOCX and OSCAL formats, CRM (Customer Responsibility Matrix), and Inventory Workbook
About the author

Adam Johnson boasts 15 years in information systems, with special expertise in product marketing and management. He's always had an interest in Cybersecurity.‍ A family man at heart, Adam enjoys biking, soccer, and traveling with his wife and three kids.