FedRAMP vs NIST: Understanding the Key Differences


I have seen many companies struggle with understanding the differences between FedRAMP and NIST. It’s a common topic that brings about confusion and frustration. The fact is that these two standards are not the same and should not be interchanged. Understanding the differences between the two is critical for companies that want to navigate the complex landscape of cybersecurity. In this article, we will be exploring the distinctions between FedRAMP and NIST and what they mean for your organization. Let’s dive in.

Is FedRAMP the same as NIST?

In short, FedRAMP and NIST are not the same entity, but they are related. FedRAMP is a government program intended to provide a standardized approach to security requirements when utilizing cloud services. On the other hand, NIST is a measurement standards laboratory created to advance measurement science, standards, and technology. However, FedRAMP leverages NIST’s guidance and procedures in order to establish a standardized set of security parameters necessary to protect sensitive information in the cloud. Below are some key points to consider when distinguishing between FedRAMP and NIST:

  • FedRAMP provides a comprehensive set of guidelines and requirements for cloud service providers (CSPs) looking to contract with government agencies.
  • NIST, on the other hand, is responsible for developing and publishing security standards and guidelines for different sectors, including government and private organizations.
  • FedRAMP is designed specifically for the government’s use of cloud-based services, and its standards are geared toward ensuring the security and protection of sensitive data.
  • NIST’s standards are broad and industry-wide, and they cover everything from cybersecurity frameworks to data encryption protocols.
  • While FedRAMP builds on NIST’s foundational security standards, it is a distinct program with its own specific requirements for CSPs.
  • In conclusion, while FedRAMP and NIST are related and deeply interconnected, they are not the same entity. FedRAMP leverages NIST’s guidelines and procedures to establish a standardized set of guidelines for cloud service providers contracted by the government. In contrast, NIST is responsible for developing security guidelines and procedures across a broad range of industry sectors.

    ???? Pro Tips:

    1. Understand the basic differences: NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) is a set of guidelines and standards for cybersecurity, while FedRAMP (Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program) is a government-wide program that provides a standardized approach to security assessment and authorization for cloud products and services. While NIST is a core component of the FedRAMP program, they are not the same thing.

    2. Know the purpose of each: NIST provides a general cybersecurity framework for all industries and organizations, while FedRAMP is more specific to cloud computing vendors and federal agencies. Understanding the specific purpose and how they differ can help you determine the best framework or program for your organization.

    3. Learn the requirements for each: NIST has guidelines for cybersecurity in general, such as identifying and assessing risks, implementing security controls and evaluating the effectiveness of security measures. FedRAMP has specific requirements for cloud service providers seeking authorization to work with federal agencies.

    4. Stay up-to-date on updates and changes: Both NIST and FedRAMP are regularly updated to incorporate new technologies and security standards. It’s important to stay aware of the latest developments to ensure your organization remains compliant.

    5. Seek professional advice: If you’re unsure which framework or program is best for your organization, or if you need help complying with NIST or FedRAMP guidelines, reach out to a qualified cybersecurity professional. A cybersecurity expert can assess your specific needs and help you develop a customized plan for achieving compliance.

    Overview of FedRAMP and NIST

    Every business or organization today wants to use highly secure cloud services to store data. In the United States, two standards play a significant role in ensuring cloud services’ security: The Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) and The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). NIST provides security and compliance guidelines, controls, and best practices, with the FedRAMP framework established to ensure the compliance of cloud service providers.

    Since more and more government agencies and private companies are moving workloads to the cloud, it is crucial to establish standards to mitigate the risks of cloud services. Having this framework in place ensures that your organization and/or government can use cloud services securely. In this article, we will examine the relationship between FedRAMP and NIST standards, where they align, and explore the differences between these two critical frameworks.

    FedRAMP and NIST: Understanding the Differences

    NIST provides guidelines and a set of standards for federal agencies and businesses to adopt to ensure information system security. FedRAMP, on the other hand, is a government-wide program that establishes baseline security requirements for cloud service providers (CSPs). The objective of FedRAMP is to provide a standardized approach by which government agencies select and manage cloud services.

    The primary difference between these two frameworks is that NIST is about security compliance and guidelines, while FedRAMP focuses on the authorization of cloud services. FedRAMP ensures that CSPs meet specific security requirements based on NIST guidelines to protect their customer’s data and infrastructure from unauthorized access, disclosure, destruction, and modification.

    FedRAMP and NIST: The Relationship between the Two

    FedRAMP establishes a standardized approach to security assessments, authorization, and continuous monitoring for cloud service providers. The FedRAMP authorization process is based on NIST’s security controls, guidelines, and best practices by which CSPs must comply to achieve FedRAMP certification. Therefore, FedRAMP is an extension of the NIST cybersecurity framework for cloud services.

    NIST itself has a publication series, Special Publication 800-53 that provides a catalog of security controls and processes that align with the FedRAMP requirements. FedRAMP utilized these NIST standards and procedures to establish a standard of security control for CSPs wishing to work with government agencies. The guidelines set by NIST are fundamental to the Authorization to Operate (ATO) process defined in FedRAMP.

    Understanding FedRAMP’s Adoption of NIST Standards and Procedures

    FedRAMP provides a uniform approach to assessing, authorizing, and monitoring cloud service providers. When a CSP wishes to gain authorization to operate in the FedRAMP marketplace, they must go through an assessment by a third-party assessment organization (3PAO), who uses the NIST guidelines as a framework for evaluation.

    Once the 3PAO has conducted an evaluation, the CSP submits their report to the government agency responsible for overseeing FedRAMP and approving the CSP’s security posture. During the review, the government agency will validate the 3PAO’s report and the CSP’s security posture, then issue an ATO that grants the cloud service provider the authority to operate in the FedRAMP marketplace.

    Navigating the Similarities and Differences between FedRAMP and NIST

    Navigating the similarities and differences between FedRAMP and NIST is essential because it helps you better understand the importance of using these frameworks. For example, NIST cybersecurity frameworks are essential for businesses and organizations across various sectors to stay compliant with cybersecurity laws and regulations. Using the NIST guidelines as a foundation, and by going through the FedRAMP authorization process, CSPs ensure that their services are secure and comply with the cybersecurity policies and requirements essential for cloud computing.

    Some key similarities and differences between FedRAMP and NIST frameworks are:


  • Both use risk-based frameworks to establish security standards for cloud services.
  • Both require continuous monitoring of security controls to maintain and improve your security posture.
  • Both take incident response seriously by emphasizing the need for a plan to respond quickly and effectively to incidents.


  • NIST is a general cybersecurity framework, while FedRAMP focuses solely on cloud services security.
  • NIST provides a set of guidelines and controls that CSPs and other businesses can use to manage their cybersecurity risks effectively. FedRAMP, on the other hand, establishes a uniform approach to security assessments, authorizations, and monitoring for cloud service providers.
  • FedRAMP is mandatory for CSPs that want to work with government agencies, while NIST guidelines are voluntary.

    Key Takeaways: FedRAMP and NIST in the Cloud Services Industry

    In summary, both the FedRAMP and NIST frameworks are essential for ensuring the security and compliance of cloud services. NIST cybersecurity frameworks are critical for businesses and organizations to stay compliant with cybersecurity laws and regulations. FedRAMP works alongside these standards to provide a standardized approach to security assessments, authorizations, and monitoring for cloud service providers.

    Navigating the similarities and differences between these two frameworks is critical, and understanding how they operate can help CSPs proactively manage their cybersecurity risks. By following these guidelines, CSPs can deliver secure cloud services that meet the needs of customers in multiple markets, such as the government, healthcare, and finance.