DevOps and Security Glossary Terms

Glossary Terms

Standard operating procedures (SOPs) - definition & overview

In this article
What are standard operating procedures (SOPs)?
Why are SOPs important in modern SecOps?
What problems do SOPs help resolve?
How does SOP documentation improve the incident response process?
SOP creation
How Sumo Logic helps support SOPs
What are standard operating procedures (SOPs)?
Why are SOPs important in modern SecOps?
What problems do SOPs help resolve?
How does SOP documentation improve the incident response process?
SOP creation
How Sumo Logic helps support SOPs

What are standard operating procedures (SOPs)?

Standard operating procedures (SOPs) are processes that include a set of written instructions that help security practitioners follow a straightforward and well-laid-out framework to achieve optimum efficiency in task completion. The goal of SOPs is to allow analysts to find the most efficient path to completing complex and repetitive tasks by following step-by-step guidelines.

Key takeaways

  • By outlining a step-by-step guideline, SOPs ensure that organizations don’t waste time figuring out what steps to take when carrying out a specific assignment.
  • To be effective, every security professional must strictly adhere to SOPs in the order and manner in which they are instructed.
  • If followed properly, standard operating procedures can significantly boost the incident management and response process by allowing SOC teams to minimize time wasted and create uniformity in performance.
  • Sumo Logic paves the way for modernized security operations with Cloud SOAR that improves your standard operating procedures for fast response.

Why are SOPs important in modern SecOps?

In modern security operations centers (SOCs), analysts and other security professionals need to follow specific guidelines to achieve maximum efficiency. Speed and efficiency are major factors in the battle against sophisticated cyber threats. By allowing SOC teams to optimize recurring security processes, the importance of SOPs becomes more apparent.

Outlining a step-by-step guideline in the form of a SOP document ensures that organizations don’t waste time figuring out what steps to take when carrying out a specific task. Instead, they can focus on improving task execution and routine operations.

What problems do SOPs help resolve?

SOPs help SOCs in the following ways:

  • Minimize the variation of quality of security operations (SecOps)

  • Minimize miscommunication between security teams

  • Reduce the work effort by finding the most effective path toward project completion

  • Help the SOC team be aligned with internal processes

To be effective, every security professional must strictly adhere to SOPs in the order and manner in which they are instructed. Even the best SOPs will fail if not followed closely by every team member.

How does SOP documentation improve the incident response process?

SOP creation allows cyber security teams to find the most effective workflow for different types of cyber security events. An SOP contains a list of specific actions that allow security practitioners to quickly determine which action is needed for different cyber incidents.

A basic SOP example for an incident response process could look like this:

1. Purpose:
This SOP aims to outline the procedure for responding to security incidents to ensure the prompt detection, containment, investigation and resolution of security threats or breaches.

2. Scope:
This SOP applies to all employees, contractors and stakeholders within the organization who are involved in responding to security incidents.

3. Responsibilities:
- The Security team oversees and coordinates the response to security incidents.
- IT Support is responsible for technical assistance and system analysis during incident response.
- Department heads are responsible for reporting and escalating incidents as per the procedure.

4. Procedure:
a. Detection:
Security incidents can be detected through monitoring tools, alerts or employee reports.

b. Containment:
Upon detection, isolate affected systems or networks to prevent further spread of the incident.

c. Analysis:
Perform a detailed analysis of the incident to determine the nature, scope and impact of the security breach.

d. Notification:
Notify the Security Team, IT Support, and relevant stakeholders about the incident and the actions taken.

e. Mitigation:
Implement mitigation measures to prevent further damage and restore systems to normal operation.

f. Documentation:
Document all actions taken, findings, and resolutions related to the incident for post-incident review and analysis.

5. Reporting:
Incidents must be reported to the designated Security Officer or Incident Response Team within [specified time frame].

6. Escalation:
Security incidents are escalated to higher management or external authorities based on the severity and impact of the incident.

7. Review and Improvement:
After resolving the incident, conduct a post-incident review to identify lessons learned and implement improvements to prevent future incidents.

8. Approval:
This SOP is approved by [Name and Title] on [Date].

9. Revision history:
Version 1.0: [Date] - Initial SOP creation.
Version 1.1: [Date] - Updated reporting procedures.
Version 1.2: [Date] - Added escalation guidelines.

10. Distribution:
This SOP is distributed to all relevant personnel and stakeholders and is accessible in the SOP library or knowledge base for reference.

The SOP format

For a complex process where written instructions may be insufficient, a flowchart SOP is a popular SOP format that visualizes steps instead. Including an SOP checklist in your SOP document covers essential elements to ensure compliance and effective execution of procedures. Lastly, A hierarchical SOP, or hierarchical standard operating procedure, is a structured document that outlines standard operating procedures in a hierarchical or tiered format.

SOP creation

If you don't have existing SOPs, creating SOPs comes down to following the best industry practices and aligning them with your organization’s workflows. SOP development begins by taking into consideration your organization’s key processes. SOPs can be for a repetitive task, routine task or more complex process. You can create a SOP template for any of the aforementioned.

The main steps in creating SOPs include:

  • Identify a list of processes that require an SOP
  • Establish an SOP reviewing process
  • Collect necessary data for your SOPs
  • Write the workflow and publish SOPs
  • Maintain and update SOPs regularly

It is important to meticulously audit your processes to ensure that you’ve extracted the biggest benefits of SOPs for those processes that truly need them. For effective SOP implementation, providing easy access to the procedures through a centralized repository such as an SOP library or knowledge base is best practice.

How Sumo Logic helps support SOPs

Cyber security is no longer a human-scale problem. To efficiently combat the evolving threat landscape, SOC teams must unify people, processes and technology. Sumo Logic paves the way for modernized security operations that improve your standard operating procedures for fast response by using playbooks and Supervised Active Intelligence to suggest relevant processes for specific use cases.


What key performance indicators can be used to measure the effectiveness of standard operating procedures?

1. Compliance rate: The percentage of employees following the procedures correctly.
2. Error rate: The number of deviations or mistakes made when performing tasks outlined in the procedures.
3. Training completion rate: The percentage of employees who have completed training on the procedures.
4. Efficiency improvements: Measuring the time or resources saved by following the procedures.
5. Incident rate: Tracking the number of incidents or accidents related to non-compliance with the procedures.
6. Customer satisfaction: Obtaining customer feedback on the quality and consistency of service provided by following the procedures.
7. Process consistency: Evaluating the uniformity of outputs or results when procedures are followed.
8. Employee feedback: Gathering employees' input on the procedures' clarity, relevance, and practicality.
9. Cost savings: Calculating the financial benefits of improved processes through effective SOP implementation.
10. Audit results: Assessing the results of internal or external audits related to procedure adherence and effectiveness.

How can I ensure my standard operating procedures avoid common pitfalls?

Clearly define the objectives and goals that the procedure aims to achieve.
Provide step-by-step instructions on how to perform tasks accurately and efficiently.
Clearly outlined roles and responsibilities of individuals involved in the process.
Adhere to relevant regulations, industry standards and compliance requirements.
Allow for flexibility to accommodate variations in circumstances or unique situations.
Identify key performance indicators to measure the effectiveness and efficiency of the procedure.
Provision for training and development to ensure all stakeholders understand and can execute the procedure.
Establish mechanisms for feedback, review, and updates to keep the procedure relevant and effective.
Create an approval process to ensure procedures are reviewed and authorized by the appropriate stakeholders before implementation.

What should a standard operating procedure template include?

In addition to the procedure section that outlines step-by-step instructions on how to perform the tasks, your template should also include the following:

1. Header: Includes the title of the procedure, department name, version number, and revision date.
2. Purpose: Clearly states the purpose or objective of the procedure.
3. Scope: Defines the procedure's boundaries and limitations regarding tasks and responsibilities.
4. Responsibilities: Lists the roles and responsibilities of individuals executing the procedure.
5. References: Provides references to applicable regulations, guidelines, or documents relevant to the procedure.
6. Forms and tools: Includes any necessary forms, templates or tools required to complete the tasks outlined in the procedure.
8. Revision history: Tracks changes, updates and approvals made to the procedure for version control.
9. Approval section: Designates spaces for signatures of relevant personnel approving the procedure.
10. Notes or comments: Allows additional information, explanations or comments relevant to the procedure.

What is a work instruction?

A work instruction for standard operating procedures is a detailed document that provides specific guidance on how to carry out a particular task or process outlined in an SOP. It offers step-by-step instructions with clear descriptions, visuals, and examples to help employees effectively understand and execute the procedures. Work instructions break down complex procedures into manageable tasks, ensuring consistency, quality and compliance with set standards. Unlike the broader scope of an SOP that outlines the overall process flow and guidelines, a work instruction delves into the granular details of each step, focusing on the practical aspects of task execution.

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