Google scored an important win over Microsoft a few weeks ago when it won a $35 million U.S. government contract to bring its cloud-based office solution to the Department of the Interior. Microsoft’s legacy solutions, of course, remain a staple in government offices, but as more and more agencies want to move their productivity and collaboration services to the cloud, Microsoft is running the risk of losing out in this lucrative market. Today, however, the company is launching a new service that should give more of its government customers, which tend to have very strict data security and privacy regulations, the option to move to the cloud. Microsoft’s new Office 365 for Government is, in the company’s own words, “a new multi-tenant service that stores US government data in a segregated community cloud.”
Google touted its ISO 27001 certification for Google Apps for Business last week, which Office 365 for Government also qualifies for. Just like its predecessor, the Business Productivity Online Suite Federal, Microsoft’s new service also supports a plethora of other certifications, including SAS70 Type II, the US Health Insurance Portability, Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the US Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA). Microsoft also plans to support Criminal Justice Information Security policies soon. The service will soon offer support for IPv6 as well.
The major difference between Microsoft’s enterprise solution and this government cloud is that the government data lives on its own segregated infrastructure. Besides this – and the additional certifications – Microsoft’s government solution includes virtually the same services as the enterprise version, including Exchange Online, Lync Online, SharePoint Online and Office Professional Plus. Given that Microsoft’s enterprise solution is also now FISMA certified, this new service is mainly meant for agencies that have requirements beyond this certification.