Microsoft: Office 365 for government has advantage in security, offline work
- By Brian Robinson
- Jul 01, 2011
There’s nothing much wholly new with Microsoft’s just announced, cloud-based Office 365, but it puts the company in the game for the all-inclusive requirement for application services that government will increasingly demand.
“What we’ve heard loud and clear from our customers is that, depending on their mission, they want to be able to have Office capabilities delivered to any device at any time and anywhere they are,” said Susie Adams, Microsoft Federal’s chief technology officer. “And they want to be able to access them however they are connected, in a browser-based client, and they also want them available offline.”
It’s this latter requirement — and the huge base Microsoft already has in government, where most agencies have standardized on Microsoft Office for years — that Adams said gives her company the lead over competitors, particularly Google and its online government solution, Google Apps for Government.
What Microsoft Office 365 can and can’t do
Google Apps and Office 365: comparing apples to oranges?
Microsoft’s government version of the cloud-based suite is Microsoft Office 365 with International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR) support, in which agency data is stored on dedicated servers at protected Microsoft data center sites.
Documents and data both at rest and in transit over the network are encrypted to Federal Information Processing Standard 140-2 Level 1. It also supports agency security compliance at the moderate level under the Federal Information Security Management Act.
Office 365 ITAR support plans also ensure that Microsoft personnel who have access to government-owned data are U.S. citizens and have passed a series of background checks and screens.
Most agencies have so far shown interest in the dedicated version of Office 365, Adams said, though some without the need to guard sensitive data have expressed interest in a multitenant, shared version because of the economies of scale that offers.
Adams also said that agencies that already have an enterprise license for Microsoft Office will get credit for that if they decide to also go with the cloud-based Office 365 through “step-up skew pricing.”
“There’s a lot of flexibility there because we realize most of our customers own different things, and that makes it complicated because everyone has needs that are a little different,” Adams said. “But in the overall scheme of things, we want to make sure we let them leverage what they already own and the investments they’ve already made.”
The one new wrinkle with Office 365 is that there’s also monthly, subscription-based pricing. That recognizes that there are many tiers of information workers who need access to different capabilities at different times, Adams said.
Brian Robinson is a freelance technology writer for GCN.