Microsoft is offering the feds their very own version of Office 365, the suite of online office tools the software giant introduced last year.
Redmond annouced the arrival of Office 365 for Government, which mimics the standard incarnation of Office 365 but lives on a separate set of servers that will only house data for government agencies. “We also know that security and privacy play a big role in any decision to move to the cloud,” read a canned statement from Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president of Microsoft Office.
Microsoft also said that Office 365 for Government will comply with a number of security standards, including the U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which covers the use of health data, and the U.S. Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA), which deals with government data.
In September, Microsoft said it would spend $150 million dollars to construct a second data center alongside a $499 million facility already under construction in southern Virginia — i.e., the feds’ backyard. The company is intent on competing with the government cloud services offered by Amazon and Google, which also operate data centers in the D.C. area.
Microsoft has a strong foothold in the government sector, thanks to its traditional suite of Office applications. But as the world moves into the proverbial cloud, the competition is heating up.
Late in 2010, Google sued the Department of the Interior (DOI), claiming it awarded a $49.3 million e-mail contract to Microsoft without giving the search giant a fair opportunity to bid, and apparently, it succeeded in winning that opportunity.
Google offers a version of its Google Apps suite specifically for the government’s users. At least part of the suite is segregated from the rest of Google’s infrastructure, and it has long been FISMA certified.