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Understanding Microsoft Office 365 Government Cloud Computing

Microsoft has developed tailor-made cloud solutions to cater to the unique and dynamic requirements of federal, state, territorial and tribal bodies and other US Public Sector Customers. The primary objective of these solutions is to ensure adherence to the stringent regulatory requirements of handling government data. Customers interested in procuring these solutions must meet eligibility criteria. As a part of these offerings, there are three different environments namely Office 365 GCC environment, Office 365 GCC High and DoD environment. This writeup explains the difference between GCC and GCC High and how these solutions can be successfully deployed across the organization’s workforce.

How is Microsoft Government Community Cloud Unique?

Microsoft GCC implements strict compliance measures that are unique to the US government’s requirements. Data accumulated via Microsoft GCC services is logically segregated from other commercial Office 365 plans. Besides, all the data is strictly stored within the borders of the United States. Only screened Microsoft personnel can access confidential data. So, content from Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and Microsoft Teams are stored in data centers located within the country.

How Are GCC And GCC High Different?

While Office 365 GCC and Office 365 GCC High and DOD environments share a vast majority of the features, they are fundamentally different in terms of the compliance aspects. Office 365 GCC caters to the Federal compliance requirements for cloud services like FedRAMP Moderate and that of the criminal justice (CJI) and federal tax information systems (FTI) data types. Office 365 GCC High and DOD environments, on the other hand, are customized for complying with the Department of Defense Security Requirements Guidelines, International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and Defense Federal Acquisition Regulations Supplement (DFARS). Consequently, certain applications like Yammer Enterprise are available with Office 365 in GCC with Enterprise Agreements and Enterprise Subscription Agreements but not available with GCC High or DoD. Additionally, while Office 365 GCC works on Azure Commercial stack, Office 365 GCC High and DoD leverage dedicated infrastructure.

How to Deploy GCC or GCC High?

The GCC and GCC High environments are different from regular Office 365 deployments. Consequently, there are variations in the roadmaps for these products. Here is a quick summary of the actions to be performed for their deployment.

Identify needs and confirm eligibility

Not all government organizations are eligible nor required to deploy either GCC or GCC High environments for their needs. Check if your organization has specific compliance requirements that warrant the deployment of either of these solutions. For starters, the entity must be classified as a government organization or must be authorized to handle data that is subjected to these requirements. Additionally, U.S-based government customers only are eligible for these Office 365 Government plans.

Validation for Eligibility

Once your organization has determined that Office 365 Government is the right solution for its requirements, it has to confirm with Microsoft if it is eligible for a Microsoft government cloud plan to access compliant productivity and security services. This is an important step because Microsoft does not offer commercial customer trials for Office 365 GCC and there are no trials for GCC High or DoD.

Understanding Security Settings

Microsoft 365 GCC, GCC High, and DoD have default security settings. These settings are applied by default to ensure compliance with the existing laws. Organizations have to configure their systems to cater to their requirements. However, changes to these settings might result in compliance issues. So, you must talk to experts about the default settings of the Microsoft government cloud plan and assess the impact of modifying such settings beforehand while evaluating the feasibility of the plan for your organization.

Features of Office 365 GCC Environments

Office 365 US Government plans have nearly the same features as their commercial counterparts. This includes applications like SharePoint Online, Teams, Exchange Online, OneDrive for Business among others. Even other products like PowerApps have been rolled out for such users. However, the plans are not yet at par with the commercial licenses of the software suite. This applies to certain capabilities of applications like Microsoft Teams.

Establish a Security Framework

GCC tenants and GCC High tenants work just like the commercial Office 365 tenants. Users can access the applications and services in the GCC environment with their regular devices like smartphones. However, there is paperwork to be done to authorize connections between the environments. It is accessibility that makes Office 365 in any of its forms a desirable product and that is true with Office 365 GCC and GCC High as well. Identifying the kind of connections and integrations that are allowed on these applications is the most important aspect of deploying these suites. Establishing a policy to document connections while staying compliant with NIST requirements should keep you out of trouble.

Office 365 Government – Get It from an Authorized Vendor

The Office 365 Government environment is one of the most secure platforms that are compliant with the strictest norms. These may have fewer features while being more expensive than their commercial counterparts. However, that is a relatively small downside for contractors and other entities that must engage with the government as compared to the consequences of being non-compliant. Reach out to Apps4Rent, a Microsoft Gold Partner and certified vendor for offering Office 365 Government Cloud.

We help government organizations deploy and customize Office 365 to suit their environments. Contact us to know more!

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