Microsoft moves to secure cloud for government users

Last week, Microsoft held its eighth annual US Public Sector CIO Summit in Redmond, Washington where company officials unveiled enhanced certification and security capabilities for cloud users in government. According to the Microsoft vice president responsible for state and local governments, last week’s announcements were significant not just for federal customers, but also for states and cities as well.

Governments at all levels will now be able to use Microsoft’s standard Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS), including Exchange, SharePoint, Office Live Meeting and Office Communications, while adhering to a strict set of privacy and security standards – a common concern for potential government converts to the cloud.

“This announcement is very significant for state and local government market,” Gail Thomas-Flynn, vice president of state and local government at Microsoft, told CivSource, “we are the first and only cloud provider with this level of security.”

BPOS now meets a variety of industry standards and certifications, Thomas said, including those vital for health information sharing and transactions auditing.

  • International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 27001
  • Statement on Auditing Standards (SAS) 70 Type I and Type II
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
  • Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
  • Title 21 CFR Part 11 of the Code of Federal Regulations
  • Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 140-2, and Trusted Internet Connections (TIC) compliance are all parts of the company’s dedication to cloud security, Thomas said.

“We have tremendous momentum. Our enhancements show our commitment to making privacy and security paramount for our customers. We understand it’s an important business decision.”

As part of the security announcements, Microsoft said the City of Newark, New Jersey had recently integrated a portion of their IT operations into the cloud. Ms. Thomas said a big reason Newark decided to go with Microsoft was because of the solution’s flexibility in working with legacy applications and the ability to construct a hybrid service.

“We give customers flexibility in how their software is provisioned to them: services in the cloud, on premise or some hybrid thereof,” she said of the Azure platform. “It’s a key consideration to be cognizant of how cloud services interact with legacy business apps and solutions.”

The BPOS subscription also allows users receive release updates every 90 days, according to Thomas. “It allows customers to tap into R&D benefits much faster.”

Microsoft has over 1.4 million licenses to state and local governments for their online services, with governments in 48 of the 50 U.S. states, totaling over 500 unique customers. BPOS is advertised for around $10 per user per month, but Thomas said the company has more aggressive pricing options available for anyone who has made prior investments in Microsoft technologies.

“We are thrilled to offer this level of security, applicable broadly to all governments – federal, state and local.”

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