All the tech companies pretty much just compete with each other these days with the same products with one coming out later than the other. Microsoft has been on the backburner for a while now releasing their own versions of consumer and professional services while trying to keep up with Google. Their latest release helps the company stay current with other cloud-based technologies.
Microsoft announced today the availability of Office 365 for Government, their latest cloud offering to governments. If you're unfamiliar with Office 365, nobody would blame you for it. It's essentially a cloud-based storage solution that offers users access to all the features of Microsoft Office without having to actually have them installed or hosted on a personal server.
Google has been in this business for a while with their Google Apps for Government program. It already has the support of major parties like Orlando, Florida and Los Angeles. More recently, the non-government version of Google Apps was picked up by the city of Edmonton, Alberta.
A head start doesn't mean anything to Microsoft though. The company is moving head on by offering all sorts of software to government workers to hopefully make their lives easier. The current software on offer with Office 365 for Government include Exchange Online, Lync Online, SharePoint Online and Office Professional Plus. Compare that to Google Apps for Government which offers Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs, Google Sites and video and you can see that both are about evenly matched.
The real concern is, of course, the security put in place with these services. As we move towards the cloud, governments are going to have to rely more and more on secure servers to keep their documents away from prying eyes. With the release of Office 365 for Government today, Microsoft claims to support global standards in security like ISO 27001 and the US Federal Information Security Management Act. They also hope to support IPv6 by September of this year to keep up with the latest evolution of the Internet.
While the announcement says that Office 365 is targeted towards U.S. government organizations, it also says that it supports privacy and security standards in the EU. It remains to be seen if Microsoft will be offering Office 365 to Europe or Canada in the near future. We've contacted Microsoft to clarify and will update this story if we hear back.
Microsoft has been pushing Office 365 pretty aggressively these past few months after moving out of beta last year. Just recently, Microsoft announced a partnership with the Catholic International Education Office to bring Office 365 to 200,000 Catholic schools around the world.
Microsoft has the name brand recognition of Office to do well in this space. As we all move towards the cloud, it's going to be Google and Microsoft going head-to-head over lucrative government contracts.
As previously mentioned, we reached out to Microsoft in regards to Office 365 for Government making the move to governments outside of the U.S. A Microsoft spokesperson just got back to us with a response:
Office 365 for Government is for U.S based government, you are correct. For government outside the United States, Office 365 for enterprises works well for most national, regional and municipal governments. For those with more specialized needs, Microsoft provides additional options such as dedicated infrastructure and local in-country hosting partners.
Essentially, Office 365 for enterprises & Office for Government offer the same level of functionality: both offer a FISMA package and have best-in-class security, transparency, and compliance features. The difference is that Office 365 for Government has a segregated infrastructure for US government customers. If the customer has no special need to be in a tenant community that only has other US Government tenants, then we recommend staying in our Enterprise cloud. If the customer has a special regulatory need to migrate, we will help them do so.
As government cloud requirements evolve, Microsoft’s portfolio will evolve to meet those needs.