updated 06:35 pm EDT, Thu May 31, 2012
Some agencies remain leery of cloud migration, holding off
Microsofthas announced Office 365 for Government, its version of cloud productivity software. The specific government version of the suite released in July 2011 uses specific government-only encryption and storage to help soothe concerns about privacy and data security. Other than the government-level encrypted storage, Office 365 for Government is the same as regular Office 365, keeping Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, and the other Office web apps in the cloud, but giving the option of installing a desktop version of the Office 2010 suite as well.
The service complies with a large number of state, federal, and international laws and regulations regarding data security and user privacy. Regulations that Office 365 for Government is complaint with include ISO 27001, SAS70 Type II, EU Safe Harbor, EU Model Clauses, US Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), US Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), and the US Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA).
Work on the Criminal Justice Information Security (CJIS) policy is underway, and support for IPv6 will be added in a future update. All of the regulations include some requirement for the encryption of data that is either intentionally transmitted or "faces" the Internet on public servers.
Electronista spoke with several federal information technology departments earlier today, and some officials doubt exists that security will really be adequate with any cloud service, regardless of compliance statements. One department spokesman said he has no intention to upgrade to the new offering from the currently installed Office 2007. The department also has no plans to migrate to any provider's cloud-based storage solution, stating that their internal regulations require stronger encryption than required by FISMA as specified in National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Special Publication 800-144 or is available in an easy-to-use fashion for users in the Microsoft productivity suite or Google Docs.