Microsoft to offer government-only cloud option for Office 365

In this new 'cloud community,' public sector customers will have their data stored in a separate cloud environment

Microsoft will offer U.S. government agencies the option to host their Office 365 suites in a dedicated "cloud community" reserved only for government customers, the company said on Thursday.

The new option, whose availability date is yet to be determined, is the latest effort targeting government agencies that sign up for Office 365, the cloud-based email and collaboration suite that includes online versions of Exchange, SharePoint, Office and other Microsoft applications.

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Giving government agencies a variety of options is crucial because not all public sector customers have the same needs in terms of regulatory compliance, security, data privacy and product functionality, Microsoft said in a blog post.

"Today we offer our customers the choice between Office 365 public or private cloud solutions hosted in a dedicated ITAR [International Traffic in Arms Regulations] or multi-tenant environment. We're also committed to delivering an Office 365 government community cloud for our US customers," reads the post.

Asked to elaborate on the "community cloud" idea, a Microsoft spokeswoman said customers who choose that option will have their data stored in a separate, government-only environment.

"Our intent is to provide for unique government requirements such as FISMA and FedRAMP as customers require it," the spokeswoman said via email.

As acceptance of the cloud increases at organizations, in particular for email and collaboration software, vendors like Microsoft, Google and others are tailoring their sales pitches to the needs of specific vertical industries, such as the public sector, as well as health, finance and education.

Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.

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