Google removes cloud security barrier for the government

With Google Apps for Government, federal agencies have a green light to explore the cloud for productivity apps

I got a call from a reporter yesterday about the recent release of Google Apps for Government, which meets the security compliance restrictions of the federal government. "Google Apps for Government is the first suite of cloud computing applications to receive Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) certification and accreditation from the U.S. government," Google says.

The Google Apps platform consists of Google Docs, Gmail, spreadsheets, a video tool, and Google Sites. It was announced last year, but Google delivered on the promise just this week.

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Why is this big news? For starters, Google is the first cloud provider to meet the standards required for this type of software as a service. Microsoft will surely follow up with its own FISMA-compliant product at some point.

Second, we can finally get the government off the dime and put some of its commodity infrastructure, such as productivity applications, into the cloud, where it makes more sense to reside. Many government employees, in both civilian and defense agencies, have been hankering for cloud applications such as this, but without the FISMA security blessing, they were not allowed inside the firewall -- not to mention the fact that cloud security risks are real.

These SaaS applications provide several advantages. One, they are much more cost-effective to manage and much easier to purchase, given the legal issues around how the government has to pay for hardware and software. Also, you'll have less difficulty using SaaS applications outside of the workplace, and the latest version is always available. 

Portions of the government have been moving in this direction for some time. The Energy Department's Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory started deploying Google Apps for its 5,000 users early this year. Berkeley Labs is using Gmail, Docs, Sites, and Calendar, with full deployment scheduled by the end of the year. Many state and local governments are moving in this direction as well, such as the widely publicized Los Angeles City Google Apps win.

Those in the government who where waiting for FISMA now have FISMA. Let's use this technology to make the government more productive.

This article, "Google removes cloud security barrier for the government," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of David Linthicum's Cloud Computing blog and follow the latest developments in cloud computing at InfoWorld.com.

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