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Government cloud computing

A Guide to Migrating to Microsoft 365 Government Cloud Computing (GCC and GCC High)

Microsoft’s Government Cloud Computing (GCC) is widely used across various US federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government bodies. It is also utilized in organizations that deal with certain types of government data that falls under stricter regulatory requirements. For those who are both eligible for Microsoft 365 Government GCC, and interested in deploying the technology across the entity’s workforce, the following is a simplified GCC and GCC High guide. It dives into what GCC is, the two different Government Community Cloud plans that are available, what these plans have to offer, and how government organizations can successfully deploy them across their workforce. To get this guide coupled with our Guide to Microsoft Government Licensing, download our 20 Minute Guide to Microsoft Government Cloud and Licensing.

What is Microsoft’s Government Community Cloud?

The technology requirements and needs of the US government are unique to typical businesses in the private sector. For this reason, Microsoft created dedicated software and services that cater specifically to the public sector—Office 365 US Government. This offering addresses many of the compliance struggles that government cloud computing faces.

The two plans that are available, Office 365 GCC and Office 365 GCC High, are both monthly subscriptions that can then be licensed to an unlimited amount of users. However, due to the added security and infrastructure, Microsoft GCC pricing is 40% higher than normal Microsoft government license costs.

What is the Difference Between GCC and GCC High?

Both Government Cloud Computing and GCC High offer similar features and functionality. The main difference is that GCC offers cloud services that comply with federal, criminal justice, and federal tax information systems requirements. GCC High, on the other hand, complies with the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulations, Department of Defense Security Requirements Guidelines, and International Traffic in Arms Regulations

Beyond being compliant with different sets of regulations, the two services also offer different sets of features. In most cases, GCC will offer a feature, such as a client push deployment or office telemetry, and GCC High promises that it will only be available in the near future. In some cases, such as with the Yammer feature, GCC offers the feature but GCC High does not. For organizations that are interested in the technology, it is best to pinpoint what needs should be met by the technology and then identify which plan can most effectively accomplish this.

The Steps of GCC and GCC High Deployment

1. Identifying Organizational Needs and Eligibility

Government Cloud Computing helps you meet NIST, DFARS and FEDRamp compliance.

Not every organization that is a part of or connected to the U.S. government will need GCC or GCC High. The key to determining whether it is necessary lies in understanding the features it offers that are above and beyond normal Office 365 functionality.

For GCC and GCC High, these include:

  • A Segregation of commercial Office 365 customer content and the organization’s customer content.
  • The Organization’s customer content is U.S.-stored.
  • Only screened Microsoft personnel can access the organization’s customer content.
  • Full certification/accreditation compliance associated with US Public Sector customers.

In order to be eligible, the organization must be classified as a government organization, which includes organizations ranging from government agencies to entities that are state-authorized to purchase under state contracts. Additionally, eligibility extends to organizations that handle data that falls under government requirements and regulations.

Finally, GCC and GCC High are only available to U.S.-based government customers. Other government plans are available to those located outside of the country.

2. Apply

Once an organization knows that Government Cloud Computing or GCC High is right for them, they need to apply for the service. The application process is straightforward—it requires basic organizational information, such as which category or government entity it falls under, the website, and the business address. This helps Microsoft to verify the organization’s eligibility for the offering and provide a free GCC trial. You can find the application form here.

3. Understand the Default Security Settings

Both GCC and GCC High have specific default admin and security settings. It is important for IT to understand these because changing them could have a significant impact on compliance. This task will require the CTO and IT leadership to closely examine these initial settings, decipher why they are set at the specific default setting, identify which settings may be necessary to modify, and explore how the change could impact the service and the organization’s ability to comply with regulations and requirements. Only when IT leadership completes this process should you make any changes to the admin and security settings.

4. Find Out What Features are Available and Unavailable

Before organizations begin the deployment process, you need to know the features and functions that you have access too, as well as the ones that you do not have access too—or any features that have been disabled by default.

Whether you are moving over from a completely different service or just a different edition of Microsoft 365, these differences could impact day-to-day processes and systems. Understanding feature availability is one of the best ways to prepare and adjust.

The following features are available in GCC:

  • Base: Login, presence
  • Activity: Feed, My Activity
  • Chat: Conversation, files, org chart, activity, guest access
  • Teams: Channel message, channel files, add a member
  • Meetings: Schedule meeting, join a meeting, VoIP meeting, desktop sharing, give/take control in sharing, connect from a conference room, anonymous join, meeting notes, federate meetings, Surface Hub support
  • Calls: Contacts, history, voicemail, VoIP call, Skype for Business-Teams calling, Calling Plans, audio conferencing-PSTN, direct routing-Microsoft Phone System, PSTN caller lobby, call queue, boss/delegate support, consultative/safe transfer, do not disturb breakthrough, distinctive ring, one-on-one and group call escalation-Teams, Skype for Business, PSTN, forward to group, transfer to PSTN call, emergency calling-Calling Plans, certified SIP phone support, USB HID, call/meeting eDiscovery, organization auto-attendant, Skype consumer-Teams call support
  • Files: Recent, Microsoft Teams
  • Store: —
  • Search: Messages, people, files, slash commands
  • Compliance: Compliance content search, retention, audit log search, legal hold, eDiscovery

The following features are available in GCC High:

  • Base: Login, presence
  • Activity: Feed, My Activity
  • Chat: Conversation, files, org chart, activity
  • Teams: Channel message, channel files, add a member
  • Meetings: Schedule meeting, join a meeting, VoIP meeting, desktop sharing, give/take control in sharing, connect from a conference room, anonymous join, meeting notes, federate meetings
  • Calls: Contacts, history, voicemail, VoIP call, Skype for Business-Teams calling, one-on-one and group call escalation-Teams/Skype for Business/PSTN, USB HID, call/meeting eDiscovery
  • Files: Recent, Microsoft Teams
  • Store: —
  • Search: Messages, people, files, slash commands
  • Compliance: Compliance content search, retention, audit log search, legal hold, eDiscovery

While Government Cloud Computing has more features currently available to users, much of the functionality that is not currently offered with GCC High is simply on Government backlog, including:

  • Base: Unified presence-Skype for Business/Teams unified (also on Government backlog for GCC)
  • Activity: —
  • Chat: InterOp (also on Government backlog for GCC)
  • Teams: OneNote tab (also on Government backlog for GCC), guest access
  • Meetings: Cloud recording (also on Government backlog for GCC), broadcast meetings (also on Government backlog for GCC), Surface Hub support
  • Calls: Audio conferencing-PSTN, Microsoft Phone System direct routing, PSTN caller lobby, call queue, boss/delegate support, consultative/safe transfer, do not disturb breakthrough, distinctive ring, one-on-one and group call escalation-Teams/Skype for Business/PSTN, forward to group, transfer to PSTN call, emergency calling-Calling Plan, certified SIP phone support, organization auto attendant
  • Files: —
  • Store: —
  • Search: —
  • Compliance: —

The App Store is also on Government backlog for Government Cloud Computing, but unavailable for GCC High. The only feature this unavailable for GCC is the Teams feature of emailing a channel. With GCC High, however, there are several more features that are unavailable, including the email a channel, calling plans, Skype consumer-Teams call support, and the App Store features.

5. Create a Roadmap for Governance

IT leadership must create a plan for governance. They can use Teams and the tools it offers to implement any necessary governance capabilities. Whatever the requirements are, whether team creation and guest access or group expiration policies and team archival, there is a comprehensive set of features that provide enhanced government oversight and control. The key for successfully integrating governance over Government Cloud Computing and GCC High is identifying and documenting all of the governance requirements and then tying these requirements to the features and settings that can ensure compliance. Many of the details about compliance in Microsoft Teams can be found here.

The Bottom Line

Agile IT is an Azure Government authorized reseller, one of the only Microsoft partners authorized to provide GCC and GCC high to organizations under 500 seats and has the resources ready to help your organization securely migrate to the Microsoft Government Cloud. We are a FastTrack Ready partner, and authorized to provide planning services under Microsoft’s Software Assurance programs. To find out more schedule a call with a Government Cloud Computing Solutions Advisor, or request a quote:



 

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