Google Apps for Government Meets Federal Security Standard

Google introduced Google Apps for Government, accommodated by FISMA certification. FISMA is essentially the government's seal of approval of Google Apps as a secure cloud computing collaboration platform, something Microsoft lacks for its own cloud suites.

Google July 26 launched Google Apps for Government and earned a key security credit that makes its collaboration software for the cloud viable for federal agencies.

Google Apps for Government includes all of the applications in the company's Google Apps Premier Edition (GAPE) suite, including Gmail, Google Docs and Postini security services.

The suite, which Google hosts in its servers and provisions over the Web, will run government agencies $50 per user per month, or the same as GAPE.

However, unlike the standard, education and premier editions of Google Apps, Google Apps for Government has been awarded Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) certification and accreditation from the U.S. government's General Services Administration.

FISMA calls for all information systems used by U.S. federal government agencies to have the utmost security. The GSA sports 15,000 e-mail accounts and oversees government procurement in the United States.

Its blessing of Google Apps for Government make it easier for federal agencies to compare Google's security features to those of their existing systems.

For example, GSA currently uses IBM's Lotus Notes. That contract is up for renewal by the end of the fiscal year, and the GSA is in position to weigh the security of Google Apps versus Lotus Notes.

The FISMA certification is also something Microsoft is trying to win for its rival cloud computing offering, Business Productivity Online Suite. Microsoft is waging a war against Google in the cloud for collaboration software customers.

To satisfy FISMA protocol, Google pledges to provide added federal security and peace of mind by storing Gmail and Calendar data separate from data generated by consumers of the standard and premier editions of Google Apps.

This means Google Apps for Government will run in the cloud on servers located in a dedicated data center facility somewhere in the continental United States, "exclusively for our government customers," said the suite's Technical Program Manager Kripa Krishnan in a blog post.

Other Google applications, such as Google Sites, Google Video and Google Talk, will soon follow.

While Google Apps for Government has been accorded FISMA for federal credibility, Google expects this will have a trickle-down effect into the state and local municipalities, said Matt Glotzbach, product management director for Google Apps, during a media event July 26.

The suite forms the centerpiece for the "government cloud" Google discussed building last September.