Microsoft's hosted apps earn federal certification

This week, Microsoft's BPOS-Federal hosted service earned FISMA certification

Microsoft said on Wednesday that its BPOS-Federal service has received an important certification that allows federal organizations to use the service.

Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Standard Suite is a set of services that includes Exchange, SharePoint, Office Live Meeting and Office Communications Online.

The service achieved certification this week under the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA), which established a stringent security standard that some federal agencies must require their vendors to comply with.

Microsoft's certification will allow the U.S. Department of Agriculture to migrate its 120,000 workers to BPOS-Federal and means that other federal agencies can also choose to use the service. The USDA announced late last year that it planned to start using the hosted BPOS offering.

Microsoft said it also plans to pursue FISMA certification for Office 365, a new hosted suite of products that is scheduled to launch soon.

FISMA certification has been at the heart of a war of words between Microsoft and Google. Last week, Microsoft complained that Google is lying about its hosted Apps for Government being FISMA certified. Microsoft pointed to recently released court documents in which the U.S. Department of Justice said that although Google widely markets the service as having FISMA certification, in fact it doesn't.

Google countered by saying that it received FISMA certification for the service last year but had since changed the name of the service and added two enhancements. FISMA sets out a process for recertification when vendors make changes to their products, and Google is working through that recertification process now, it said. Google argues that the service remains authorized during the recertification process.

The dispute indicates how important government deals are for both companies.

Both have won deals across the country to use their hosted services. Google has won deals to supply hosted services to the U.S. General Services Administration as well as agencies in Washington, D.C.; Orlando; the state of Wyoming; Larimer County, Colorado; the New Mexico attorney general; and Multnomah County, Oregon.

Microsoft has signed some large government deals as well, including with the USDA; New York City; agencies in California; the state of Minnesota; the city of Alexandria, Virginia; and Colorado's Department of Labor and Employment.

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com

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