Microsoft Debuts Online Suite for Federal IT

The company promises security and identity updates to its Business Productivity Online Suite to make it more desirable for government agencies to deploy Microsoft applications in the cloud.

Microsoft announced Wednesday that it is releasing a version of its hosted online services for business optimized for government IT organizations.

The new Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) for Federal is Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) latest offering for public-sector agencies, company officials told 300 CIOs gathered at its headquarters in Redmond, Wash., for its eighth annual U.S. Public Sector CIO Summit.

"The new Business Productivity Online Suite Federal is optimized to meet the security, privacy and compliance needs of U.S. federal government agencies," the company said in a statement.

Ron Markezich, corporate vice president of Microsoft Online, also announced "future capabilities and certifications" coming to BPOS Federal over the next six months. That includes "two-factor authentication, enhanced encryption and the expected attainment of Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) certification," according to the statement.

Microsoft claims to be the only cloud computing vendor to provide such capabilities.

The company's BPOS for businesses includes Microsoft Exchange Online, Microsoft SharePoint Online, Microsoft Office Communications Online and Office Live Meeting.

Together they provide e-mail, contacts, calendaring, online collaboration, instant messaging and Web conferencing capabilities, the company has said.

"BPOS Federal is launching today for U.S. federal government agencies, related government contractors and others that require the highest levels of security features and protocols," Microsoft said.

According to the company, the new service is housed on separate, dedicated infrastructure in secured facilities, with access monitored by biometric access controls in accordance with International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). Under those rules, the limited numbers of people who have access are required to be U.S. citizens who have been subjected to "rigorous background checks, including fingerprinting."

Microsoft said that government agencies in 48 of the 50 states are using BPOS.

During this week's summit, Microsoft will also be showcasing several cloud services solutions based on its Windows Azure cloud computing platform.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals.

Tags: cloud computing, Microsoft, Azure, IT, BPOS

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