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Cisco provides extra-secure Webex for U.S. government

Cisco will provide a higher-security cloud-based unified communications platform for U.S. national security and defense personnel to monitor classified data, starting in 2024.

This story was updated on June 22, 2023.

Cisco's Webex Contact Center Enterprise is officially secure for use by U.S. government agencies.

Cisco on Thursday said the offering is authorized by the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP), for secure use by U.S. government organizations on the local, state and federal level. It is available now.

"This is big news for Cisco," Metrigy Research analyst Irwin Lazar said. "Not only does this open the door to U.S. federal government agencies, but also to government contractors who may be required to use FedRAMP-authorized services to support their government agency customers."

The Webex Contact Center Enterprise package includes software for calling, meetings and messaging, in addition to the contact center platform.

Competitor Microsoft's Teams app for meetings and messaging has been FedRAMP-authorized since 2018, according to Lazar.

In addition, Cisco said its cloud-based phone system, Webex Calling, will be available for Webex Government this fall.

Cisco in April revealed that it ramped up cloud-based security for its team collaboration platform, Webex, to be used by U.S. national security and defense personnel starting in 2024.

The special air-gapped cloud security will ensure the government's cloud network will be cloistered away from public networks and operable only by authorized personnel on U.S. territory.

National security and defense personnel already use high-security Cisco Webex for on-premises communication tools including calling, messaging, meeting and file sharing, according to Cisco.

"Webex has had a government secure offering for years," said Sean Spradling, an analyst at The Futurum Group. "The Webex announcement of an air-gapped solution isn't the end of the work, but it's one of the last major milestones on the way to SaaS solutions offering an across-the-board higher degree of security than on-prem solutions ever could."

Cisco in 2020 unveiled the Webex Legislate dashboard to enable expanded features for government organizations. The dashboard is tailored to government tasks, such as passing legislation -- it includes buttons for voting and viewing how users voted, for example.

Cloud vs. on-premises networks

Now, Cisco is expanding its secure offerings to the cloud, as cloud networking has become more common.

Security has always been seen as one of the cornerstone arguments for on-prem models, and these announcements from Webex are just another step toward that argument falling apart.
Sean SpradlingAnalyst, The Futurum Group

"There has been an active debate about the natural balance between cloud and on-premises deployments," Spradling said.

Security is one controversial aspect of that debate, he said.

"Security has always been seen as one of the cornerstone arguments for on-prem models, and these announcements from Webex are just another step toward that argument falling apart," Spradling said.

Webex adheres to security rules as detailed by the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, which requires a U.S. trusted cloud in the country. Local regulations and government security controls dictate specific security features for the tool.

The high-security cloud offering aims to protect government data from cyber attacks, data breaches and security incidents, according to Cisco.

Competing for the safest collaboration platform

But Cisco is not the only company to offer high-security cloud platforms. Microsoft has Office 365 Government Secret cloud, released in January, but the offering does not include its Teams unified communications platform, Spradling explained. Zoom likewise offers Zoom for Government.

In addition, Cisco's updated air-gapped Webex with added cloud security still can interoperate with existing Cisco technologies, as is customary with Cisco products.

Mary Reines is a news writer covering customer experience and unified communications for TechTarget Editorial. Before TechTarget, Reines was arts editor at the Marblehead Reporter.

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