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Understanding Microsoft 365 GCC High and other licenses

Government organizations should turn to the variety of dedicated services that Microsoft offers to deliver familiar productivity services to users with highly secured data.

United States government agencies and their partners are subject to strict security and compliance regulations, so Microsoft provides several services for their strict security needs.

These Microsoft services are largely similar in function to the commercial Microsoft productivity offerings, but the back end is completely different. Microsoft created these offerings with government customers in mind, so they meet the various compliance requirements of several levels of government.

IT administrators working in or alongside government organizations should learn what exactly these services are, how they differ from the public versions and if it's possible to acquire licensing for these services.

What is Microsoft 365 GCC?

Microsoft 365 Government Community Cloud (GCC) is a cloud computing platform provided by Microsoft and tailored specifically for the United States government and its partners. Just like the commercial version, there are Office 365 and Windows 365 variations of these government-focused services that run on the GCC, but this example focuses on Microsoft 365.  

It offers a suite of productivity and collaboration tools built on Azure infrastructure, which is similar to the commercial version of Microsoft 365 but with additional security and compliance features. These additions are required to meet the strict regulatory requirements and compliance of government agencies.

Data within Microsoft 365 GCC remains within the United States and is subject to U.S. laws and regulations. Enhanced security measures protect sensitive government data, including advanced threat protection, data loss prevention and encryption. Familiar tools are available, such as Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Teams and Office applications, and certain features within these applications are tailored to meet the unique needs of government agencies. For example, Microsoft 365 GCC supports classified information and integration with other government systems.

What is Microsoft 365 GCC High?

Microsoft 365 GCC High is tailored for U.S. federal agencies and their partners who have higher security and compliance requirements. Similar to Microsoft 365 GCC, data within Microsoft 365 GCC High resides in the United States, but it is isolated from Microsoft's commercial offerings. This provides an additional layer of security and assurance that government data is fully separated from non-government entities.

What is Microsoft 365 DoD?

Microsoft 365 Department of Defense (DoD) is a specialized offering within the Microsoft 365 suite designed specifically to meet the unique requirements of the U.S. Department of Defense and its related agencies. It provides a secure and compliant platform for communication, collaboration and productivity while adhering to the stringent security standards and regulations mandated for handling sensitive defense-related information.

Validation process for Microsoft 365 GCC High

Requesting Microsoft 365 GCC High typically involves several steps. These steps include contacting Microsoft or an authorized Microsoft partner, verifying eligibility and navigating the procurement process. The steps to implement Microsoft 365 GCC High are as follows:

  1. Contact Microsoft or an authorized partner who specializes in government cloud services.
  2. Verify that the desired organization is eligible to use Microsoft GCC High with guidance from the chosen partner.
  3. Engage in consultation with the partner to assess any specific requirements each organization will need. Determine the appropriate Microsoft GCC High licensing options and configurations that are the best fit.
  4. After the assessment, procure the necessary licenses and services.
  5. Deploy and configure Microsoft GCC High to the relevant users and groups. A third-party Microsoft partner can provide assistance and guidance to ensure a smooth implementation.
  6. Provide training to your users on how to use Microsoft GCC High effectively and securely.
There is no public information about the specific price points of these subscriptions, and resellers of these services have widely varying price points due to the variety of add-ons they include.

Licensing options for Microsoft 365 GCC and other government plans

Microsoft 365 GCC and other similar services include numerous licensing plans tailored to the needs of government agencies and their partners. This is a list of several relevant license models, but Microsoft has lots of options for add-ons for additional security, compliance and feature sets.

There is no public information about the specific price points of these subscriptions, and resellers of these services have widely varying price points due to the variety of add-ons they include. Organizations should reach out directly to Microsoft for an accurate cost estimate.

Office 365 Government G3

Office 365 Government G3 provides government agencies with essential productivity and collaboration tools, including Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Teams and Office applications -- Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc. It offers basic security and compliance features suitable for government organizations with standard security requirements. This plan is primarily focused on providing core productivity apps and collaboration capabilities to government agencies at a lower price point.

Microsoft 365 GCC Enterprise G3

This plan offers comprehensive productivity, security and compliance features for government agencies with more complex requirements. It includes all the features of the GCC Enterprise plan and additional capabilities such as advanced threat protection, information protection and compliance management.

Microsoft 365 GCC Enterprise G5

This plan is the most comprehensive offering in the Microsoft 365 GCC lineup and is ideal for government agencies with the highest security and compliance needs. It includes all the features of the E3 plan with the additions of advanced security and compliance capabilities such as threat intelligence, eDiscovery and advanced data governance.

Microsoft 365 GCC High and DoD

These specialized licensing plans meet the security and compliance requirements of U.S. federal government agencies that fall under or work closely with the Department of Defense. They include all the features of the corresponding Enterprise plans but also comply with additional regulations and standards such as FedRAMP -- or the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program -- and DoD Impact Levels 4 and 5.

Helen Searle-Jones holds a group head of IT position in the manufacturing sector and has more than 25 years of experience with managing a wide range of Microsoft technologies in the cloud and on-premises.

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