Google today announced Google Apps for Government, a new offering that has the look and feel of the Google Apps enterprise offering but now with some enhancements intended to address security concerns specific to government agencies.
At a press event at Google's headquarters today, the company said that it has received FISMA (Federal Information Security Management Act) certification, which allows Google to store sensitive, yet unclassified, information, which makes up about 80 percent of all government data, the company said.
In addition, the company said it has built a segregated physical set of servers for Gmail and calendaring for government customers and that other apps will soon be housed on those servers, as well. It also said that all government data will be stored within the borders of the continental United States.
As part of the company's pitch for the announcement, it played up the cost savings that comes with the switch and noted that, in these tough economic times, government agencies need these sort of cost savings alternatives. The news builds on an event last year that was co-hosted by Google and the U.S. government to announce Apps.gov. At that event, the company said it was seeking the FISMA certification.
The company said it is obviously looking to offer government agencies the same cost savings that comes with offloading some of these IT systems to the cloud. And, for the most part, that's something that government agencies already know about.
But the trust factor has been a big issue for government agencies - both big and small. After all, dealing with sensitive data and offloading it to a third party vendor can be a scary thing. Google recognizes that and said that the new certification - notably because it comes from the federal government - serves as a "banner of trust" of sorts that gives smaller state and local government agencies the thumbs-up for a push into the cloud.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who made a cameo at the press event, said that for years, enterprises have all faced the same issues with data management, systems updates, aging infrastructures and security. The demand, he said, for a new way is enormous and that the certification from the government is yet another barrier that's been broken down. That, he said, allows agencies to not only save money but also update its infrastructure to a system that's more efficient and friendlier to taxpayers and citizens.
"Cloud computing is sort of a jump ball," Schmidt said. "You get a chance to rethink it."