Catering to a growing need among cost-constrained government agencies for cloud computing that's both affordable and secure, Google on Monday introduced a new version of Google Apps for federal, state, and local government agencies in the U.S.
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Google Apps for Government offers the same suite of online applications as Google Apps Premiere Edition, with Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) certification and support for government-mandated policy and security measures.
Google claims that Google Apps for Government is the first multi-tenant cloud computing suite to receive certification under FISMA, which sets guidelines for responsible information security management in U.S. government information systems.
For instance, Google Apps for Government guarantees that Gmail and Calendar data is stored only on servers in the continental U.S. and that those servers are segregated from servers used by non-governmental customers.
Google says it will be adding segregated storage to its other apps in the near future.
The U.S. Navy is using Google Apps to help coordinate its disaster relief efforts through a program called InRelief.
Captain Douglas C. Wied, assistant program manager of the Non-Classified Enclave in the U.S. Navy, explained in an e-mail that the Navy faces a constant challenge in trying to provide information sharing systems that are simultaneously secure, accessible, cost-effective and scalable.
Cloud computing applications help address that challenge, he said.
"The Navy for many years has followed the path of building an application, standing up a collection of servers, and hosting the capability to the fleet," said Wied. "Solutions such as this are costly and require significant hardware/software, system administrators, information assurance testing and accreditation, etc. The result is a stand-alone 'stove piped' solution that does not easily interoperate with other systems and scales only if costly resources are added to the hardware infrastructure. The cloud computing solutions now emerging, such as Google Apps for Government, are helping us rapidly deploy collaborative tools and services that bring real capability to the fleet without compromising the secure integrity of our networks and allow us the flexibility to easily adapt to changing requirements or developing crisis."
Google Apps for Government was designed with input from early Google customers in the public sector, such as the City of Orlando and the City of Los Angeles, where Google missed a June 30 implementation deadline owing to lingering security concerns.
Regardless of such difficulties, Google Apps for Government is bringing new customers to Google, such as Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a part of the National Laboratory system funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science.
Berkeley Lab has moved 4,000 people to Gmail and expects to have migrated about 5,000 by the end of the summer this year. It has already launched Google Docs and Google Sites for its users to support group collaboration, and anticipates a move to Google Calendar in the months ahead.
CIO Rosio Alvarez says Berkeley Lab expects to save $1.5 to $2 million in software, hardware, and labor costs by using Google Apps for Government over the next five years. She says that while saving money is important, so too is sharing and collaboration.
"Smaller research projects with a few dozen collaborators often struggle with building the infrastructure to effectively share information," she said in a blog post. "Google Apps makes it easy for them to deploy the services they need with no help from IT folks."