When many people hear of Microsoft Azure, they usually think of Cloud deployments for commercial usage, such as for businesses in Corporate America. But believe it or not, there are up to four different versions of this Cloud offering, and each one is designed to serve the unique needs of the customer base that is using it.

One such offering is that of Microsoft 365 GCC High and is the focal point of this article.

What Is The GCC High?

The Department of Defense requires a special type of Cloud environment in order to secure its most sensitive datasets, which is often used by third parties, such as defense contractors. In order to satisfy this need, Microsoft devised a new kind of Cloud Platform called the “Government Community Cloud”, or the “GCC” for short, in order to meet its compliance standards.

This platform is available to those entities that are involved with the following:

  • FedRAMP High;
  • DFARS 7012;
  • The International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR);
  • The Criminal Justice Information Services Policies.

What Are The Differences Between GCC High And The Commercial M365?

They differ in four key areas, which are as follows:

  • Storage:
    Microsoft Azure has datacenters located throughout the entire world, and the end user typically has a choice as to which one of them they would like to deploy their Cloud environment in. But with the GCC High, this is not the case. All data that is stored, processed, and archived are stored in US based datacenters only. Further, access to this is severely restricted, as individuals must be employees of Microsoft, and have to also be thoroughly screened and background checked. Also, access to the DoD datasets is only allowed on a request only basis.
  • Access to M365 applications:
    When a business establishes their Azure account along with M365, all applications from within them are available instantaneously. This is not the case with GCC High. Applications are much slower to roll out, given all of the security checks that must be conducted first.
  • Licensing:
    While the licensing for the commercial versions of M365 and Azure can be purchased from just about any Cloud Services Provider (CSP), licensing for the GCC High Cloud can only be purchased from Microsoft directly or a few certified partners. (NOTE: KAMIND is a licensed partner for GCC High licenses).
  • The sharing of information:
    The data that is stored and processed in the GCC High Cloud cannot be shared at all with other commercial Cloud Platforms that use Azure. It can only be shared from within other GCC environments. Also, there are some Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) features that are available in the GCC, versus the commercial deployments of Microsoft Teams and Skype (Skype is soon to be retired – click here to see more details on this).

The Disadvantages Of The GCC

While the primary advantage of the GCC is that it offers a very secure and robust environment for the DoD datasets, because of that it also has a number of limitations as well:

  • It can be difficult to determine if you need this kind of platform for the CMMC. While using the GCC offers the other advantage of full compliance with the statutes and mandates of the CMMC, the question very often arises if you really need it, given that it can be a time consuming and tedious process to deploy. There is no clear-cut answer to this, as a lot will depend upon the Maturity Level certification that you are seeking. The best way to get a clear-cut answer to this is to have a fully trained CMMC consultant first assess the controls you have in place, and from there, see what else is needed. It is important to keep in mind that the GCC is primarily designed for the applications listed in the first section of this article.
  • Given the tightness of the environment, many other features of it are still quite limited, and there is virtually no interaction allowed with 3rd party applications.

Conclusions

If you are ready to start the application process to get a GCC Cloud Platform, click here. If you have further questions, please feel free to contact us also.

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