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Google revealed today that it will answer security critics and build out its
government customer base with a new version of Google Apps, specifically for
the government sector, complete with FISMA certification.

Google said in its Official
Enterprise Blog that Google Apps for Government
is the industry’s "first
suite of cloud computing applications to receive Federal
Information Security Management Act (FISMA)
certification and accreditation
from the U.S.
government." That’s a big score for Google, which has been fighting
security criticisms very publicly for the past couple of months.

The new suite is designed for use by federal, state and local agencies, and
includes the standard Google Apps applications such as Gmail, calendaring, Google
Docs for file sharing, intranets and video.

Here’s what is different: Google Apps for Government is hosted on a segregated
infrastructure that is dedicated to government customers only, and the suite
offers FISMA security certification.

Google is hoping the certification will help ease government and federal
concerns enough to facilitate a move to the cloud. The FISMA certification
granted to Google is at the "moderate level," which means Google Apps
for Government is cleared for "sensitive" data, but not classified
data. "Sensitive" data and lower classifications, however, make up 80
percent of government data.

Google points to customers such as the city of Los Angles,
the city of Orlando, Fla.,
and Berkeley Lab, a member of the U.S. Department of Energy’s national
laboratory system. At Berkeley Lab, Google Apps is being used to primarily
share document versions of its unclassified research among several
collaborators around the globe. However, the city of Los
Angeles’ Google Apps implementation, which was supposed
to be completed in June, has
been delayed
due to the police
department’s concern
over security.

Google says that FISMA certification is not the last of its attempts to provide
solutions for the government sector, and says that other applications will
follow in the near future and that Google Apps for Government "will
continue to evolve to meet unique government requirements."

Last September, on the heels of the federal CIO
Vivek Kundra’s debut of
Apps.gov
, a marketplace portal where government agencies can get cloud
applications and services, Google announced it would seek federal certification
for a government version of its Google Apps. It received certification last
Thursday. FISMA is a federal certification, even though the product is
being positioned for purchase across the public sector, including state and
local agencies.