Google or not, Microsoft cloud tools win federal security nod

Microsoft says the federal version of its Business Productivity Online Suite cloud-based communications tools — including Exchange and SharePoint Online — has been certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under the Federal Information Management Security Act (FISMA), clearing the way for its use by 120,000 USDA employees.

The announcement is notable in part because FISMA certification was the subject of a heated dispute between Microsoft and Google earlier this month. Microsoft questioned Google’s claim of certification for Google Apps, and Google called Microsoft’s statements misleading. The companies are competing aggressively for the business of U.S. agencies.

In an email, a Microsoft representative said the FISMA approval from the USDA means BPOS-Federal “is ready to meet the needs of all federal agencies who are evaluating moving to productivity solutions based on Microsoft Online Services.”

Announcing the news today, Microsoft noted that it’s also seeking FISMA certification for its Office 365 subscription suite, which includes its Office Web Apps, versions of its Office programs that run in web browsers. The public beta of Office 365 was announced earlier this week.