Most of our customers and partners ask us about the approval process for government organizations wanting to be on Microsoft Government Community Cloud (GCC). It's hard to find any reading materials online and even when you call Microsoft's sales number the reps aren't equipped with the knowledge either, so I'm writing this to clear the air!
Microsoft Government Cloud Application
The first thing you ought to know is that you must work with a Microsoft Partner who is approved to sell Microsoft's Government Community Cloud (GCC). You cannot simply buy Office 365 for government or Azure for Government directly from Microsoft. The second part is an application that is filled out by the Microsoft partner on behalf of the customer who is applying for the Government Cloud.
If you click the link above you'll see all the information required to fill out the application, most of it is generic information about the company in addition to contact information. The very last question asks for a 'Partner Tenant ID' which is the Microsoft's Partner unique identifier - this is why only an approved government partner could fill this out. (By the way, BEMO is a Government Cloud Partner)
Once the Microsoft partner clicks 'submit' on behalf of the applicant, the application is sent to the government team at Microsoft who will look over the application and will respond to the applicant (not the partner) within 48 hours. The applicant will receive 1 of 3 responses:
- Accepted - Microsoft will tell you which of the 3 tiers of GCC you qualify for
- Needs more information - Microsoft requests additional information to prove that you handle government data, this evidence can be:
- A letter from your government sponsor (NASA, NSA, State Department etc...) validating that your company is in fact their client/partner
- A contract / SOW for the project with your government sponsor
- Request Denied
The 3 Tiers of Microsoft Government Cloud
There are 3 tiers of GCC: Government GCC, Government GCC High, and Government GCC DoD. These three tiers represent the degree of compliance the customers needs to meet.
While there is no extensive background screening for Government GCC, there are 10 background screening requirements for GCC High and GCC DoD that apply to both the Microsoft Partner and the applicant. The following table can be be found here or below. While we don't have GCC High or GCC DoD customers ourselves, we've been told by Microsoft that the application approval / background checks can take up to 3 months for those customers.
Microsoft Partners must be approved to sell the various tiers, most of them are only qualified to sell Microsoft 365 GCC and usually GCC High and GCC DoD require the Microsoft Partner to get Microsoft Corporate further involved in the deal. Either way, you need to go through the application process as it frequently happens that our clients say they need to be on GCC High, but Microsoft rejects them and tells them they are only qualified for regular GCC.
Office 365 for Government Licenses
Once you are approved by Microsoft to purchase Office 365 for Government, you can now compare the 5 different Office 365 licenses specifically designed for the Government cloud. To see the specific feature differences, click on the table below or see the Office 365 for Government comparison table. If you don't know the difference between Office 365 and Microsoft 365, read our What is Microsoft 365? blog post.
If you're familiar with the Office 365 for Enterprise, then you'll find that the 'E' series is very similar to the government 'G' series, minus a few features to ensure compliance with various regulations.