soldiers reviewing information about cybersecurity

As technology evolves, the need for robust cybersecurity measures increases. Organizations that work with sensitive data, such as the government, the military, and defense contractors, have specific security compliance requirements they need to meet. In the United States, the most common requirements are defined by three sets of regulations: DFARS, NIST, and ITAR. When choosing a cloud provider, it's essential to understand which version of the cloud meets these requirements. In this article, we will compare Microsoft Commercial, Microsoft GCC, and Microsoft GCC High.

DFARS, NIST, and ITAR Explained

DFARS stands for Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement. It's a set of guidelines that outlines cybersecurity requirements for defense contractors. DFARS is based on NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) guidelines, but it adds specific requirements for controlled unclassified information (CUI) and covered defense information (CDI).

NIST is a framework that provides guidelines, standards, and best practices for managing and improving information security. It's used by both government agencies and private companies.

ITAR stands for International Traffic in Arms Regulations. It's a set of rules that govern the export and import of defense-related goods and services. ITAR compliance is required for companies that deal with military technologies, including hardware, software, and data.

Comparing Microsoft Cloud Versions

Microsoft offers three versions of its cloud services: Commercial, Government Community Cloud (GCC), and Government Community Cloud High (GCC High). Here's how they compare in terms of DFARS, NIST, and ITAR compliance.

Microsoft Commercial

Microsoft Commercial is the standard cloud service offered by Microsoft to all its customers, including government agencies and defense contractors. It meets many of the NIST guidelines, but it does not have specific features for DFARS or ITAR compliance. Therefore, using Microsoft Commercial alone may not be sufficient for DFARS, NIST, and ITAR compliance. However, it can be used as part of a multi-cloud approach where other clouds are used to meet the specific compliance requirements.

Microsoft GCC

Microsoft GCC is a cloud service designed for U.S. government agencies, including state and local government entities. It is built on top of the Commercial cloud, but it provides additional security features that meet the requirements of DFARS and ITAR. The service is isolated from the commercial cloud, and data is stored in data centers located within the United States. It also meets many of the NIST guidelines.

Microsoft GCC High

Microsoft GCC High is a cloud service designed for the Department of Defense and other government agencies that require the highest level of security. It meets all the requirements of DFARS, NIST, and ITAR. It provides the highest level of security controls and is designed to protect sensitive information, including classified information.


Compliance Chart - Microsoft Commercial, GCC, GCC High


Choosing the right version of Microsoft cloud services depends on the level of security and compliance requirements of your organization. Microsoft Commercial may be sufficient for some organizations, but those that handle sensitive data and work with the government or defense contractors should consider Microsoft GCC or Microsoft GCC High. While Microsoft GCC meets the requirements for DFARS and ITAR, Microsoft GCC High provides the highest level of security controls and is designed to protect sensitive information, including classified information. It is important to note that all versions of Microsoft cloud services meet many of the NIST guidelines. Please note: Microsoft GCC High has higher licensing requirements than Microsoft Commercial and Microsoft GCC.

In conclusion, it's essential to understand the specific compliance requirements of your organization and choose the version of Microsoft cloud services that best meets those requirements. Whether it's Microsoft Commercial, Microsoft GCC, or Microsoft GCC High, Microsoft provides robust cloud services that can help keep your data secure.

Ways We Can Help You

Contact us to receive assistance in navigating cybersecurity risks and information compliance for your company. Here are some additional ways we can help:

  • Schedule a free discovery session with us during which we can learn about your company, answer your questions, and assist you in determining if Cleared Systems is the right fit for you.

  • Register for our upcoming cybersecurity and information compliance training.

  • Purchase our books on CMMC 2.0, CUI, Data Breaches, and ITAR.

  • Join our weekly free webinar sessions to ask questions and learn about the latest developments in cybersecurity and information compliance.

Author Profile

Carl B. Johnson, President of Cleared Systems, is a highly experienced and a ITAR, CMMC 2.0, Microsoft GCC High, and Microsoft DLP/AIP consultant. With over twenty years of experience in information assurance, cybersecurity, policy development, risk management, and regulatory compliance, he brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to his clients.

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