Understanding GCC High, GCC, DOD, and Commercial Microsoft 365

Posted by Errin O'Connor on Jun, 25, 2021 08:06

There are multiple types of cloud to choose from. Which one is right for your business, though? Which aligns to your specific compliance needs and requirements? 

While there are countless options, Commercial Microsoft 365, GCC High, DOD, and GCC are the most famous names in today’s market. 

Which is the best cloud? This simple guide got your back and will help you decide with confidence. 

What is Commercial Microsoft 365? 

Recognized as the standard cloud, Microsoft 365 commercial has the most tools and features available at the lowest rates. It is available across the globe, and everyone can use it with no validations required.

Microsoft 365 Commercial can also meet compliance and security needs with the Advanced Threat Protection tools, Cloud App Security, Enterprise Mobility, Azure Information Protection, and Compliance Center. 

CCPA, HIPAA, HITech, GDPR, NIST 800-53, and PCI-CSS are the common compliance frameworks that can reside in MS 365 Commercial. It is not ideal for defense or government compliance, though. It is also possible for an organization of all sizes to meet FedRAMP when augmented with some tools. 

How is MS 365 Commercial Different From MS 365 Government? 

Although they have been available for many years, people are still confused between MS 365 Commercial and MS 365 Government. 

But they are not the same thing. The data for MS 365 Government, for example, is stored in the Azure data centers in the US, which only background-checked MS employees can access. 

The purchasing process, on the other hand, is also different. While customers buy MS 365 Commercial from numerous vendors, MS 365 Government plans and pricing only comes from Microsoft. Sometimes, it could be available from other channels. But it is not as highly accessible as the former. Also, check out EPC Group Office 365 consulting for the government.

What is GCC High? 

GCC High and DOD is simply a copy of the Department of Defense cloud environment that agencies, cleared personnel, and other DOD contractors use. 

GCC High is one of the offerings of Microsoft 365, Office 365 Suite, and Azure cloud services. It is developed to ensure compliance with cybersecurity and federal regulations, including CJIS Policy, CMMC, ITAR, FedRAMP High, and DFARS 7012. 

Why Should You Move to GCC High as Part of Your CMMC Compliance? 

It is all right if you feel skeptical whether or not GCC High is a good part of your CMMC compliance. Here are a few reasons you should move to the cloud environment: 


CMMC requirements are highly complex. So, when dealing with CMMC compliance, a well-defined accountability can play a significant role, and GCC High can make a huge difference. With this type of cloud, Microsoft provides contractual that allow businesses to meet and even exceed the changing DoD regulatory requirements. 

A Well Streamlined Management

MS 365 Commercial and GCC are the sought-after cloud for many organizations. Unfortunately, some of their features and services are non-compliant with DFARS 7012, CMMC, and NIST 800-171. 

But if you have invested in either MS 365 Commercial or GCC, all you have to do is keep any of these services identified, disabled, and monitored. 

But that does not mean regular monitoring could avoid compliance issues in the future. It is always best to switch to another cloud-like GCC High. You could expect a seamless and stress-free management that gives you time to focus on other critical business aspects. 

NOFORN and ITAR Compliance

Businesses that work with defense-related data are unable to comply with ITAR guidelines. The consequences of non ITAR compliance are terrible. The imprisonment could last up to ten years. Violators might be required to pay $1 million per violation. The civil penalties could also be around $500,000. These can be reduced if an organization takes a corrective action as quickly as possible. 

What’s more, you might lose your export license. In 2018, approximately 186 entities lost their export license for violating the ITAR requirements. Also, your business will be subject to yearly audits. Plus, the incident may impact your reputation. 

With GCC High, you can avoid all of these penalties and run your business without any compliance issues. 

Are There Drawbacks to Using GCC High? 

Like other cloud environments, GCC High has a few downsides you should bear in mind. Some of them are highlighted below: 

Third Party Integrations are Limited

Third party integrations in GCC High are limited. So, do not be surprised when other third party Office 365 tools do not work. In addition, you have to examine the integrations you already use. Then, plan out how you will move to GCC High for your convenience. 

Information Sharing is Only Available for DoD and GCC High Tenants

Another drawback of GCC High is that the users can only share data to other DoD and GCC High tenants. That’s a hassle when your company has operations outside the CUI or DoD contracting. You can take advantage of other cloud environments. 

Does Investing in GCC High Ensure Automatic CMMC Compliance? 

No. CMMC compliance is not automatic. Any business needs to set up and manage the GCC High to ensure CMMC compliance. 

Although the cloud environment provides guardrails, it is not a turnkey option for CMMC certification/compliance. Organizations are responsible for configuring and operating GCC High. 

If you do not know how to set up GCC High, there are specialists you can hire. 

What is GCC? 

The technology requirements of the US government are different from companies in the private sector. 

For that reason, Microsoft created and developed software and services that cater to businesses in the public sector. 

Aside from the GCC High, Microsoft has another plan commonly called GCC. GCC is considered a government copy of the commercial cloud environment.

Although they have the same features and services, the data centers are only located in the continental United States. 

GCC can meet various compliance frameworks, including FedRAMP Moderate, DFARS 252.204-7012, FBI CJIS, and DoD SRG Level 2. 

What is the Difference Between GCC High and GCC? 

GCC and GCC High provide similar functionality. But GCC delivers cloud services that are compliant with the criminal justice and tax information system requirements. 

GCC High, on the contrary, complies with the International Traffic In Arms Regulations, Cybersecurity Maturity Model Compliance framework, and Defense Federal Acquisition Regulations. 

Despite the similarity in features, the two cloud environments also offer unique functionalities. 

GCC, for example, comes with office telemetry and client push deployment that you cannot see and experience with GCC High. 

GCC also has the Yammer feature that GCC High does not have. Which is better? It depends on what a business requires. Therefore, identify and assess your requirements before making any decision. 

Office for Government Consulting

How to Deploy GCC or GCC High to your Business? 

The deployment of a cloud environment is one of the stages that any organizations struggle with. Below, we gather some of the common steps to deploy GCC or GCC High better. You can also consider EPCGroup for the deployment of these cloud environments in your organization. Contact us.

Determine and Examine the Needs and Eligibility of Your Organization 

Investing in a cloud environment is a big decision a business can make. Do you really need a cloud-like GCC and GCC High? Is your organization eligible? These are a few questions that will help you decide whether or not GCC is worth the investment. 

Make an Application 

After that, it is time to apply for validation. The application process is beginner-friendly and straightforward. Basic organizational information is needed. That is why you have to ensure that you know your business well.

Spend Time to Study the Default Security Settings

Studying the default security settings of GCC or GCC High is time-consuming. But it is worth it. You and your IT team will pinpoint the setting to modify. Moreover, you would determine if the change could affect the ability of your organization to be compliant with existing requirements and other regulations. 

Establish a Roadmap for Governance 

Finally, you can create and establish a plan for governance. You can use Teams to aid you in the implementation of needed data governance capabilities. Teams have features that can guarantee enhanced government control and oversight. 

The secret for incorporating governance over GCC and GCC High is to distinguish and document your requirements. Then, do not forget to tie your goals and expectations to the cloud environment’s settings and features to make compliance possible. 

What is DoD? 

Another Microsoft 365 Government tier is DoD. It is almost identical to GCC High. As a matter of fact, both are typically mentioned in the documentation. They also share the same service description page. 

Even if this cloud environment is available to DoD, the data can be shared between various GCC High and DoD tenants. 

What’s Your Choice? 

So, what cloud environment does your business need and require? It is still hard to pick the best solution for your organization, right? 

Do not worry. There is no pressure. Just take your time. Do not take any shortcuts. You can brainstorm with your team to avoid any guessing game. You can also do a further research online for more information. 

Level up your business operation with any of these cloud environments while staying compliant with the existing regulations!

About the Author

Errin O'Connor

With over 25 years of experience in Information Technology and Management Consulting, Errin O’Connor has led hundreds of large-scale enterprise implementations from Business Intelligence, Power BI, Office 365, SharePoint, Exchange, IT Security, Azure and Hybrid Cloud efforts for over 165 Fortune 500 companies.

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