Microsoft to host e-mail for 120,000 USDA workers

As many as 120,000 federal workers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture will soon start using hosted e-mail and other applications provided by Microsoft as part of a deal announced Wednesday.

Within the next four weeks, the USDA expects to start moving employees, who are currently using 21 different e-mail systems, to the new hosted service, it said. In addition to e-mail, the workers will have access to hosted SharePoint, Office Communications for instant messaging and Live Meeting for webconferencing.

Microsoft will also manage the software and networks for the USDA.

The agreement is a big win for Microsoft, which has had to face a new competitor for big government deals: Google. Earlier this month the U.S. General Services Administration said that Google would offer it hosted e-mail services. Google said that was the first federal agency to use a hosted e-mail service.

Google also has contracts to offer Google Apps to government workers in Washington, D.C., and Orlando. It won a high-profile contract with the city of Los Angeles, which has been delayed.

Microsoft has also secured some big deals to provide hosted services to government agencies. The city of New York and the states of California and Minnesota have chosen Microsoft for cloud-based e-mail.

Both companies have now received certification under the Federal Information Security Management Act, a stringent security standard that some federal agencies are required to comply with. Google achieved the certification in July, while Microsoft announced its certification last week.

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com

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