Companies that do business with the US government are no strangers to meeting security compliance regulations. Crossing your Ts and dotting your Is comes with the territory.
But for those organizations that work with the Department of Defense, there is a whole other level of regulations and restrictions that need to be met. This includes rules over which types of software and communications tools your organization is allowed to use, even down to the version of Microsoft 0ffice 365.
For these organizations that answer to a higher authority (apologies to the kosher franks folks), Microsoft’s Government Commercial Cloud High (GCC High) offering is the only game in town. Eligible organizations can obtain access to this specialized, locked down version through Volume Licensing for their Azure.
There are a number of features that make GCC High special. The fact that it meets all of the requirements for working with sensitive information environments is a big one. Regulatory standards like FedRAMP, NIST, CMMC, DFARS 7012, ITAR — it has all of these covered in spades.
But for organizations that have to work with the defense sector, GCC High is notable for what it lacks.
Bringing Voice to Teams on GCC High
In the balance between security vs usability, GCC High has time and again opted to lock down potentially risky features. This makes sense and comes with the territory in the defense sector.
Unfortunately, in this case, it meant that GCC High users were unable to make use of voice services for Teams, which was plenty frustrating as it became a standard tool for unified communications across all other industries. Then, finally in February, voice was approved to come to Teams, thus improving the experience by making it easier to collaborate on a single platform and bringing it up to the same level of robust service as the commercial version.
Speaking with Bill Wootton, the President of C3 Integrated Solutions, one of the limited number of integrators that are authorized to provision Microsoft Office 365 GCC High to smaller businesses, he tells UC Today that, “With the challenge of the global coronavirus pandemic and the evolving nature of the workplace, more and more companies are demanding collaborative voice and audio-conferencing options within C3’s GCC High solutions.”
Wootton explains that especially in the defense sector, having the ability to connect with people outside of the Teams environment is important for his customers due to the diversity of his market. “There are a wide variety of company types within the defense industry,” he says, noting that, “They can range from a large corporation to a small machine shop, so it’s not a guarantee that everyone has access to Teams.”
The lack of a voice option was one of the biggest challenges for their GCC High clients says Wootton. “In many cases, this slowed adoption, or added complexity to the transition, which hampered productivity, creating frustration.”
Adding to the challenge for users was that like in the standard commercial version of Teams, making calls to phone lines and allowing dial in calls required working with a Direct Routing provider for their PBX and PSTN services. This meant that for Wootton and C3, they had to find a partner that could provide them with the voice component in order to offer their customers the full value of working on the Teams platform.
Teaming Up with CallTower for GCC High Direct Routing
Due in part to the regulatory complexity of offering a voice option for customers in the defense sector, Microsoft has indicated that they are unlikely to offer such a service in the near future.
So, in seeking out a trusted partner for Direct Routing, C3 teamed up with CallTower to bring calling to their clients. With their US-based support staff and sovereign network, CallTower is the only qualified provider of calling services for GCC High users.
“CallTower’s long-held Microsoft Gold Partnership and history of hosting Microsoft voice solutions made them the ideal choice for this partnership,” Wootton explains of his decision to go with CallTower. “With our partnership with CallTower we can now empower our clients to fully adopt Microsoft Teams in GCC High. This will not only improve communications and collaboration, but their overall security and compliance as well.”
“We had a client that was facing a full PBX replacement,” Wootton tells UC Today of a recent case that C3 had with a customer. “By enabling voice services, we worked with them to adopt Teams for PSTN services saving the cost of the upgrade. More importantly, we were able to remove hardware from their environment which reduces the attack services and eliminates additional devices that need to be monitored and secured.”
“CallTower is excited to partner with C3 on this valuable offering,” says William Rubio, CallTower’s CRO. “The combined Microsoft offering by CallTower and C3 gives a competitive advantage to government contractors working with the DOD.”
“Now, with our partnership with CallTower, we can close the gap in capability and maximize the adoption of this great service.” — Bill Wootton, President of C3 Integrated Solutions
Enabling Business Continuity in the Remote Work Reality
The timing for this partnership and the rollout of voice for GCC High has been fortuitous. As more organizations have been forced to go remote due to the pandemic, many more regulated businesses have struggled to find solutions that will allow them to keep working with minimal interruptions.
In the more conservative defense sector, many contractors have been slow to incorporate tools like Teams that have become standard practice in other industries. As such, adding Direct Routing for calling outside of the organization has been essential for business continuity, providing companies with the cost–effective flexibility they need to collaborate with a wide array of organizations without compromising on their own need to adopt better technologies.
Since partnering with CallTower to provide Direct Routing for GCC High in February, C3 has already begun to see increased adoption by customers as they identify cost and security advantages to making the switch through the purchasing more GCC High licenses.
This is good news for C3 and others working in this space as they are able to expand their offering to the customers to meet the continued need for remote collaboration solutions.
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