A complete guide to Microsoft GCC-High for defense contractors

Understanding cybersecurity tools for defense contractors.
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Introduction to Microsoft GCC and GCC-High

The Microsoft GCC universe: an overview

When it comes to Microsoft’s cloud services, the Government Community Cloud (GCC) universe is a niche designed specifically to cater to the specialized needs of U.S. government entities and their partners. But what sets this apart from standard cloud offerings is the higher standard of data protection and regulatory compliance it guarantees. This cloud universe is divided into three main sections: GCC, GCC High, and DoD.

What is GCC-High?

Formerly known as Microsoft Government Community Cloud-High, Microsoft GCC-High is a version of Microsoft 365 that delivers powerful, enterprise-class computing with security, privacy, and compliance. This cloud service platform is designed to meet the rigorous requirements of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), federal agencies, and their partners dealing with Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) or subject to stricter regulatory compliance. Microsoft 365 GCC-High supports the following requirements:

  • FedRAMP High
  • NIST SP 800-53
  • NIST 800-171
  • ITAR
  • DFARS 252.204-7012

The differences between Microsoft GCC and GCC-High

While Microsoft GCC and GCC-High share common ground in catering to government entities, they are distinguished primarily by the level of data protection they offer and the types of organizations they are designed for. GCC-High ensures higher compliance with standards like ITAR, NIST 800-171, and DFARS and provides additional cybersecurity measures compared to the standard GCC.

Why defense contractors should care

In an increasingly digital world where data breaches are more common than ever, the security of sensitive information should be paramount for defense contractors. With higher security threats and stringent regulations, the need for a dedicated, high-security environment like GCC High is more than a preference—it’s a necessity.

Understanding GCC-High: an in-depth look

Features of Microsoft GCC-High

A robust platform, Microsoft GCC High is a cloud fortress that houses all the Office 365 features that are integral to the daily operations of your team—Teams, SharePoint, OneDrive, and more. But what truly sets it apart is its extraordinary array of security measures and compliance capabilities.

Let’s begin with its security features. Microsoft GCC High takes a multi-faceted approach to securing your data, deploying a range of advanced tools and protocols:

1. Advanced Threat Protection (ATP): ATP guards against sophisticated threats hidden in emails, links, and attachments. Plus, it gives real-time visibility into the current threat landscape.

2. Threat Intelligence: Leverage Microsoft’s wide-ranging visibility into the threat landscape to stay ahead of cyber threats. It helps you proactively understand what’s happening globally, providing alerts and information on various threats, ensuring a proactive approach to security.

3. Data Loss Prevention (DLP): This feature identifies, monitors, and automatically protects sensitive information across Office 365.

4. Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): MFA adds an extra layer of protection, ensuring that user accounts are accessed only by those authorized to do so.

5. Identity and Access Management: Control who has access to your information and what they can do with it using features like conditional access and role-based access control.

In addition to its formidable security features, Microsoft GCC-High boasts a rich set of business features that are designed to streamline collaboration, improve productivity, and ensure the smooth operation of daily activities:

1. Microsoft Teams: Facilitate secure, real-time collaboration, file sharing, and communication among team members across different locations.

2. SharePoint and OneDrive: Simplify the process of sharing and managing content, knowledge, and applications to empower teamwork, quickly find information, and seamlessly collaborate across the organization.

3. Power BI: Enable everyone at every level of your organization to make confident decisions using up-to-the-minute analytics.

4. Exchange Online: Manage your organization’s email more effectively with features like email archiving, automatic patching, and anti-malware and anti-spam filtering.

5. Yammer: Connect people across your organization to make better decisions, faster.

Finally, to keep your operations in line with the stringent regulatory landscape, Microsoft GCC High provides a host of compliance features:

1. eDiscovery and Audit: Simplify the eDiscovery process and audit logging with integrated content search to respond to legal, regulatory, and organizational compliance requirements.

2. Information Protection and Governance: Classify, retain, review, and protect sensitive data using intelligent information protection and governance tools.

3. Compliance Manager: Assess your compliance risk, protect and govern your data, and respond efficiently to regulatory requirements.

How GCC-High facilitates CMMC compliance

GCC High can play a crucial role in achieving Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) compliance, a requirement for defense contractors. With its extensive security measures, it addresses many of the practices and processes outlined in the CMMC framework, thereby providing a strong foundation for achieving and maintaining compliance.

Let’s take a deeper look at the security and process controls embedded within this robust cloud environment:

1. Multi-Layered Security: GCC-High is designed with multiple security layers that align with the CMMC’s security controls. For instance, GCC-High’s Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) feature correlates with the CMMC’s requirements for authentication and access control. Similarly, Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) and Threat Intelligence align with the CMMC’s incident response and risk management controls.

2. Comprehensive Compliance Capabilities: The CMMC model requires defense contractors to demonstrate the maturity and reliability of their cybersecurity infrastructure. GCC-High facilitates this by offering compliance capabilities like eDiscovery, Audit, Information Protection, and Governance. These features allow defense contractors to define and implement consistent processes, maintain comprehensive audit logs, protect sensitive information, and demonstrate a systematic review of these processes – all fundamental requirements under the CMMC framework.

3. Data Control and Protection: A key aspect of CMMC is ensuring the confidentiality and integrity of Federal Contract Information (FCI) and Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI). GCC-High provides features like Data Loss Prevention (DLP) and identity and access management controls, which align with the CMMC’s focus on preserving the confidentiality and integrity of data.

4. Continual Security Monitoring and Improvement: A core requirement of CMMC is establishing and maintaining a plan for continuous monitoring and improvement of cybersecurity practices. GCC-High’s security features, coupled with the ability to generate detailed security and compliance reports, can help defense contractors in continuous monitoring of their security posture and making data-driven improvements.

Purchasing GCC-High licenses

Who is eligible for GCC-High?

GCC-High is designed for U.S. entities handling Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI). This includes defense industrial base (DIB) members, federal contractors, federal agencies, and ITAR-bound organizations.

What to expext

Acquiring GCC-High is not as straightforward as signing up for a regular cloud subscription. The acquisition process involves an eligibility check, an enrollment process through a Microsoft partner, and an agreement that outlines how your data is handled.

Preparing to Transition

The transition to GCC High is a significant move, requiring careful planning. You’ll need to assess your data, categorize it according to sensitivity levels, plan the migration process, and train your staff to work in the new environment.

Making the Move to GCC-High

Like any big move, transitioning to GCC High is a process. It requires careful execution of the migration plan, adaptation of operational policies, and continuous monitoring to ensure a smooth transition.

While it all may seem daunting, a Microsoft partner like Ardalyst can guide you through every step of the way to ensure a smooth transition.

How does Ardalyst help with Microsoft GCC-High?

When it comes to transitioning to and leveraging the full capabilities of Microsoft GCC High, Ardalyst is the partner you can trust. Ardalyst provides a holistic range of services for Microsoft GCC High, right from the initial evaluation to post-deployment support including:

Licensing & procurement

We deliver the Microsoft GCC-High platform and its excellent cybersecurity tools with no minimum purchase and up to 15% off. You can also qualify for free or discounted GCC & GCC-High migration services when you sign up for our Tesseract, our managed cybersecurity program built for meeting DoD cybersecurity requirements.

Data migration

Once your new enclave is set up, it’s time to move your users and data. We’ll take your existing users and data from your previous environment and move them into your new enclave.

Advisory services

Your Ardalyst Advisor will guide you through your enclave activation with a deep understanding of your business model and goals to provide the right services to make your enclave activation a success.


We’ll perform the setup tasks for your new enclave, configure the Microsoft Toolset, and test and verify configuration records and user accounts.

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