Microsoft wants ISO security certification for its Cloud services

External validation could bolster market confidence in hosted services

Microsoft wants to get its suite of hosted messaging and collaboration products certified to the ISO 27001 international information security standard, part of an effort to try and assure customers about the security of its cloud computing services. It comes amid broad and continuing doubts about the ability of cloud vendors in general to properly secure their services.

Google, which has made no secret of its ambitions in the cloud computing arena, is currently working on getting its services certified to the government's Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) standards for much the same reason.

It's unclear how much value customers of either company will attach to the certifications, particularly because they were not designed specifically to audit cloud computing environments. Even so, the external validation offered by the standards is likely to put both companies in a better position to sell to the U.S. government market.

Speaking with Computerworld this week, Bill Billings, chief security officer of Microsoft Federal, said the company is currently in the process of taking its Business Productivity Online Suite through the ISO 27011 certification process. The hosted service includes Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Office Live Meeting and Office Communications Online. He declined to say just when Microsoft hopes to achieve the certification.

The goal is to offer customers, particularly in the government, a higher level of assurance about Microsoft's cloud services than FISMA-certification alone provides, said Teresa Carlson, vice president of Microsoft Federal.

"FISMA is outdated. It is largely a paper-based exercise. We want to take it up a notch" by getting ISO 27011 certification, Carlson said. At the same time, Microsoft is also working to get its cloud services certified to the standards prescribed under FISMA; it hopes to complete the task by year's end, Carlson said.

The ISO 27001 standard is managed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission. To get certified under the standard, Microsoft will need to show that its physical, logical, process and management controls for protecting its suite of cloud services meet a rigorous set of audit criteria.

Though the ISO 27011 standard is widely recognized internationally, it has failed to gain much traction in the U.S., said Chenxi Wang, an analyst with Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass. "Most U.S. companies don't pay much attention to ISO 27001. They don't know quite what to make of it."

Even so, in the absence of any cloud-specific certification standard, ISO 27001 remains one of the best security benchmarks available. "There's nothing specific to cloud-computing in it. But it has been used in traditional outsourcing for years and is the best standard there is" for information security, she said. last year became one of the first vendors of hosted applications to become certified under ISO 27001 standards. It's unclear how much that certification has helped the company acquire new customers, Wang said. But it has certainly played a role in reinforcing's message about the security and reliability of its products.

News about Microsoft's plans to acquire ISO 2700 certification comes amid persisting concerns about cloud security. The concerns have been fueled by high-profile incidents such as the recent chaotic outage of Microsoft's Sidekick T-Mobile and one in July involving Twitter and Google Apps.

Though the vendors themselves and many analysts have insisted the incidents had nothing to do with cloud security failures, the perception about the cloud being vulnerable to security failures has continued to persist. It is for those reasons that certifications such as ISO 27001and FISMA are important, especially in government, Billing said.

"Within the federal market, it is a cultural issue," Billings said. "This is really about making them feel comfortable about their partnership" with Microsoft.

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags MicrosoftGoogleISO 27001

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Jaikumar Vijayan

Jaikumar Vijayan

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers


This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang


It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries


As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr


The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?