VA To Test Cloud Collaboration For Doctors

The department is look for cloud-based email, calendaring, and other collaboration tools that can integrate with the VA's existing Microsoft Exchange-based collaboration system.
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The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) plans to test commercial cloud-based collaboration tools to improve communications and reduce data breaches that have occurred from previous use of tools not approved by the department.

The VA is looking for vendors that offer an established cloud-based offering for email, calendaring, and other collaboration tools that can integrate with the VA's existing Microsoft Exchange-based collaboration system, according to a request for information (RFI) posted on The current VA system includes Exchange calendaring, SharePoint, and Active Directory, which the department has said it may replace with a cloud-based system for 600,000 employees.

In that effort, the department is looking for a contractor to help it migrate its entire backend email system--comprised of Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint servers, an email archive system, BlackBerry software, and storage and back-up systems--to a hosted cloud environment, according to a request for information (RFI) it posted online for potential contractors.

In this latest move, the VA said the cloud collaboration tools must hold a Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) Moderate Certification or better. Microsoft and Google--which have been vying for federal cloud business--both have FISMA-certified collaboration systems for government customers.

Initially, the VA wants to pilot the applications with 5,000 users, and if successful expand the offerings to 17,000 staff physicians, 36,000 residents, and 81,000 other personnel, according to the RFI. VA senior executives also might use the tools if they proves viable and useful for medical staff.

The tools will let users at VA facilities and those working offsite to share documents and calendars once they're authenticated to the VA network. Authentication will occur either via the VA's onsite LAN, an offsite authorized VPN, or the VA's Citrix Access Gateway, according to the RFI.

A "cloud first" mandate instituted by former U.S. CIO Vivek Kundra has all federal agencies and departments making plans to put applications in the cloud, and email and collaboration have been some of the first to make the transition. In addition to the VA's moves, the General Services Administration, the Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Army all have or are in the process of migrating in-house email to the cloud.

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