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Microsoft Teams Updates Coming to GCC High in Q2 2019

We’ve often talked about Microsoft Groups here on the ESW blog. We’ve compared Microsoft Teams VS Slack. In short, Teams is the successor to Skype for Business, and is a unified communications platform, and it combines persistent workplace chat and video messaging, file storage, and application integration.

With the advent of remote jobs and seamless team collaboration, Microsoft has, understandably, been investing heavily in their communications suite.

But we’re not just talking about Microsoft Teams in a regular environment—we’re talking about the Office 365 Government Community Cloud High environment, or GCC High, which is a little different from the standard one.

So what is the GCC High exactly?

Odds are, this is the first time you’re hearing about the GCC. So we’ll clarify it a bit more:There are certain security requirements demanded by the US Government. Essentially, information that requires DoD controlled unclassified information (CUI) or that is subjected to the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) needs more secure handling. That’s where the GCC High and DoD environments come in. They’re available through Volume Licensing in Microsoft’s Government Plans, and to use them, your organization needs to go through a validation process before said environment can be established. As a result, Trials are not available.

The different types of Microsoft data centers in the cloud.

Regular commercial users aren’t, and shouldn’t work in this environment, and beware if anyone tells you otherwise. It’s incredibly costly to move into the GCC environment. Not to mention this environment doesn’t get the latest features commercial users enjoy; there are cases in which certain features were never available at all.

As the name implies, “GCC High/DoD” was made to meet the needs of the Department of Defense, and includes some, but not all, defense contractors. So if you’re working with the federal US government, being in the GCC is useful, as it helps you qualify (and stay on being qualified) for certain federal contracts, as it shows that you meet their requirements. Learn more about GCC High here.

GCC High and DoD Requirements

It’s important to note regular Office 365 staff do not have standing access to GCC High and DoD production. Temporary permission elevation needs to be requested, and to access customer content, employees need to pass several background checks including verification of US Citizenship, Criminal History Check, Education Verification, and so on. You can check Microsoft’s page for a full list of requirements.

The Microsoft Team Updates

Now that we’ve taken a look at what the GCC High environment is, and who’s qualified to be on it, we can talk about the Microsoft Team updates that are coming.

  • Presence states for users (i.e. available, busy or in a call) are now aggregated between Teams and Skype for Business. In short, this means regardless of which app or device you’re using, your presence state will be the same.
  • Users that have been upgraded to Teams-Only mode can continue to communicate via chat with other users in the organization who are still using Skype for Business by using the interoperability capabilities between Teams and Skype for Business.
  • A new “Announcement” post type lets you add headlines with a background to your message. You can choose from available backgrounds or upload your own custom image.
  • Channel moderation, for team owners and members who have been added as moderators. This gives such users exclusive rights to create new posts in the channel and control whether team members can reply.
  • Cross-team and per-team Analytics provide temporal-based charts for message and active user counts, plus deeper breakdowns of user types and activity trends.
  • Admins and team owners can control whether they want to allow private teams to be discovered by Teams users. When a private team is discoverable, it shows up in search results and is included in suggestions in the team gallery alongside public teams in Teams. This makes it easy for people to search for and find the private teams that they want to join. People can request to join a private team which a team owner can then approve or deny.

Because security is paramount in the GCC High environment, Microsoft is working heavily to provide secure methods to work with outside parties in this environment. So, if you’re a GCC High user, stay tuned for further updates.

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