News release: "The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today that it is moving its on-premises e-mail and productivity applications to Microsoft’s cloud infrastructure, becoming the first cabinet-level federal agency to embrace the cloud. In one of the largest cloud federal government deployments ever, the USDA is moving its 120,000 users to Microsoft Online Services, consolidating 21 different messaging and collaboration systems into one, said Chris Smith, the USDA’s chief information officer. The USDA plans to start the shift within the next four weeks. “This is really about increasing collaboration and communications across the breadth of 120,000 users in 5,000 offices across the country and 100 countries around the globe to better deliver on the USDA’s mission,” he said. “For us a move to the cloud was a question of performance, service, and cost, and this solution will help us streamline our efforts and use taxpayer dollars efficiently.” The USDA will use Microsoft Exchange Online for messaging and calendaring, SharePoint Online for document collaboration, Office Communications Online for instant messaging, and Office Live Meeting for Web conferencing. Smith said that improvements in productivity and communication, such as the ability to see colleagues’ availability and choose whether they want to communicate via chat, voice, or mail, mean that employees will now be able to collaborate more efficiently."