Is Criticism Of Google's Outages Unfair?

Give Google a break: Statistics show its reliability to actually be very good. It's the media that makes a big deal of Gmail and Gnews outages, not users.

That is what several readers told me in response to yesterday's post concerning recent problems with the two services. Their authors have a point: The actual amount of downtime is pretty small.

And a news service outage isn't the same as losing access to your hosted e-mail. As one reader put it, "Can't you find Reuters.com?"

All good points, though I am surprised Google does not do a better job of making them itself.

Is the media making too much of the outages? Yes and no.

The "yes" I have already detailed. On the "no" side, Google would like us to move to its hosted e-mail and applications. They also want customers to purchase those services, replacing the free accounts many already use.

Google is actively promoting cloud-based computing as the alternative to the desktop apps we are using today. The promise of all my stuff magically appearing on any computer I use is certainly appealing.

Google is also a dominant force in personal and business computing. Many depend on its services and use them, literally, all the time.

This makes Google's reliability an important issue. Our move to cloud applications, like Gmail and Gnews, cause us to notice outages more than we might have in the past.

If my 1&1 POP e-mail accounts have ever--over a period of years--not been available, I have failed to notice. However, if Gmail does not load, it is immediately obvious.

Even a small outage of a cloud application is hard to ignore--it is very much like your desktop failing to boot. Or applications failing to start, depending on how dependent on the cloud you have become.

I am all for cloud-based applications and have sympathy for Google amid all this criticism. Nevertheless, this is a new technology for most people and we are still learning what expectations are appropriate.

Maybe Google will manage to achieve 100 percent uptime always and forever, though I doubt it. More likely, we will learn to live with occasional periods of non-availability for cloud applications we depend on.

Today, widespread application outages are a new experience and make news. Someday we may become used to them, though I hope not. I'd rather see the cloud become so reliable that we never notice its problems.

David Coursey tweets as @techinciter and can be contacted via his Web site.

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