Gmail was out this morning...again. The outage affected only a small percentage of Gmail users, but in the wake of Tuesday's Google News outage the lack of reliability from Google isn't helping justify the business case for embracing the cloud.
The cloud is all the rage. Vendors of all shapes and sizes are in a race to move as many products and services as possible to the cloud - providing managed services and software-as-a-service rather than traditional, locally-installed, software applications.
There are many major players investing in moving customers to the cloud. Amazon has a cloud computing offering and recently bolstered it with a more secure, segregated private cloud service. Microsoft provides hosted online productivity services and recently rolled out the technical preview of Office Web Apps, delivering Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote from the cloud.
Google is arguably the primary champion of cloud computing. The Web is what Google does. Google has a virtually endless list of products and services that are all delivered via the Web from the cloud.
Google is not content with dominating Web search or search engine advertising. It has an ongoing crusade to deliver business productivity from the Web. Google is taking on Microsoft head-to-head across a range of markets in an effort to wrest control from the desktop and move the computing experience to the Web.
That crusade has had relative success. Many users and businesses have found that Google Docs can fill their office productivity needs. Gmail can fulfill their e-mail needs. Google Calendar provides scheduling. Google Talk delivers instant messaging. Basically, Google has enough tools and services to fulfill virtually all of the productivity and communications needs for an organization...from the Web.
The problem is that Google has experienced repeated issues with service outages. Here are just a few of the headline-making outages:
· September 24, 2009: Gmail outage
· September 22, 2009: Google News outage
· September 1, 2009: Gmail outage
· May 14, 2009: Google network outage
· May 18, 2009: Google News outage
· March 9, 2009: Gmail outage
· August 7, 2008: Gmail and Google Apps outage
These repeated outages damage the credibility of the cloud. Enterprises that are considering the pros and cons of moving office productivity or communications to the cloud have reason to be concerned when the poster child of cloud computing can't provide reliable availability.
The cloud offers many potential advantages for customers, but one of the biggest factors driving apprehension and impeding adoption is availability. Customers are reluctant to offload productivity and communication to the cloud if the possibility exists for the cloud to disappear. Productivity and communication are mission-critical aspects for businesses and reliable availability is not negotiable.
David Coursey summed it up nicely, stating "Rather than adding features that add only questionable value to our lives, such as Sidewiki and Fast Flip news, maybe Google needs to stop, take a deep breath, and focus on quality and reliability for products many of us use every day? "
Google can help improve the reputation of the cloud and further its own agenda to make desktop applications obsolete and move everything to the Web by ensuring that the products and services it provides are as reliable as they are functional.
Tony Bradley is an information security and unified communications expert with more than a decade of enterprise IT experience. He tweets as @PCSecurityNews and provides tips, advice and reviews on information security and unified communications technologies on his site at tonybradley.com .