Are We Too Reliant on Google?

The Google outage on May 14 points out the extent to which so many of us-businesses included-have become dependent on Google and other cloud-based services.

Back in the day, when our corporate network was down, heads would pop up over cubicle walls saying things like, "Is the network down? Hey, I like your shirt."

When we became more geographically dispersed and the corporate network was down, instant messages would start coming in:

eweek1: is the network down?

eweek2: IDK. let me try.

eweek 2: seems to be. TTYL

Flash forward to May 14: Trying to search on Google or get to my Gmail got me ... well, nothing. I went to Facebook and saw:

John Smith Anyone else not able to get to Google?

The initial status updates on Facebook questioning whether Google was indeed down or "if it's just me" were soon followed by intrepid reporters asking for help in gauging the scope of the outage and deep thinkers wondering if this was the death knell for cloud computing-the realization of that most inherent cloud risk.

The fact that Facebook and Twitter lit up with posts questioning and bemoaning the Google outage reflects the impact the outage had. It wasn't just an isolated bunch of cubicle dwellers who were stymied in their ability to do work; it was the universe of people who have become reliant on Google Search, Gmail, Google Apps, Google Analytics ... the list goes on and on.

To read more about recent Google outages, click here.

And, is that the point? Could we be relying on Google and other cloud-based services to the extent that business could be shut down on a global basis if Google is shut down? Are all of our eggs in one cloudy basket?

Soon after Google fully returned to service, company officials said the outage-which affected users across the United States and in several other countries-was caused by a traffic routing error. Too many users had been routed to the same location, Google explained, adding that engineers were working to make sure that the problem doesn't happen again.

That sounds good, but it's small consolation to any businessperson who couldn't do business while Google was down.

You could argue that the outage was the modern-day, cloud-based equivalent of the corporate outage that had people popping their heads over the cubicle wall. The difference is that the cubicle dweller could contact his or her system administrator, who would (at least theoretically) provide information about what the problem was and when it would be resolved. Who ya gonna call when Google goes down? Or when you think it might be down? When I couldn't get onto Google, I questioned myself, my computer and my Internet provider before I made the leap to Google being the actual culprit.

I'm not saying that organizations shouldn't pursue cloud-based computing because of this incident. The outage had so much impact because it affected so many people, but also because people couldn't get to applications that have become, if not mission-critical, then critical to most of our day-to-day computing. I guess we just need to find the global equivalent of that sys admin.

How was your company affected by the Google outage? Please let me know at [email protected]