Surprises Float in the Cloud

Street View snaps make Katt nervous; Google Apps outages irk users.

Spencer was a bit anxious when he heard the story about the unidentified Australian man whose photo showed up on Google Street View passed out on the lawn in front of his mother's home.

Google's camera-equipped Street View car just happened to drive by and snapped a photo as he sprawled on the grass in full daylight after a night of heavy drinking to mourn the death of a close friend killed in a boating accident.

The Age newspaper in Melbourne, Australia, reported that when Google launched Street View for Google Maps in the Victoria region, it didn't take long for users to notice the extraneous sleeping man and comment on it. Google eventually removed the photo after users flagged it. But once again privacy advocates are questioning whether it's right for Google to post photos of streets, homes, yards and individuals on the Web without giving people a change to opt out.

Meanwhile the Party Animal is wondering how many shots of His Hirsuteness might be lurking in the Google archive, considering the many times he has passed out on lawns, sidewalks and back alleys in some of the less exclusive neighborhoods around the world.

Then the Wired One spent the week taking calls from Google Apps and Gmail users sounding off about recent service outages. Users who rely on these applications for enterprise operations were questioning the reliability of the Google services after the company's Apps and Gmail suffered serious outages from Aug. 6 to 7. Gmail went dark Aug. 11 for 2 hours, too.

Several analysts tried to put the question of whether or not to use Google Apps for business into perspective. Abner Germanow said it depends on what people are using Gmail and Google Apps to do.

Indeed, for a financial services firm running thousands of transactions a second, the reliability requirement is very, very high. However, "For Fred's Brick and Tile Store, where Fred is doing several transactions an hour, mostly over the phone, the loss of a service such as Gmail for an hour or two isn't as catastrophic," Germanow told the Katt.

The Learned Lynx would agree, in part because he also read woe-is-me comments from GigaOm's Om Malik, whose blogging business was miserably disrupted by the Gmail outage on Aug. 11.

"His business is based on the network," Germanow said. "If he made a decision that his primary source of e-mail should go through Google, than that's a reliability decision that he made. There are other small businesses who are entirely Web-based who say, yeah, I'm going to own my own mail server or I'm going to contract with an ISP to provide me with a service-level agreement and I'm going to pay for that."

So, are cloud-based services more susceptible to outages than traditional, on-premises software solutions?

Germanow made the Mouser chuckle with his answer: "That's kind of like asking, 'Am I more likely to have a car accident in a Porsche or a Geo?' To a certain extent, driving a very high-performance automobile puts you at a lot of risk. On the other hand, the driver is a key component to the whole situation. There are a lot of different factors."

The Sagacious Gato took that as a "No."

Spencer F. Katt

Spencer F. Katt

Spencer F. Katt, the Whiskered Wonder, has been the mascot and tipster extraordinaire for eWEEK and its predecessor print publication PC Week since 1984. The Gadabout Gatto makes the rounds of...