Yesterday, Google had a wide-reaching system failure that resulted in the outages of many of its services. The two largest services, Gmail and Chrome, became major problems for a large number of users.
While many individual users rely on Google for personal email, documents and chatting with friends, many businesses and organizations also utilize Google’s services for their needs. According to Google reports, over 5 million businesses, The Red Cross, Virgin America, Salesforce.com, and The Guardian newspaper, to name a few, now use Google services. ZDNet reports that yesterday’s outage also affected Gmail for Business, powered by Google Apps. This email system provides the backbone for CBS Interactive email, which was reported to have been affected by the outage.
For many who rely on the other Google services, the outages wreaked havoc with their productivity as well. When the outage happened just before noon, many took to Twitter and Facebook to vent their frustrations. Danny Sullivan, a CNET writer, reported on Twitter that Google Drive was crashing his Chrome browser. Imagine the frustration of trying to access your company’s vital information stored on Google’s faraway servers and failing because of an outage.
This outage is not an isolated incident. In May 2009, Google went down and took away service from 14% of its users. In September 2009, Google went down and took 5% of the Internet traffic with it. This was devastating for the many businesses that rely on Google not only for its traffic, but for business hosting and other application services mentioned above. And in 2011, Google’s outage caused not only a loss of service, but also a loss of data for 150,000 of its users. These are just a smattering of the incidents that have taken place over the past few years.
The cause of the outage is still unclear. While service was restored relatively quickly, the incident still puts an exclamation point on the fact that so many around the world rely on Google services to power their lives. With the ever growing age of technology, events like this should caution us to consider what services we will use, both for our business and individual needs.
IT outages cost businesses billions of dollars in lost revenue every year. According to a report by IBM, in 2008, unplanned outages were estimated to cost $2.8 billion for every hour of downtime. This includes losses in revenue and productivity, as well as the costs to bring your system back online or attempting to bring back lost data.
Businesses that rely on a free (or low-cost) service could be playing with fire. Often, these free services exist not to service a business or provide vital IT services, but merely as an add-on to another aspect of their business, such as the case with Gmail.
With these free services, there are inherent problems that just don’t happen with dedicated email and storage services. Dedicated services provide richer and more reliable services than many of the lightweight, free or low-cost services provide. Dedicated email can provide failover precautions and many redundancies—from redundancies in the server racks of your host, to having your data backed up in the cloud as a double or triple backup. Only a major, massive power outage in the US could take your email offline—and sometimes not even then, depending on your host’s fail-safes. You can’t be too careful when you’re talking about the productivity of your workers and the profitability of your business.