When Gmail went down for a couple of hours this week, I was annoyed but not distressed. As a small business owner, I rely on Google’s paid services for email and calendaring as well as on many of the company’s free services (e.g., Google Analytics). Over the past three years, I have found Gmail to be as reliable and much less costly than our previous in-house, internally-hosted, and professionally maintained (by a full-time IT person) email system.
In monitoring my own calm reaction, I realized that I no longer rely on any single service to keep me online and in touch with the world. Like most of you, I have several email accounts on a variety of email services. I have messaging on my cellphone, Blackberry email and SMS, iTouch WiFi access, Internet phone service (free and paid), and both land line and cable Internet in my home/office and most of the places that I work from while travelling. I also use Facebook, Twitter, and other services to keep in touch with clients, family, and friends. Switching from one mode to the other isn’t really a problem. Not having the history or context available on my laptop or handheld IS a problem, so I’m quite conscious of making sure that I have access to my calendar and contacts (or someone to call or email who can access that info) in a pinch. I only begin to freak out when I am away from any source of Internet/Wireless connectivity. When I visit Uganda to work at the African Rural University, where connections are sparse and slow, I worry about missing something important. (But then I relax and realize that what I’m doing –working with smart young women who are changing people’s lives is MORE important than what I might be missing).
What I noticed in the chatter and punditry that surrounded the news of the recent 2-hour Gmail outage were three main threads of discussion:
- What do you expect? It’s a cloud computing service. Don’t trust anything in the cloud!
- What’s wrong with you guys? Don’t you use alternative emails (Facebook, AOL, Yahoo!) and alternative modes of communication (SMS, iPhone, Twitter)?
- Big deal. It’s no worse than other email services and utility outages on services we have used.