[LINK] Clouded Vision

Roger Clarke Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au
Sat May 16 09:56:25 AEST 2009

[Report below on a Google services SNAFU yesterday.

[Two aspects astonish me:

(1)  are there really that many people foolish enough to believe the 
hype about cloud computing, and actually depend on it ??

(2)  can any designer [sorry, they don't exist any more, I mean 
programmer] actually be fool enough to make an application dependent 
on an optional extra ?? :
"[Leigh] complained that she couldn't access her bank account online, 
because the bank needed Google Analytics -- Mountain View's web 
traffic analysis utility -- to work"

Google outage lesson: Don't get stuck in a cloud
by Ian Paul , pcworld.com
May 16, 2009 5:33 am

Google has apologized for yesterday's service outage that left 14 
percent of its user base without Google's wide variety of online 
services for a few hours. Google said in a blog post the outage came 
down to a simple traffic jam at an Asian data center. The search 
giant described the situation by using the analogy of a large number 
of airplanes being rerouted through one airport that was not equipped 
for a massive influx of traffic. But in Google's case, it wasn't 
airplanes looking for a place to land; it was cloud-based data trying 
to stay up in the sky.

The confusion surrounding the issue was evident on Twitter where 
users quickly used the #googlefail hashtag to get the word out and 
scream bloody murder. One Tweep, named Leigh said, "the Internet dies 
without Google." She complained that she couldn't access her bank 
account online, because the bank needed Google Analytics -- Mountain 
View's web traffic analysis utility -- to work. "This is made of 
lame," Leigh said.

The day the Gcloud fell

But is Google that important to today's Internet? Well, a quick look 
at this graph from the Web security company Arbor Networks shows a 
canyon-sized hole in North American Internet traffic during the 
G-outage. With a wide variety of practical services like Gmail, 
Google Docs, Maps, Calendar, and even Google search gone, online 
activities came to a standstill for many people during the Google 
blackout. On the National Business Review's New Zealand site a reader 
named Karen complained of losing important business appointments in 
Google Calendar while other entries were duplicated and even tripled, 
creating a confusing mess. Let's hope Karen was able to sort it all 
Ultimately, the outage was a fixable error and the Internet didn't 
come crashing down because of it. However, the #googlefail, while 
annoying, gives us a moment to pause and think about the wisdom of 
cloud-based computing. Just how smart is it to depend on a company to 
store all your data online?

On the one hand, online storage is incredibly convenient.   By 
offloading photos, videos, calendars and documents to someone else's 
hard drive, you free up storage space at home. There is also the 
added convenience of being able to access your data anywhere whether 
you're on the road, in a meeting or stuck on the tarmac waiting for 
take-off. And with portable 3G devices like the MiFi coming out, the 
need for the cloud will only increase.

But it's not all rainbows and light when you dance in the clouds, 
because eventually a storm rolls in. In an article published today 
entitled, "Will Your Data Disappear When Your Online Storage Site 
Shuts Down?" PC World's Tom Spring reports on the many recently 
shuttered data storage services from big companies like AOL, HP, and 
Sony. Some smaller storage companies have even gone under without 
giving users a chance to collect their precious bits and bytes. 
Canadian photographer Ryan Pyle told Spring how he lost more than 
7000 edited and retouched images after the storage company Digital 
Railroad abruptly shut its doors last year.

Granted, Google is a much bigger company than Digital Railroad and 
it's unlikely that a service like Google Docs or Picasa would 
disappear forever with little or no warning. But yesterday's headache 
shows that Google is not immune to major problems and glitches that 
can cost you time and effort. And that fact alone should inspire all 
you Gmail and Google Docs users out there to think about clearing 
your hard drive of old movies and Heroes episodes, and pulling copies 
of your more essential data out of the clouds and back onto solid 
ground. Just don't forget to back up.

Roger Clarke                                 http://www.rogerclarke.com/
Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd      78 Sidaway St, Chapman ACT 2611 AUSTRALIA
                    Tel: +61 2 6288 1472, and 6288 6916
mailto:Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au                http://www.xamax.com.au/

Visiting Professor in Info Science & Eng  Australian National University
Visiting Professor in the eCommerce Program      University of Hong Kong
Visiting Professor in the Cyberspace Law & Policy Centre      Uni of NSW

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