Gmail, Googles online e-mail service, was down for a couple of hours this week, and it sparked a seemingly endless number of articles about the new concerns raised for users of cloud computing. I have a number of problems with this reaction. 1) How, before Gmails two-hour downtime was even fixed, did all these different media outlets determine that businesses were now raising questions about cloud computing? Most of these articles should probably have been about how media outlets are now assuming that businesses are concerned about cloud computing, or, rather, about how media outlets are now concerned about cloud computing. I suppose that media outlets are, in fact, businesses, so perhaps this first point is invalid. 2) At least in the insurance industry, everybody is already wary about cloud computing for exactly these reliability reasons. And Ive yet to talk to an insurer who uses Gmail for their means of business communication (if you are such an insurer, please get in touch with meId love to hear your story). So since everybody already has concerns about cloud computing, and since no one uses (or very few use) Gmail for business purposes, I doubt that Gmails downtime really changed any insurers perspective on cloud computing. 3) Based on various surveys Ive seen, corporate e-mail servers tend to be down for over an hour a month. Whether or not you believe the surveys, you can judge this against your own companys track record. This means that Gmails reliability is HIGHER than most corporate e-mail. The reason everyone is so shocked by Gmails downtime is because it appears to be an unusual event. I am not intending to say that the lack of corporate e-mail for two hours is not a very big deal and doesnt come at a huge cost. I also realize that Gmail, or other online services going down, has a different kind of impact than a local business server: Gmail is used by millions of people so the reach is much wider. The real issue here is one of perception and control. There is a perception that our local servers are more reliable, even if, in reality, they are less reliable (as in the case of Gmail). More importantly, there is a feeling of control we have when the server is in our own data center. Even if that server goes down four times a month, we can shout down the hall and find out whats wrong. When something on the cloud goes down twice a year, theres nothing we can do but wait. I wont even start on the fact that refering to Gmail as cloud computing is confusing the issue of actual cloud computing. That would require more space than I have here. But, at the very least, I can say with confidence thatdespite Gmails two-hour outageit is not yet time to give up on the cloud.
This article can also be found at InsuranceNetworking.com.
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