The web was ablaze yesterday with people complaining about the latest outage of Gmail. It started with AnaisAmy asking for help on Twitter as she had problems getting to Gmail. Withing a few minutes quite a few people were posting Tweets to the same effect. Turns out Gmail had a real outage (they needed their own fail whale) and millions of people (up to 20 million) were affected and left in the dark. Later on Google issued an apology which included the following:
We heard loud and clear today how much people care about their Gmail accounts. We followed all the emails to our support team and user group, we fielded phone calls from Google Apps customers and friends, and we saw the many Twitter posts. (We also heard from plenty of Googlers, who use Gmail for company email.) We never take for granted the commitment we’ve made to running an email service that you can count on.
Now GMail is only one of a number of “Cloud” applications that have suffered an outage recently. Cloud Computing refers to those applications that are entirely or partly hosted on a managed infrastructure somewhere on the Internet. The question in my mind is this: Where would your business be if you were dependent on these applications? Apologies are one thing, but if your company is losing money every minute due to an outage of a service you are reliant on, what recourse do you have? Gmail is a free applications, but that doesn’t mean that Google they don’t have the money to support it (charging people $1 to use the service for example, won’t help improve reliability).
If you decide to go this way, make sure you always have a disaster recovery plan in case, some way you can operate your business if your applications aren’t available. And if you don’t at least make sure you have some recourse so that if your SLA isn’t met, someone else is liable for your losses.