Google's Blogger outage makes the case against a cloud-only strategy

Google's Blogger outage makes the case against a cloud-only strategy

Summary: The same week that Google made its strongest pitch ever for putting your entire business online, one of its flagship services has failed spectacularly. There's a lesson here.

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The same week that Google made its strongest pitch ever for putting your entire business online, one of its flagship services has failed spectacularly.

Earlier this week, Google rolled out a maintenance release for its Blogger service. Something went terribly wrong, and its Blogger customers have been locked out of their accounts for more than a day. Google’s engineers have been frantically working to restore service ever since, although they haven’t shared any details about the problem.

A Blogger Service Disruption update contains four updates from the last 24 hours, starting with this one:

We have rolled back the maintenance release from last night and as a result, posts and comments from all users made after 7:37 am PDT on May 11, 2011 have been removed. Again, we apologize that this happened and our engineers are working hard to return Blogger to normal and restore your posts and comments.

That’s nearly 48 hours of downtime, and counting. Overnight updates promise “We’re making progress” and “We expect everything to be back to normal soon.”

My question is, “What if this had happened to another Google service?” Say, Google Docs? What if every document you wrote and saved on Wednesday was suddenly taken offline on Thursday, and you no longer had your presentation or your notes or your research for a client meeting today? How does this promise from Google sound now?

Your apps, documents, and settings are stored safely in the cloud. So even if you lose your computer, you can just log in to another Chromebook and get right back to work.

Google has owned and operated Blogger since 2003. It’s not like they’re still trying to figure out how to integrate the service into their operation. If it can happen at Blogger, why can't it happen with another Google service?

Yes, Blogger is a free service. Just like Google Docs and Gmail. In fact, Gmail and YouTube have their official blogs on Blogspot.com (the domain used by the Blogger service). If either one of those teams announced any news in the last 48 hours, you’ll have to wait to read about it.

This, to me, is the strongest possible argument against putting everything you own in the cloud. If your data matters, you need a hybrid strategy, with local storage and local content creation and editing tools. If your local storage fails, you can grab what you need from the cloud. If your cloud service fails, you've still got it locally. But if you rely just on the cloud, you're vulnerable to exactly this sort of failure.

Update: As my colleague Zack Whittaker just reminded me, earlier this week Google Docs did indeed have some issues. Two ZDNet bloggers reported problems saving documents to their Google Docs account. The saved documents didn't appear online for several hours. PC World's Tony Bradley reported similar issues in the same timeframe:

I was using Chrome, and I thought maybe it was a browser specific issue or some problem with cookies, so I tried looking in Internet Explorer 9-- same thing. Firefox 4--same result. I checked out my wife's Google Docs on her computer, and it seemed to work just fine, so I thought it must just be the laptop I was using, so I checked from my iPad--same thing.

No amount of browser refreshes or system reboots seemed to make any difference. Finally, I decided to move on. There was a file I had started earlier that was not appearing on my list of files in Google Docs, but I assumed it was still there somewhere. So, I did a search for the file name and when I typed "blog_051111" suddenly all of my files from today showed up. Weird.

The issue is still not resolved, though. Once I cleared the search field and refreshed the Google Docs page, the files disappeared once again. If anyone has any ideas (Google--are you reading this?) feel free to send them my way. Not only would I like to fix it, but I am very curious to get to the root cause of why the issue is occurring to begin with.

Google's Apps Status dashboard includes no mention of any Google Docs problems this week.

Update, 13-May 11AM PDT: Google says Blogger service is now restored. The official explanation attributes the problem to "data corruption" during scheduled maintenance.

Topics: Collaboration, Browser, Cloud, Google, Outage

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185 comments
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  • But what is the SLA?

    There is nothing wrong with the cloud if you understand your roles and responsibilities. What exactly is the SLA for blogspot? I am guessing not 5 nines. And, what are the penalties for downtime?

    Granted, Google Apps and Google Mail SLAs have relatively weak SLAs with no financial penalties if and when the services go down. But, you cannot make the case against cloud services based on this one "inconsequential" service.

    But, as you stated, a hybrid strategy is probably the most effective approach. Azure has it right. I can throw my analysis services up in the cloud, but retain the data in-house. Not only is this more cost-effective, but it outsources what I need outsourced - processing power, not my intellectual property.
    Your Non Advocate
    • SLA doesn't matter if you don't have a local option

      @facebook@... <br><br>That's the problem with the strategy that Google outlined for Chromebook this week. Your documents are safe in the cloud. Unless they're not.
      Ed Bott
      • RE: Google's Blogger outage makes the case against a cloud-only strategy

        @Ed Bott Hold on now: imagine if the software patch was downloaded from the web onto your computer (like most software patches are done today in the normal offline computing model we all seem to love so much). Would there be any difference? You'd still be locked out of your stuff. You would just wait there for your new patch, and when you caught wind of a fix, you'd have to go back in and download the new patch. Right? The real issue here is losing access to important functions through the web, depending on what you do online. It would be no good if you lost access to your emails and productivity suite, which is why Google is bringing certain necessary functions offline. Imagine if Microsoft Word suddenly broke, and you had to download a fix... what would be the difference?<br><br>In any case, this article, and every other article I've read about Google's latest Chromebook idea, misses the biggest concern (and this may regrettably be letting the cat out of the bag)...I will pose it as a question: will you be able to use Internet Explorer on a Chromebook? If not, isn't that anti-competitive? All the other OSes have to allow competition amongst web browsers on their respective OSes, but what about the OS that IS a web browser? Isn't this exactly what MS got into so much trouble for a few years ago? Just a thought...
        Kangaruhs
      • RE: Google's Blogger outage makes the case against a cloud-only strategy

        @Ed Bott

        You are right about the hybrid strategy. But local disks fail also. You want to minimize the disruption of any failure, local or cloud. (Best argument for static web publishing also - db corruption doesn't send your site down.)
        mjwebster@...
      • RE: Google's Blogger outage makes the case against a cloud-only strategy

        @Kangaruhs

        When I download and install a patch for my local software I get to choose when I do it. I know upgrades can sometimes cause problems and so I plan to complete it when I have time to fix things if they go wrong. When a cloud service does their upgrade, it could very well be at the worst possible time for me.

        That doesn't mean I'll stay away from the cloud. But it does mean that I'll be sure to keep a local backup.
        mcauthon
      • Offline

        @Ed Bott I thought Googles Apps for Business services worked offline so even if you had not internet connection you could still read your email history and I assumed Docs and other services would store themselves locally to sync later?
        ben.rattigan
      • RE: Google's Blogger outage makes the case against a cloud-only strategy

        @mcauthon

        If done correctly, online services will be updated and tested in the background, your data will ported over to the new system in the background, and only after everything checks out will the front end be switched. This type of update will be almost unnoticeable by you, so there's not timing involved, no waiting for things to install, no porting your data. It would literally be a near instantaneous switch probably done sometime early in the morning.

        As an example of what I'm talking about, Twitter recently updated their layout and gave everyone the option to update...they also gave the option to stay on "old twitter". Your data is currently on both systems. You choose to switch to the new version if you'd like, when you like.

        The real question is, "do you trust Google with your stuff?"
        Kangaruhs
      • Autonomy

        This is all about autonomy and independence.

        When you have control over your own life, your own resources, your own supply, your own computer, ...

        You automatically become more empowered as a human being.

        Yes, today companies roll out automatic updates for locally installed software, which can also break that software, but this is also a bad thing. These companies should always save the patch locally as an executable you can execute yourself if need be, along with an option to revert the change.

        Software that can automatically break is a BAD thing.
        kouzen
      • Message has been deleted.

        northnwest
      • Cheerleading for &quot;the cloud&quot; is ignorant.

        In an era when storage is cheaper, smaller, and more spacious than ever; and as unlimited data plans go away, online storage makes less and less sense.

        You can now carry most of your data on a puny drive on a keychain. Why would you upload it all to some third party and then PAY to get it back, and also be denied access to it whenever you don't have Internet access? It's idiotic.
        dgurney
      • Chrome browser, Chrome-anything

        @Ed Bott
        OldGrayWolf
      • Google is a joke

        @Ed Bott It's amazing how we have been led to believe Google is better at this then anyone. Its obvious they are not. Kangaruhs makes a good point. With all the EU complained about Microsoft supplying only Internet Explorer in Windows and frankly why they (EU) did not find the same conflict with Apple's OS X and Safari. Will find Google's ChromeBook to be any less anti competitive?
        But his argument about keeping information on site is just as bad does not fly. I have several computers, a mixture of Windows and Macs. Even if an update were to cause a computer boot issue. It most certainly would not involve all of them. In most cases I would have options. In the case of a cloud failure such as "putting all of your eggs with Google" You have very little options. I am not saying cloud storage or computing is bad. But having it done with one entity like Google to me is a problem.
        jscott418-22447200638980614791982928182376
      • You're shooting yourself in the foot: MS also has a huge cloud strategy

        @Ed Bott "It's difficult to place a proper value on those aspects, but there's no question that entities will spend less time -- and in turn, less money -- applying patches, installing updates, cleaning out old files, and managing a daunting fleet of machines that are used abused day in and day out. With Chrome OS, a user would simply login at the start of one class, and log out at the end. Clean, simple, hassle-free. But that's just the start."<br><br><a href="http://www.engadget.com/2011/05/11/editorial-google-clarifies-chromebook-subscriptions-might-have/" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://www.engadget.com/2011/05/11/editorial-google-clarifies-chromebook-subscriptions-might-have/</a>
        BioNerd
      • RE: Google's Blogger outage makes the case against a cloud-only strategy

        @Ed Bott

        I've been saying it for years... Cloud is a great addition but not solution. Having your data with you and safe and also in the cloud and safe means you have redundant backups. This way if a copy gets lost, corrupt or anything else you can always get it back. If the cloud craps out like Google seems to be perfecting... You can edit and create whatever you want on demand and upload it to the cloud later. It seems at present we have the best options to use a computer and the cloud versus cloud only and all the downtime without answers. GFAIL
        audidiablo
      • RE: Google's Blogger outage makes the case against a cloud-only strategy

        @Ed Bott

        Finally, an article I can agrre with you, however, when Microsoft's severs were down, where were you with this article. But let another cloud stumble, and you are right on top of them to blast them.

        But you are correct that access to all data needs to have more than one option available to access that data. After all, your business and future depends on it.
        linux for me
      • RE: Google's Blogger outage makes the case against a cloud-only strategy

        Thanks for taking this opportunity to discuss this, I feel fervently about this and I like learning about this subject.<a href="http://www.dissertationindia.com/">Dissertation Help</a>
        Amanda123456
      • 111111

        http://www.tumblr.com/blog/rehammmagdy
        rehammagdy
    • Chloe, we're running out of time!

      @facebook@... SLAs are emotionally satisfying, but ultimately worthless. None of them pays for consequential damages. If you lose the $48 million deal because your presentation was 'not available right now,' no check that covers eight hours of downtime is going to console you.
      Robert Hahn
      • Message has been deleted.

        northnwest
      • RE: Google's Blogger outage makes the case against a cloud-only strategy

        @Robert Hahn
        if you lose the $48 million deal because of a (power outage | IT didn't requisition the right projector | your laptop has a virus) [...] Luddites crack me up :-)
        genewitch