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Am I a big whiner about Gmail's downtime?

I received a lot of feedback on my post from Tuesday, "Oh sure...4 days in and Gmail goes down." Comments ranged from commiseration, to ridicule for buying into a cloud-based solution, to thoughtful musings on the nature of the cloud in education.
Written by Christopher Dawson, Contributor on

I received a lot of feedback on my post from Tuesday, "Oh sure...4 days in and Gmail goes down." Comments ranged from commiseration, to ridicule for buying into a cloud-based solution, to thoughtful musings on the nature of the cloud in education.

I should point out that the real thrust of my article was some good old-fashioned invocations of Murphy's Law. Four days after a really successful rollout with a lot of teacher enthusiasm, we get a remarkably rare "Gfail." As many have pointed out, Google Apps enjoys more than 99.9% uptime, more than can be said of many solutions that don't rely on the cloud. The timing, however, in my little life, just happened to stink.

As one fellow Tweeter told me this morning over a couple of tweets,

...Stop whining; sh*t happens. It is not about you. #fail...Gmail was down for a few hours, get over it. Your credibility is not at stake.

Well, according to @cguy's Twitter profile, he's an humanity enthousiast (he's not a bad speller; he's from Montreal). I take this to mean that he is neither a teacher nor someone who works regularly with teachers (I'd check his blog for clues, but it's in French and my French is mighty bad). At any rate, my point is that change, particularly change that has teachers embracing and relying upon new technology, is tough.

Teachers, as a bunch, tend not to be a terribly tech-savvy bunch. Obviously there are a lot of exceptions to this (plenty of tech-savvy teachers who are doing incredibly cool things in their classrooms read this blog). However, it takes a lot of political capital to get the average classroom teacher to buy into something as revolutionary as Google Apps. When that political capital is successfully expended and then Apps fails, even briefly, it can strike fear in the heart of someone who was on the fence over the use of new technologies.

As it turns out, since we're on the right coast, most teachers were wrapping up their day during the outage and were able to get right back to work in the evening after dinner. More importantly, though, the features of Apps were important, useful, and relevant enough to many of the teachers that they were willing to ignore a couple hours of downtime, even if it did happen shortly after our rollout.

Live by the sword, die by the sword, as one of my readers put it. Given how much functionality we get for free with Apps, I'm more than happy to take my chances with the sword that is the Cloud.

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