There's a very short answer here: No. Not for a second. We all know that Gmail went down for a while this morning and the naysayers are happy to point to the doom of the cloud. ZDNet's Sam Diaz, however, wrote a great "the sky isn't falling" piece today. As he pointed out,
I remember a few years back when my company’s email went down - for days, not hours. It would come back and then go away again as the IT team worked to troubleshoot and fix the problem...
Perhaps more importantly, Sam notes,
Who out there communicates by e-mail alone these days? Speaking for myself, I’m reachable on Twitter, Facebook, SMS text, and Yahoo IM...
He didn't even mention voice.
This gets back to my original question, though. Should I rely on the cloud for student and staff groupware? Of course I should! Certainly, for us, it's free and provides huge amounts of functionality, both in terms of collaboration and simply getting things done. Will it always work all the time? No, but neither will my file servers, terminal servers, thin clients, fat desktops, Internet connection, web server, or anything else upon which my district relies to get things done.
Google's Edu Apps can survive a blip like this. I have plenty of other things to keep running on my end to spend any time worrying about rare downtime mail and my other cloud applications. Offline Apps make this even less of an issue, since students and staff will be able to produce documentation even if the Internet connection is down or Google suffers another hiccup.