Google Service Outage Intensifies Scrutiny


The fact that a "traffic jam" caused applications like Gmail and Google Analytics to become unavailable may call into question the reliability of Web-based applications.

To its credit, Google has pointed the finger at itself, blaming a routing error and calling the mistake "embarrassing."

The outage started around 7:48am PDT on Thursday and lasted for about an hour, resulting in sluggish traffic and causing the search engine giant to reroute some if its traffic through Asia. All told, the company said in a blog post that about 14 percent of users experienced problems with YouTube, Gmail, Google Analytics, Google Maps, Google Docs, AdSense and Blogger.

Google's periodic service blips are undoubtedly a source of consternation for users and institutions.

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Arizona State University, for example, has switched its e-mail service from .edu over to user-created Gmail accounts. While the students may have enjoyed the outage to a certain degree -- "I sent my term paper, professor, but Gmail was down; I'll resend it when I get back to my dorm." -- professors and administrators were probably less than thrilled with the downtime: In addition to productivity losses, many universities use e-mail alerts to warn of on-campus emergencies or dangers.

While this Google outage wasn't the first the company blogged about, it may have been the most widespread, affecting a wide number of services.

For a company that seems to be rousing the ire of business owners, the European Union and the FTC, maybe Google should focus on shoring up its products rather than world domination.

Granted, the overall percentage of downtime that Google and its services experience is relatively low. But when a company is one of the biggest and most important in the world, the scrutiny it receives will be ever-increasing. Each misstep and controversial move by Google is going to be closely examined.

For the time being, Google outages are mostly an annoyance, an inconvenience to users. But in the case of ASU, that could all change if Gmail goes down during an emergency.