Google's Loss, Channel's Gain

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Google has inadvertently highlighted a weakness of Web-based applications. A recent snafu with the company's Gmail service seems to have resulted in a loss of data associated with 60 hosted e-mail accounts. The company acknowledged that affected users lost all of their e-mail or contact information. While the problem only impacts an infinitesimal percentage of Gmail users, the fact remains that the company lost customers' data. Google is offering to work with those affected to restore data, but the real issue is what the company can do to restore the most important element of a Web-based application: trust.

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Google's situation proves to be a valuable educational experience for VARs selling hosted services, and quickly points out what to do and what not to do. Simply put, don't ever lose a customer's data, but if you do—make sure you have a way to recover it.

Web service naysayers will use Google's recent foibles to argue against hosted services, but VARs can turn the situation to their advantage. Purveyors of hosted services can use the issue to emphasize the importance of backup and highlight how their offerings protect against data loss.

What's more, most hosted services offer local backup capabilities (Gmail included). Local backup capabilities are often part of the service bundle, or at the very least offered as an option. Regardless, backup allows customers to have control over their data, which proves to be the hook for selling backup services.

What if you don't sell hosted services or Web-based applications? Well, Google's dilemma can become the catalyst for selling traditional applications that store data locally. Or better yet, you turn the tables altogether and use a Web-based hosted service to handle backup as part of a business-continuity plan while capitalizing on the sale of local applications.

An interesting caveat to the Google Gmail story is that the data loss may not be Google's fault at all, but the fault of a known security issue with Firefox 2.0, which was fixed in Firefox Perhaps that is why so few users were impacted. But then again, for those few affected, data was still lost and lost because of a situation beyond both the users' and the hosting service's control. That just adds fuel to the backup argument and even brings security services into the equation.

No matter how you look at it, Google's problems should create a conversation with your clients about how to best handle data backup and business-continuity solutions. The key here is for the channel to learn from Google's mistakes and improve offerings to businesses both large and small.

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