Google Outages Raise Questions About Online Services


Google's Gmail Web-based e-mail service was down for about two hours on Thursday, blocking users from accessing their e-mail accounts, contact lists, and related functions.

The outage followed a one-hour disruption to Gmail that occurred on September 1.

The Google News Web site also suffered an outage Tuesday when users trying to access the site for a couple hours could only see a page proclaiming a "503" server error.

Google's problems follow in the wake of other recent online service disruptions, including an hour-long outage of PayPal's service in early August, an outage in Microsoft's Hotmail service in March, problems this year with the Yahoo and the Hewlett-Packard Upline storage services, and recent disruptions in online role-playing games like Warhammer Online.

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The IT industry is currently moving quickly to adopt online services, including cloud-based storage and security and other services, in a move to help customers control costs and take advantage of a shift towards the increasing ability of both consumers and corporate employees to access data and applications away from a traditional office setting.

While Google and Amazon and a host of smaller companies are already offering a wide range of online services that appeal to consumers, including online storage, photo and video sharing, social networking, and e-mail access, other companies are looking at the infrastructure provided by the likes of Google and Amazon as platforms on which to build business-oriented online services.

Meanwhile, companies like VMware, Citrix, and Microsoft are looking to build more business-oriented platforms on which online services can be built that allow employees of SMBs and enterprises to access their applications from any device at any time from any location.

The continued adoption of online services depends heavily on those services providing a secure, always-on environment in which to either work or play.

Outages in those services, however, have the potential to slow down their acceptance by both consumers and businesses who see the risk of keeping data online or running online applications.

That in turn could very well curb the adoption of online services in the consumer and business world.

Or it could accelerate the demand by consumers and businesses for more reliable online services, meaning that the Googles and Amazons and the smaller upstarts of today's online service world will have to prove their ability to compete with new online service platforms coming from the likes of VMware, Microsoft, and Citrix.