On Monday 14 December, Google went down. For about three-quarters of an hour, users were unable to access many services and business deliverables, including documents (in Google Docs), spreadsheets (in Google Sheets) and presentations (in Google Slides).
The panic was palpable. Users took to social media, incredulous not only that such a giant as Google could be felled, but that it could take their data with it.
UPDATE: This was a mere 45 minutes. But then it went down three days later on 17 December – today at the time of writing – for a second time!
What will happen to your data if this last outage lasts hours or even days, rather than just minutes? How will Google retrieve data in the interim to get users back to work?
The short answer is that it won’t. Google’s services and data are not backed up to enable you to get to your data by alternative means in the case of an outage – that bit’s down to you.
What do you mean, Google doesn’t back up data?
Google’s terms and conditions change frequently, as we’ve explored in previous posts including this one, but what each iteration has in common with every other is that it limits Google’s responsibility to storing your data and making it available – not making it retrievable in the case of an outage.
As the latest version of the Ts & Cs has it, Google undertakes ‘to save your content on our systems and make it accessible from anywhere that you go.’ No mention of how you get to it when their systems go down, you’ll note.
This is a massive worry for users of Google’s suite of services (previously called G Suite, now Google Workspace) on two fronts.
Firstly, of course, it raises the spectre of your data being permanently lost if, for any reason, the tech giant could not reinstate the service with all the data contained within it intact.
But secondly – and potentially more damaging – even if the loss of data is temporary, how temporary is it, and how consistent is this across all the different data types?
For example, how long will it take for business-critical data to be available again in a way that swiftly enables you to carry on trading, as opposed to ancillary data whose continued absence wouldn’t have an immediate impact on business continuity?
The fact of the matter is that even true backup systems, although they might typically address the first concern, often struggle with the second.
Where no backup is in place, your business really hasn’t got a hope of preventing either risk, and when the outage lasts considerably longer than 45 minutes – as it one day may well do – many businesses will learn a new definition of panic.
Backing up Google: what can I do?
The right choice of cloud backup can protect your business from losing access to its data when Google goes down. From your web browser, you can set and manage your Google and other backups from wherever you are.
But if the Google outage has taught businesses anything, it’s surely that just because a service is in the cloud, it’s not infallible – so here are some very specific additional cloud backup benefits you should look for:
- Restore rapidly from cloud to PC or server – Ensure you choose a cloud backup service that enables backed-up Google data in the cloud to be rapidly restored to a PC or server in seconds – not hours – on demand, so that you can continue working on the critical items first.
- Ease of use – ‘Set and forget’ is the key phrase here. It should be as easy as connecting your Google services to the cloud backup through your browser (a few minutes’ work), ticking what you want to back up and specifying how often, and then leaving it to get on with it – without slowing down any of your other business IT processes.
- Resilience and reliability – Ensure your cloud backup is based in mirrored, UK data centres, so that if one backup data centre experiences an interruption or outage, it immediately switches to another to ensure continuity of service.
- Security – Insist on ISO 27001-compliant data centres, with Government-grade 256bit AES encryption, using a key that only you have access to, to keep your data secure both in transit and at rest. Also, be sure that your backup has robust defence against ‘ransomcloud’ and similar malware that can infect Google services.
Today, 45 minutes. Tomorrow?
It’s not the first time Google has had an outage – which suggests it won’t be the last.
And the trend is not, as it stands, encouraging. Its first outage lasted only five minutes – its most recent nine times that!
So, how long next time? And could your business withstand it without backup?
Now there’s a New Year’s resolution for Google users to think on…