“Down and Out” for Google Apps Users


Outages will happen, whether we use applications managed by a supplier in the cloud, or use applications managed by in-house, IT staff. Some of the news lately has been about Google Apps’ service outages. Yet, if we have tools to be productive in our workday, cloud service outages aren’t as painful, unless we are inconvenienced by a particularly severe, recurring service lapse. — One from Google last affected about 4.8 million users. When Google service is down, its users can be frustrated, “down and out”.

Source: Google Apps Status Dashboard, 11 AM PT, June 11, 2012

Like me, you need productivity applications to communicate, analyze information, share and present it. As a professional, you use email, spreadsheets, and word processing and presentation tools. You use some tools daily and some weekly or monthly, and you depend on them.

Access to Email
Last week, email availability was an issue for many, and like it or not, we need to use email every workday. Those inconvenienced by lack of Gmail access travelled a rough road compared to those who have missed online access to Office 365. Office 365 customers can access 25 GB of email history offline. – That’s years of email capacity for an individual; it’s certainly years of capacity for me. In the event of a Microsoft service interruption, Office 365 users can manage their email and refer to it, but customers waiting for Gmail to come online had access to only about 500 messages, or about one week of capacity in the outages, and were restricted in working with email as a result.

Accessing Productivity Tools Offline with Office 365
Office 365 customers who elect plan E have Office desktop software for up to five devices. That’s two laptops for me, and I still have three more licenses so that I can compose, analyze and create with Office tools anywhere, any hour of the day. Other Office 365 customers choose to retain desktop licenses so they can be productive offline. Internet access isn’t ubiquitous, after all.

When I am offline, I look at past email to find information to create my team’s monthly report. I pull up an existing chart, update it, insert it into a presentation, create a new table, select and insert an image, create a summary slide and complete the report in Power Point.

Constrained with Google Apps When Offline
So, what do you need to do if you want to try to be productive in an offline mode with Google Apps? Stock up with candles, wood and matches, or fire up the generator… It’s that kind of inconvenience.

If you haven’t got a Chrome browser installed, you’re out of luck, because to use Gmail, Google calendar and Google Docs offline, you’ll need Chrome. If you’re lucky, your IT staff had the foresight to see that Chrome was installed on your machine, or at least the machine you’re using now. IT certainly keeps busy, while it spends money in configuring the patchwork of tools needed to make Google Apps work for users.

Imagine that you’re a Google Apps user who, like me, needs to compile information for a monthly report for your manager, but Google Apps is down. It’s impossible to assess your progress since you can’t see three-quarters of the progress reports your team sent via email over the course of most of the past month, given that you have access to only about a week’s worth of Gmail offline.

When using Gmail and Google Calendar offline, your user interface is different from the online interface, causing confusion. When offline, Google Docs are read-only, so you can’t take a table from a document and edit it to begin this month’s report-writing. Since you have no access to Drawings, or Forms, you can’t browse and source information with those tools to build pieces of your report, either. Since you have no access to Google Presentations, you cannot insert items into a presentation to compile the report. Frustrated in realizing that you can’t create your report, you now see that you cannot edit or create appointments to plan ahead.

Options to Remain Productive
Business users not only need offline access to tools, but need support for a set of use scenarios. They use a range of browsers and a selection of both cloud and desktop applications. When offline, I access my address list and queue email. I create presentations, spreadsheets and documents, and I access and update existing documents. I plan ahead, too, creating appointments as needed, when offline. I need options to be productive online or offline, so I use Microsoft productivity tools.

 

Comments (22)

  1. Anonymous says:

    @Tony Tai: I so agree with you! Outages in the cloud can leave you "Down and Out". With Office 365, at least if service interruptions ever happen, you can follow along with this Twitter feed to know what’s going on behind the scenes:

    twitter.com

    I am thankful my cloud provider discloses these things upfront. Here’s a sample of what one looks like if you are curious:

    ********

    Incident start time: Jun 12, 2012 6:00 AM

    Date and time Status Details

    Jun 15, 2012 11:51 AM Post-incident report published A post-incident report has been published.

    Jun 12, 2012 10:07 AM Service restored Closure Summary: On 6/12/2012 at approximately 1:00 PM UTC, an issue occurred in a Microsoft datacenter that caused a few users to experience sign-on issues. The problem affected a small percentage of customers world-wide.
    The issue was successfully fixed on 6/12/2012 at 4:01 PM UTC. The issue was successfully fixed on 6/12/2012 at 4:01 PM UTC. A complete post-incident report will be available on the Service Health Dashboard within five business days.

    Jun 12, 2012 9:46 AM Service restored The sign-in issue has been resolved. All users should be able to sign in and access their email and calendars.

    Jun 12, 2012 9:06 AM Investigating A few users are unable to sign in and access their email and calendars.

    Jun 14, 2012 8:25 PM Service restored Closure Summary: On 6/11/2012 at approximately 12:00 AM UTC, an issue in one of Microsoft’s datacenters caused a problem that prevented tenant admins from successfully using the Hybrid configuration wizard. The problem
    affected a small percentage of tenant admins across all regions. Microsoft engineers have identified the root cause of the issue, and have coded a fix. Deployment of the fix has been identified as a longer-term work-item requiring several days to complete.
    Further communication on this issue will be handled through planned maintenance event EX2166.

    Jun 14, 2012 11:57 AM Investigating Customers that are attempting to deploy hybrid are hitting issues with the coexistence domain. We are currently having issues with new coexistence domain creation. If you already have a coexistence domain ([tenantname].mail.onmicosoft.com)
    that is visible in the Exchange Control Panel then you are not affected by this issue.

    Jun 14, 2012 11:50 AM Investigating Customers that are attempting to deploy hybrid are hitting issues with the coexistence domain. We are currently having issues with new coexistence domain creation. If you already have a coexistence domain ([tenantname].mail.onmicosoft.com)
    that is visible in the Exchange Control Panel then you are not affected by this issue.

  2. Anonymous says:

    @Aaron: In considering cloud solutions, it’s good to look at pricing, hidden costs and overall value. (http://bit.ly/NLevmR). A CIO magazine article (http://bit.ly/JW2xUu)revealed many of the reasons that New England Biolabs decided to stay with Microsoft tools after a 60 day evaluation of Google Apps for Business. According to their CIO: “Never underestimate change management. It’s at least as important as the financial considerations. Email, calendar and document collaboration are fundamental to how people work. While you could save some money making the switch, you could also lose a lot of productivity, which would negate the cost savings." New England Biolabs decided to stick with Microsoft Outlook and Exchange Server, and plans to transition to a hybrid solution with Microsoft Office 365, giving its remote and international employees cloud-based collaboration and productivity applications.

  3. aaron says:

    Well since plan e would cost $60000 (7500 users), I think I will stick with google.

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