It was widely reported on Tuesday that a number of popular Google business services, including Gmail, Google Docs and Google+ were down and out.

The outage was experienced around the world beginning around 12:30pm ET on April 17 and lasted for more than an hour for both personal and business users. When they attempted to access their files and emails, they saw this:

Google Error 500 Message

Initially Google said that less than 2 percent of the Gmail user base was affected. But when you consider that Google CEO Larry Page recently trumpeted more than 350,000,000 users, the tiny percentage actually represents 7,000,000 users—and that’s both personal and business users. Then, later in the evening, they revised the number upward to less than 10 percent—a whopping 35 million users.

And that’s not the first major Google outage. Google is prone to blackouts, most recently in October 2011 when Gmail and related services were out for more than an hour—not to mention the occasional five minute hiccups.

This outage comes just days after the UK authorities launched an investigation of Microsoft’s 99.9 percent uptime claim after thousands of Office 365 users reported being unable to access content for half-days at a time. Since the investigation launched, Microsoft has failed to keep uptime at or above 99.9 percent, throwing into question whether Microsoft will honor its promise to compensate customers if downtime exceeds 8.7 hours in a year.

What’s worse for Google specifically is the timing of the blackout: there’s been intense speculation this week around the launch of Google Drive, a new file-sharing service set to rival Dropbox. It’s speculated to launch this week or next. It’s likely built on the same framework as other Google services and therefore susceptible to outages as well.

For the most part, consumers should be very excited for the launch of Google Drive—it offers users, many of whom are already deeply integrated into the Google suite of products like Gmail and Google Docs a new way to store and share personal files. Lucas Mearian at Computerworld offers readers a useful guide ( to consider before you sign up.

Many businesses already use Google services and the temptation will be there to use Drive as well, but they should be careful. CIOs and IT admins need to ask themselves: what is the financial impact of a company-wide outage that affects email and documents?

Most businesses have data that they consider mission-critical and can’t experience an outage for a number of reasons (e.g., transactions, workflow, security, compliance) and will need to factor in reliability as they think about Google Drive. The most reliable solutions have concrete SLAs that guarantee uptime and can prove it or your money back.

CIOs and IT admins also need to consider security: Google Drive can’t be granularly secured with complete oversight by IT and it will likely lack security checklist features like full audit trails, user permissions, end-to-end encryption and file versioning, which puts business data at risk of being lost or used improperly.

And for businesses with lots of content distributed across teams and offices, a central repository for data becomes a necessity. Google Drive actually creates content silos for each individual or team and because data is siloed, there’s no way to know who is using it or how it’s being used—and there’s no way for workers on the outside of the silo to get to the files they need.

What do you think about Google Drive? Would you use it for your business data? Let us know your thoughts below.

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