If Google Executives were Presidential Candidates…

Sometimes tech executives skate away with hubris (look up Larry Ellison), but more often they run the risk of their words coming back to haunt them. 

Just a little example this week – what a difference a day makes, from Tuesday to Wednesday. I’m sympathetic to politicians and executives who put their words on the line in public, opening themselves to the hazard of after-the-fact Monday morning quarterbacks.   But this is an interesting case with lessons for cloud computing…

Dateline: Tuesday August 5

Dave Girouard, president of Google’s Enterprise unit, was energetically promoting Google Apps at the Pacific Crest Technology Leadership Forum, quoted by TechCrunch and PC Retail Mag:

You don’t just have to take Google’s word for how we handle your data, we actually have a third-party [audit]. In the end, when companies go through this process they virtually inevitably come to the conclusion that their data is safer with Google than it is in their own servers.”

“That’s a bold statement, I know, but when they go through the process that’s inevitably their conclusion because our entire business is banked on protecting confidential data, credit cards, etc.  We have personal data on millions and millions of users that we have to protect every day…”

“You have to show and demonstrate how you support customers. We have 24×7 phone support for Google Apps customers.”

“Gmail in our suite of products is also the most developed, the most sophisticated, it’s been around the longest.” 

Dateline: Wednesday August 6

IDG News Service: “Google Apps Hit by Prolonged Gmail Access Problem

A technical problem hit an undetermined number of Gmail users, including paying subscribers to the Google Apps hosted software suite, locking them out of their accounts for about 15 hours on Wednesday and early Thursday. The problem, which also affected stand-alone users of Gmail, made it impossible for users to log in to their accounts. They got a ‘502 Server Error’ message when they tried to log in.” 

“In the main Google Apps Discussion Group thread devoted to this incident, administrators complained loudly about the length of the outage and the lack of status update details offered by Google officials.  A ‘502’ error hit Gmail on July 16 as well, and also led to a long outage for affected users, according to postings in the discussion forums.”

The same article quotes one company’s Google Apps administrator writing on the official Gmail/Google Apps discussion forum: 

Seriously…It has been two hours. Can you provide us with another update? For a company with your reputation, I’m absolutely shocked at the apparent absence of customer service. This amount of down time is unacceptable.”  

Over at GigaOm, Om Malik observed:

“The problem has a certain Shakespearean twist to it. Many folks want to lodge their complains but can’t — because their email isn’t working.”


Dateline: Thursday August 7

Comment by “Jesse B” on GigaOm:

We were hit with this one. We were losing email during the day yesterday… Guess you get what you pay for.”


I don’t mean to be snarky; but this isn’t the first time that I’ve noticed Mr. Girouard’s “front of brass” and “feet of clay” (to quote Byron).  And if Obama and McCain and Paris Hilton all have to stand by their words with accountability, so should tech executives.

One final quote from “The Day Before” interview:

Girouard conceded that the firm’s [Apps] package will never reach the functionality of Microsoft’s Office package, but said that was not the firm’s intention. “If you’re looking for feature parity, you’ll probably never see that… If we’re successful with our applications, the adoption of our technology will happen a lot faster than people expect.  If we’re not, it will take a lot longer.”


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2 Responses

  1. too true. i wish we could hold them to the same standards. we really have trouble doing it with politicians in the first place, and even if we did, I think there would be far worse offenders beyond google.


  2. Well, you’re right on that last point – I just want to hold their words up because they seem to pat themselves on the back quite a bit. Perhaps it is “corporate youth,” since I of course have to acknowledge that a certain Redmond-based behemoth used to have that problem in the 80s and 90s as well 🙂

    Thanks for the comment – lewis


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