Find out if Google services are working and keep using them when they go wrong
Given the size of Google – and the number of services and users it has to maintain and keep happy – the company achieves a remarkable level of uptime. Uptime is the measure of how reliable a particular service, or set of services, is over a particular period – the higher the uptime figure, the more likely a service is to be available when users require it.
On average, Google maintains an uptime level for its products and services of 99.9 per cent. This is known as a service-level agreement (or SLA) and, in real terms, it means Google’s tools are likely to be unavailable (downtime) for fewer than nine hours in any one year. If Google breaks its own SLA then the company will offer compensation to paying customers in the form of service extensions or monetary credit.
That’s all fine but if one of those hours of downtime occurs when you need to get something done, it could be very frustrating. Fortunately, it’s possible to stay informed about both planned and unplanned downtime. Indeed, if you know how, it’s even possible to continue using key Google services such as Gmail during periods of downtime.
To be forewarned is to be forearmed – and knowing if a Google service is available (or set to be unavailable) will minimise frustration. There are two kinds of downtime – scheduled and unscheduled. Though both are rare, it is possible be informed in advance of scheduled downtime (usually for essential maintenance).
In all cases, major upcoming issues will be reported in advance via Google’s various public soapboxes – its blog, Facebook page and Twitter feed. Some key Google services have their own blogs and social-media feeds; the blog for Google Maps and Google Earth, for instance, can be found on Blogspot. Remember that Google is a vast organisation and as these focused communication channels are likely to be operated by people close to those responsible for maintaining the particular service, they may offer an earlier warning than other places.
Subscribe to RSS feeds
All Google’s blogs offer RSS feeds, so if you’re a fan of this alerts system then it makes sense to subscribe. Stay up to date with the main Google blog RSS feed, for example, or just look for the little RSS symbol on service-specific blogs.
Check current service status
If no scheduled maintenance has been reported – or you simply want to check whether a Google product is working – visit the Google Apps Status Dashboard. The calendar view doesn’t need much explaining but essentially, green dots mean all is well while and orange or red dots mean trouble. A red dot next to a date means a particular tool or service is (or was) unavailable, while an orange dot means there’s disruption of some sort. To find out more, click the dot.
To check for a recent spate of problems (which might be indicative of current problems, even if nothing is reported here), click the Older link at the foot of the page. This page has its own RSS feed.
Keep working through downtime
With some preparation it is even possible to continue working through outages affecting certain Google services. Indeed, users of both Gmail and Docs (now subsumed into Google Drive) can continue using these tools even if their own internet connection develops a fault. Gmail users should install the Offline Google Mail app for Chrome, while for offline Docs access, log in as usual, click the cog icon at the top right, choose Set up Docs offline and follow the prompts.
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