Google's Communication Failure Causes Bad Blood At Brown

Hundreds of students at 10 colleges who use Google Apps for email were affected by a bug in the system which allowed them to see emails and sometimes entire inboxes that were not their own. Google fixed the problem in a few days, but Donald Tom, director of IT services at Brown University, isn't happy with the way Google handled the situation.

The lack of communication between Google and Brown's CIS department caused some bad blood. Tom told the Brown Daily Herald that he'd "spoken very forcefully with the account (executive), my boss, senior administrators at Brown -- including the president. (Google needs) to find a better way to communicate with us."

Though Google has been pushing their services aggressively lately with the Go Google campaign, reports like this plus the recent Gmail outage may cause both individuals and IT managers to pause before handing over their document management or email to Google's hands. As Sarah Perez at ReadWriteWeb correctly points out, once you bring in a third-party cloud service in addition to your existing I.T. department, users won't always be able to get their problems solved by someone on site. Methods for facilitating communication and problem-solving don't seem to be fully worked out -- at least in this case.

Individual users of Google services are often frustrated when support issues come up as the forums and mailing lists set up to help often don't. There may be other knowledgeable users who can speak to problems they've encountered and fixed, but on more than one occasion I've come across posts that are months old with no solution and no Google employee in sight. It only surprises me a little that communication is the issue even at the enterprise level.

As much as I would love to completely Go Google for all of my productivity and cloud service needs, I can't until Google steps up. Service outages and bugs are inevitable in every system, but lack of communication is not. Instead of grabbing up every aspect of my online life, Google should focus on ensuring that this life isn't filled with a lot of cursing because nothing works and no one will tell me why.