The cloud is the future of music, but the cloud -- or parts of it -- doesn't work properly from time to time. The service disruptions of many Google applications Wednesday morning was a reminder that cloud-based services inevitably experience service problems and users can be forgiving if the company deals with the issues correctly.
Word spread quickly that Gmail for Google Apps, Google Drive (the cloud-based file storage service), Documents, Spreadsheets, Presentations, Google Chat and Google Analytics were experiencing service disruptions. Google apps experience occasional service disruptions, although it's rare that this many apps are affected at once. Google Drive has had three other disruptions in the previous month, according to Google's App Status Dashboard. Gmail last experienced a disruption on February 28th.
Outages are unfortunate but accepted -- to some degree -- by consumers. Tumblr’s outage last month didn’t seem to hurt the company. Netflix’s service problems on Christmas Even, caused by a larger outage at Amazon Web Services, didn't leave a lasting mark. In fact, shares of Netflix are up 88% since December 26 and the company's foray into exclusive content has generated enthusiasm around the company. Pandora keeps growing in spite of regular service issues (as detailed in the comments section of the website Is It Down Right Now?). Spotify's outages in late 2011 didn’t prevent the company from more than doubling its subscribers to 6 million.
Outages are inevitable because perfection is too expensive, writes Mike Pav, engineering vice president at Spanning Cloud Apps at ReadWrite. Pavs believes that achieving a 99.9% uptime would require an amount of time, money and resources that wouldn’t be worth the investment. “The extra cost inevitably would be passed along to consumers, all but negating the cloud’s cost advantages.”
Instead, Pav believes Platform as a Service (PaaS) providers like Amazon Web Services should provide customers with a “well-reasoned plan” for handling any disruptions. They should say when service will be restored, report who was impact and whether data was lost, provide status updates and, once over, provide a plan to avoid future interruptions.
It helps if companies upfront with people about service disruptions and outages. Dealing with unfortunate but inevitable problems comes down to good customer service. One CEO of a music B2B platform tells me his company tries to over communicate when it knows of a service instance of system wide issue. "Users are usually very understanding and appreciate the transparency."
Spotify's use of social media is a good example of transparency. The music service has a Twitter account, @SpotifyStatus, that keeps users informed about unexpected outages and planned maintenance that could interrupt some users' service. The list of tweets show Spotify has had five instances of service issues in 2013 and many more in 2012. The company deals with each instance in a similar way each time: acknowledge the problem and let people know when it's been resolved.
Listeners shouldn't be hesitant about a cloud-based future for music. From personal calendars to file storage, our lives are becoming more connected to servers in unknown, faraway places. Consumers have handled the occasional service disruptions and outages that throw a wrench into their lives. Music fans will be able to deal with these small bouts of adversity, too.