You do know you can't rely on Gmail, right?

The first news I heard this morning was that Google's Gmail had been down last night. It was also the second, third, and fourth news I heard this morning. Come on already! What did you expect?

I hate to tell you this, but the very nature of any online service or SaaS (software as a Service), leads to frequent failures. This wasn't the first time Gmail failed. It won't be the last. Deal with it.

One of the reasons why Google enabled you to use Gmail offline was so that you could keep using it when you couldn't go online. It also works just fine when the Gmail servers fall down and go down.

If you can't handle the fact that Gmail isn't a 99.9999% uptime application, you really need to stop relying on any SaaS. None of them are that stable. Sometimes, the servers' breakdown, sometimes a backhoe rips out your T3, DSL, or cable connection; sometimes the moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter aligns with Mars, and in every case, the application breaks. That's life.

We've gotten so used to the Internet always being there that when any important part of it stops working many of us get bent out of shape. So, for example, when Twitter's fail-whale appears, it's news. Considering that the good old whale showed up for 84-hours last year, that doesn't seem that newsworthy to me.

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All of this buzz about online service failures makes me think that many people have forgotten why we switched to PCs in the first place. Back in the day-the 1970s-almost all computing was dumb-terminal based. If your IBM mainframe or DEC VAX wasn't working, you weren't working. With PCs, first with CP/M and then with MS-DOS, it didn't matter so much if a server was offline, you could still get work done, play games, or whatever.

When the Internet first went from being for tech geeks, like yours truly, and available to anyone with an early Web browser in 1993, we still thought of our PC at the center of our computer universe.

Sometime though in the 21st century--perhaps in 2001 when Google had made PageRank into the way to measure and search Web sites--we can began to think of the Internet as the true heart of our computing.

Now, in 2009, when we go into our Chicken Little 'The sky is falling' dance whenever there's a Google application or social networking failure, we clearly see the Internet as the be-all and end-all of our computer work and play.

That's fine. Things change. But, if you're going to look at your computer that way, you really need to understand that no networked service is going to be as reliable as a Mac running Mac OS X or a PC running a Linux desktop. You also need to realize that when many of us rely on any one service, we're putting all our eggs in one basket.

In short, in some ways we've moved back into the 70s. Once more, we're dependent on servers outside of our control. If you don't like this, and I for one don't, you need to stop relying so much on Internet-based applications and start returning to desktop applications. Or, at the very least, you need to understand that any SaaS is only as stable as the weakest link between you and wherever it is on the Internet cloud that your application and data are really living.

So, the next time your favorite part of the Internet fails, just try to chill. There's really nothing else you can do.

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