The Google break from China raises some questions for the enterprise considering cloud computing. It’s one thing if the network goes down. That can be fixed. But when the government does its own blockade, that’s another story.
Google Apps customers face this very issue. Google has the thorny task of explaining to its customers of what they may expect when using Google Apps in mainland China.
First off, it’s important to clarify that Google is not shutting itself out of the China market. Google has stopped censoring its search services: Google Search, Google News, and Google Images on its Chinese domain, www.google.cn. But Google intends to continue to do R&D in China ad it will maintain a sales presence there.
But for people working in China, there can be a bit of a mixed message. What if you are using Google Apps in Beijing? What can you expect? To keep customers updated, Google has created a Google Apps status dashboard that updates daily to show what in the Google network is working on a day-to-day basis.
Google Groups, Blogger, YouTube and Google Sites are entirely blocked. This could pose a number of issues. For example, a customer may use Google Sites for an intranet, project site or an employee profile page. You could go on with the issues this presents but basically it’s one of the downsides when using a cloud computing service in face of a repressing regime.
Google has some recommendations for those doing business in China:
“… it is important to know that there are several networking configurations and associated technologies available to help ensure ongoing access to your critical business services such as Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Docs. These network configurations, such as a Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection, secure shell (SSH) tunneling, or using a proxy server, are already in place by many businesses with worldwide operations who serve their users from various locations. Companies should consult their own technical, legal and policy personnel to find a solution that works best for them.”
But then what if the applications do work? Where is the data? Who can access it?
Google says it does not host a customer’s data in mainland China nor do Google employees in China not have access to Apps systems or customer data.