Five ways to win when Google fails

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So Google freaked out over night. Thousands of people all over the world were cut off from all things G as an error in the internet giant’s system diverted vast amounts of traffic through their Asia servers. It caused 14% of all their users to have a slow and interrupted service. That’s a lot of users.

For many it brought their web life to a standstill, so reliant are they on Google and all its products but there’s no need to fear. Google don’t and will never own the internet and there’s a million and one alternatives to everything they do. So, next time their service goes down, here’s five ways to keep you winning while Google fails.

Search

Before Google came along there was a huge choice of search engines. The likes of Webcrawler, Lycos and Ask were around a good five earlier and they’re still going strong – just not compared to the G monopoly.

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I entered the term “Squeaky Bum Time” into Google, Alta Vista, Yahoo!, Lycos and the self-proclaimed “World’s Biggest Search Engine” Cuil. All of them came up with relevant results, most of them started with the definition of the idiom as the first result and they all returned pages on Alex Ferguson – often in relation to the Russian and Swedish football teams.

Each engine demonstrated understanding of the phrase and its relevance to modern culture. The bottom line is that you’re going to find what you need, certainly, between them, if not, with each individually, and design-wise, there’s plenty to chose from for something that’s both straight forward and pleasing to use.

E-mail

I don’t use gmail but I understand I’m in some kind of minority here. I know that there’s plenty of good things about it, such as IMAP and POP3 options, the layout and the spam filter that’s pretty much as good as it gets, but everyone has back up e-mail accounts, right? Tell me you do? Everyone needs junk mail services – ones that you might use for entering competitions or signing up for newsletters or just when some website makes you register with them before you use it.

Just make sure that you don’t put all of your e-mail eggs in one basket. Spread your e-mail service of choice around a bit. They all go down from time to time so you unless you want to be stuck every time they do, keep all your contacts in a few different ones.

Hotmail may be a bit of a dinosaur but it still works well. They keep up with the times even if they don’t innovate and functionality is very straight forward. Your ISP will have probably given you a free e-mail service when you signed up for them and if, it’s obscure enough, you might even still be able to get yourownname@whateveritscalled.com.

At the end of the day, e-mail’s e-mail. You can attach a world of bells and whistles but so long as you’ve get plenty of storage, you can search, you can send and receive and it doesn’t cost anything, then it’s good enough.

Oh, and if you really can’t face leaving Google’s bosom on this one, then at least use one of the online services that stores all your contacts like 02’s Bluebook or Mobyko. At least then you’ll be able to contact friends and family when meltdown next arises.

Online Office

“My Google Docs!” was a typical cry yesterday on Twitter as access to all manner of the most important spread sheets and cloud office files were rendered inaccessible. The first thing I can suggest here is a bit of an obvious one – back them up.

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Now, I’m not saying back up everything – no one can be bothered – but don’t leave the most important files at the mercy of the whims of the web. If Google doesn’t go down, your own home or office network might so keep mutliple copies of the grade A important bits and pieces. That’s really down to discipline though and either you’re that kind of person or you’re not.

Don’t worry, I’m not either but I am the kind of person to spread my footprints around the web and I use Zoho Docs as well as Google’s service. It’s got more than I could ever use from docs and spreadsheets through to calendars, planners, projects, invoices and business reports. In fact there’s more than any other service, it’s easy to use and it looks pretty too.

Video Players

When Google goes down, all its little buddies do too including the enormously popular YouTube. Sure it’s got over 62 million videos and gets at least five times more daily plays than anyone else but there’s still plenty of competition and, more to the point, weeks’ worth of footage to enjoy on all sorts of others services.

Vimeo, Imeem and Metcafe are all good choices and, because they’re not quite so big, there’s probably a better overall standard of quality, a little less of the happy slapping and not quite the insanity of the famous “YouTube community” to contend with. The other bonus of being smaller is that any copyright sensitive material is more likely to remain there unseen without the big companies demanding its removal.

Web Analytics

Websites relying on Google Analytics had a bit of an issue last night with many refusing to load while they were waiting for the stat service to kick in. Now sadly, as a user, there’s not a lot you can do about that if the site in charge hasn’t done the decent thing and disabled the service to keep their site afloat.

What I can at least do, is recommend a few other good stat services that’ll run at the same time as GAnalytics so that you can keep an eye on your traffic even when Google throws a wobbly.

StatCounter is one. It doesn’t necessarily give you the most accurate reflection of what’s going on but it is consistent, so you will be able to view the trends – probably all that matters when you get down to it. The other bonus is that it’s easy to use and it’s free.

If you want to feel good about yourself, you can try a service from the open source community called AWstats. It doesn’t have quite the same straight forward functionality as Stat Counter but it is accurate and free to use too.

Daniel Sung

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