Yup, some folks worst fears were realized today when Google Docs was down, down, down for a good 45 minutes or so. I was actually having lunch when it happened, but during my web-only challenge it would be remiss of me to sweep this under the carpet. This type of situation is what keeps many people away from web services and I can certainly understand that.
Since I wasn’t at my computer, I couldn’t test my backup plan but at the very least I can share it with you. The key is to be a Boy Scout, i.e.: Be Prepared! In my opinion, anyone using Google Docs should also have Google Gears installed. This allows you to have access to your documents even when you don’t have a web connection, or in this particular case, when Google Docs is down. Offline, you have access to edit and save changes to a document, or view a spreadsheet or presentation. You won’t have access to any PDFs; something I just tested while offline since Google added PDF support recently. You also won’t have local copies in standard formats for other uses: Google Gears appears to store everything in a database format on your local drive
If that’s not good enough, bear in mind you can view documents at this point and they’re always up to date since the last on-line changes. With a true Google Docs outage, you do a quick copy of a doc and paste it in Zoho Writer, which is a comparable web app. I’ve tested this in the past and it works perfectly fine. Too bad that DocSyncer went under or I would have always had a true local copy of the docs to begin with. Anyway, the workaround isn’t glitzy or glamorous, but if you’re dependent on a service to get something done, you’ll do what you have to do. Again, I wasn’t affected at all because of lunch and I suspect folks that pay for Google Apps weren’t either (but tell me in the comments if that’s an incorrect guess).
While you don’t expect an outage like this from a Google or other large-scale company, it doesn’t have to be the end of the world. You simply need a viable backup plan to keep a sunny disposition in the clouds.