UPDATED 17:29 EDT / MARCH 07 2009

Google Docs: Security Flubs and Eternal Beta

Richard Devries at his Slashdot Journal chronicled an issue he had with his company’s usage of Google Documents, an issue that’s received a certain degree of attention on Techmeme today:

We can share documents with users within our domain, as well as @gmail.com accounts or other Apps-domains. About three weeks ago, we discovered that some fifteen documents and spreadsheets were unintentionally shared with a lot of people, some of whom were outside of our domain. We found out that one of us had been wanting to share these documents with a colleague (within our domain). He selected the documents on the documents list and added one user. Google Docs then shared all these documents with everyone who had access to one of the selected documents.

image The issue was resolve fairly quickly by the account admin, and Google performed, as Richard put it, “admirably” after a bug report was filed.

Why then is this so much of an issue?

Jason Kincaid at Techcrunch says that this only “underscores some of the biggest problems surrounding cloud-based services,” and ZDnet’s Garett Rogers elucidates:

Your stuff isn’t in your control, you basically have to trust people you don’t know to keep your stuff safe. The other problem is that the infrastructure, even if it’s robust and scalable, isn’t in your control either. When there is an outage, the best you can do is wait.

Even John concurred on this, telling me earlier today that the “cloud great, but this misstep by Google speaks to why enterprises aren’t going for the cloud.”

Why is Google still in beta on most of it’s products? Is it even possible to keep a product completely safe and secure on the cloud (or even off the cloud)?

Google focuses on search. That’s their product that’s out of beta.  They may be serious about being a good company (or at least not evil) and providing a lot of software as a service for free, ostensibly for those who couldn’t afford a paid solution. 

Make no mistake, though, their bread and butter is not made in online office utilities. Until it is, or until there is the prospect of it becoming a major profit center, I don’t foresee Google lending putting a great deal of effort in making cloud apps look bulletproof, particularly in a time where their stock price isn’t at it’s mountainous heights and they need to show stockholders they’re still achieving in their core competency – search and ads.


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