For those of you that were in bed and missed the early morning catastrophe, Google services went down earlier today for just over half an hour. Google, the search engine was actually fine during all of the commotion, but Gmail, Google Docs, Google Maps, YouTube and a host of other services went offline or had severely reduced functionality. Even Pokémon Go stopped working as the mobile game relies heavily on Google Maps to function.
Android smartphones (opens in new tab) were also badly hit, with many integrated apps including Google Photos becoming unresponsive, meaning you couldn’t even view photos stored on your phone. The blackout only lasted a little over half an hour, but it represented an enormous inconvenience to millions of people worldwide. The Play Store was also out of action, which meant people couldn’t go download other apps to replace the Google ones that were down.
Google Chrome is one of the best web browsers (opens in new tab) on the market, but a large part of its success comes from its integration of other services and we saw a glimpse of life without these additions today.
It seems this is the price we pay for letting mega corporations monopolize our lives, so much so that if this had happened last week we’d have assumed it was a marketing stunt for Cyberpunk 2077. Investing yourself entirely into a single ecosystem has its advantages for sure, but we saw the biggest disadvantage today too - when that one system fails, you’re stuffed.
So, what can you do to avoid or mitigate these issues if Google Services has another short term, or heavens forbid long-term dropout? We’ve put together some handy tips, settings you can enable, and alternate programs you can use below.
Enable Offline Google Docs Access
If you work using Google Docs or Sheets, then it can be mighty inconvenient to get kicked out and be unable to edit your work during a Google Services blackout. Fortunately, there is a way to enable offline working in Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides. You simply need to enable the option in your settings menu, which can be found in the top left corner of the Google Docs main page.
There are no submenus to navigate in here, and you should see the Offline section in front of you. Just enable the option using the button and you’re good to go.
There is a catch here though - you can only enable Offline usage of Google Docs for a single account per computer, This isn’t a problem for most people, but if you have multiple Gmail accounts (home and work, for example), then you’ll have to pick one to be usable offline.
Logging out of YouTube
This trick is short and sweet, but if Google services go down then you can still watch YouTube videos - you just need to logout from your account. YouTube isn’t intrinsically linked to Google services, it just uses them to login and manage accounts. This means that videos still work just fine, even if the accounts system is temporarily out of commission.
Logout of YouTube and you can still watch cat videos to your heart’s content, though your recommendations and subscriptions won’t work offline, so you’ll be given the generic homepage and you’ll need to go find your favorite channels manually.
Or failing that, you could just choose another of the best TV streaming services (opens in new tab) like Netflix (opens in new tab) or Disney Plus (opens in new tab) to tide you over until YouTube comes back to life.
Google Docs down? There’s a free version of Microsoft Office
It feels like we’ve come full circle here, considering that Google Docs was largely welcomed by the online community because it was essentially a free version of Microsoft Office, but what many people don’t know is that there is actually a free online version of Office these days too.
It's missing a few features from the paid, desktop version of Office, but the online version is largely identical and works seamlessly with OneDrive for cloud storage of your documents. Speaking of OneDrive...
Google Drive isn’t the OneDrive to rule them all
Yes, we recognize the irony of recommending you avoid putting all your eggs in one company's giant ecosystem, and then recommending you put them into another company's basket instead, but it really is all about spreading your risk. OneDrive is functionally identical to Google Drive in that it lets you store files online via cloud storage, meaning you can access them from any device.
If it’s vital that you have access to files at all times, then storing copies on multiple different cloud storage systems is a great way to cover yourself from unexpected outages in service. OneDrive is free and just requires a Microsoft account to use. If you’re worried about giving Microsoft your details, don’t be - they’ve already got them, we guarantee it.