What about Google Apps in China?

Chris Caceres · March 24, 2010 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/e93

With the search giant's recent bold decision, access to its Google Apps may be in danger

As you probably know by now, earlier this week, Google made a very bold decision to stop censoring its search services on its Chinese domain.  It redirected everybody trying to access www.google.cn to its uncensored Hong Kong version, www.google.com.hk.  About a day later, the Chinese government responded by censoring certain search queries, like any info related to the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.  

But beyond search, Google's services stretch across the day-to-day operations of many businesses - in particular, those who's employees use Google Apps within mainland China.  For example, those using Google Docs and Gmail.  

Google is well aware of the fact the Chinese government could decide to shut down all of its services within mainland China, and published a blog post late Tuesday evening with some advice on how to deal with this issue.  

First off, those who want to see the status of which Google services are available in China can check this page out, which the search giant said it would update regularly.  As of this moment, the Google Apps which have currently been available in China, still seem to be at least partially accessible.  

And second, the company issued a bit technical advice,

"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."

Obviously, Google is well aware anything could happen, and preparing its users for the worst.  Google assured its users that it does not host any Google Apps services, or user data in mainland China.  It also stated that Google employees in mainland China do not have access to any Apps systems or customer data.

This sort of issue also signals the dangers of cloud-computing.  Google's services all are offered as SaaS solutions - basically people's data lives up on Google's servers, in this case their documents, spreadsheets, email, etc.  Many argue these cloud-based services are dangerous since your data is up somewhere where you don't exactly have full control over it.  In this case, if China blocks Google Apps, all those people who rely on these services are pretty much screwed.  I'd recommend they download all their data back onto their computers immediately in case something drastic were to happen.

Although Google Search may be looking grim in China at the moment, the company said it still does intend to continue R&D work in China and maintain a sales presence there.

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