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Google’s latest failure shows how immature its hardware is

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Written by Kamil Arli

The Forbes Columnist Ian Morris published an article on the Google’s latest failure shows how immature its hardware Is

 Last night – February 23 – Google suffered a significant technical problem which caused devices connected to Google accounts to be disconnected from them. This included Google’s routers and Wi-Fi products, Chromecast, Google Home as well as Gmail accounts on phones and tablets.

The problem, it seems, was caused by Google’s “Accounts Engine”. Some devices lost their authentication with the service, which caused them to stop working while the services were offline. But more than that, devices like Google WiFi and OnHub went offline and locked users out. After some time Google Support reported to users that they would need to perform a hard reset of their devices to fix the issue.

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THE PROBLEM IS THAT USERS WOULD LOSE THEIR CONFIGURATION CHANGES

The problem is that users would lose their configuration changes when they performed a hard reset. Google surprisingly doesn’t keep a backup of settings in the cloud. One user on the support forum complained that they had significant personalized name mappings for wireless devices, which were lost. Surely the point of having a device that connects to your Google account is, at least partially, a backup of that device.

It’s not totally clear why these devices needed to be reset at all. I’ve asked Google about this, (see the note at the end of this article) but it seems to be that once the devices lost their authentication to Google’s servers they could no longer be reached locally. This makes some sense, as a security measure, but it’s frustrating if you’re trying to get back online.

EVERY COMPANY HAS TECHNICAL PROBLEMS FROM TIME TO TIME

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Every company has technical problems from time to time, it seems absolutely absurd that an online failure at Google can trigger devices in customer’s homes to stop working, even once the online portion is restored. Mind you, it’s perfectly possible to argue that having a router that needs a Google account in the first place is actually fairly ridiculous – you can’t use the company’s routers without a working Google account.

Without wishing to seem paranoid, it’s fairly bothersome that Google seems able to take users offline without their consent. It’s also incredibly irksome that Google is still making products that to some extent rely on its cloud services. The problem here is that Google has roughly the attention span of a toddler, and frequently gets bored of operating services. It could, therefore, shut the backend for OnHub and Wi-Fi in the future, bricking those devices. It’s done this before with acquisitions and I’ve written about it. This bodes poorly for the future of Google’s hardware ventures, and which is why I think users should think carefully before buying these devices.

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GOOGLE’S TRACK RECORD IS MUCH BETTER

In phones, Google’s track record is much better. It supported its Nexus devices for very long periods of time with the latest versions of Android. The company is certainly capable, but things like this send a very poor message to users. Google was also deluged with phone calls to its support lines, with customers being kept on hold for 45 minutes or more.

I asked Google for comment on this problem, and with regard to the specific points I’ve raised in this article, and it referred me to the support thread. The spokesperson didn’t answer my specific questions. If that changes, I will update this story to reflect that.

About the author

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Kamil Arli

Editor of DigitalReview.co. Digital Media Consultant

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