Thanks to a glitch that Google uses to monitor Google Docs, users were locked out of their online documents last week after receiving a message that they had violated Google’s Terms of Service. If you have never stopped to read it, the ToS deals with copyright infringement, privacy, or content production and use. Any violation could end in suspension of your account. Last week, people using Google Docs found themselves in just such a circumstance after being told that they could no longer access their material stored in Google’s free file production software program. By noon, Google had responded to the many complaints, but it was not until 3:40 PM that users had a resolution. Google blamed the many mishaps on a code push that was meant to protect users from malware and viruses. Google also claimed it had only affected a small number of Google Docs users. If you were one of those users, you might have seemed marginalized by the need to make it look like it was a small issue.
For many, Google Docs is a convenient lifeline that offers users the ability to work from home. Receiving a message that you violated a user agreement would send anyone into a panic trying first to figure out what you did wrong and then shifting to how to get your essential documents out of the cloud.
This recent glitch exposes Google Docs as an unreliable option for your business files. Other than the ability to work with others online in real time, it does nothing additionally that promotes it as an essential suite of online applications. Technically, it is merely a web page that limits your capabilities to interactions in the cloud. Furthermore, it relies on the Flash plug-in which is notorious for crashing when you least likely need it. If you happen to close out your window, you could also close your Google Docs window as well which would cause you to lose any work you have already completed.
Google Docs also lacks a user-friendly interface that makes navigation challenging. The application has a limited number of presentation themes, and there are no options for animation or builds. The webpage does not have many of the features that other OS X applications have either. There is an insufficient number of font options, a single column to work on, no automatic spreadsheet options, and lacks many of the slide setups that other programs like Powerpoint come loaded with.
So, what do you do if you find yourself in a situation like what presented you with last week? Unfortunately, there is not much you can do to retrieve your documents until you contact Google. Not only are people still receiving the ToS message, but others have had documents disappear, unable to sync, and the app failed even to load which seem to be consistent reoccurring problems.
If you visit the DownDetector site, it allows you to make a complaint or see the status of other people who are having problems. It also allows you to see the resolved matters over the last week. Google also provides a forum for users to inquire about Google Docs. However, let’s face it! If you are nearing a deadline, the last thing you need is a broken program. Doing the work the old-fashioned way on Word does not sound that bad after such a glitch occurs!