Is It Just Me, or Is Gmail Down? – the Status of Web Services

It used to be that packet ships would carry the post across the ocean, always running the risk that they might founder and take messages — and lives — with them. Now we only have to worry about routers and servers, and rarely if ever are living beings harmed should one of these electronic packet pushers go down. But they do go down. And now, as then, it’s not always easy to figure out whether the break in communication is systemic or more personal.

Recently, for example, Netflix encountered serious problems with streaming that lasted, on and off, for a few days. When they hit, I couldn’t tell if it was a problem with my computer — bad information in my cache, an outdated preference file, etc — or whether the fault was in my stars. I went to Twitter and asked if it was just me or were others having trouble with Netflix. Eventually, the answer came back that the problem was widespread. Oddly, I felt better.

Missing a vintage Brit-com is one thing. But I depend on a lot of cloud based services now for more serious matters. So I was happy to come across downrightnow, a site that keeps an eye on most of the services I use (and a bunch I don’t) and reports on their status. They do this by monitoring Twitter, official announcements, pings of the services, and reports sent directly to them by users. This, of course, can’t be 100% accurate. But it will catch most of the instances where a service is in trouble. For example, at this very moment it’s telling me that Facebook had a widespread disruption in service two hours ago and is now encountering some problems. If I should wish to monitor the situation to discover when the all-clear is sounded, I can tick a box on the relevant page to have downrightnow update dynamically.

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