When Google's robots give your business the death sentence – who you gonna call?

Cloud support busters? If you can find a human at the end of a number

Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, "ghost" from Ghostbusters movie, at a promo in Waterloo station, London, 2016. Pic : Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock.com
The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, a big, puffy, cloudy "ghost" from the film Ghostbusters. Pic: Anton Ivanov / Shutterstock.com

A sysadmin given just three days to respond to the threatened deletion of a mission-critical system has prompted a vigorous debate about the quality of cloud support.

Writing on Medium, the user describes how the Google Cloud-hosted asset monitoring system for his firm's wind and solar energy plants was suspended on the recommendation of Google's bots, and his company was then given 72 hours to respond appropriately.

The appropriate response here was sending photo ID verification of the account's cardholder, his CFO. Failure to provide this verification would have resulted in the destruction of the businesses code and data.

In this instance, the second such one, the admin revealed, downtime was just one hour. But what if the CFO had been unreachable?

"What if the card holder is on leave and is unreachable for three days? We would have lost everything  –  years of work  –  millions of dollars in lost revenue," he mused.

The casual violence of Google's support response led to a fairly heated discussion on Reddit and Hacker News.

Three factors appear to be in play here: robots detected a problem; robots handled the communications with the system operator; and said operator appears not to have a professional support contract.

Google Cloud offers three levels of SLAs – the contract which should set minimum levels of uptime and communication between vendor and buyer.

"This guy is running important multimillion dollar production on a consumer plan. This is on him, not Google," observed one Reddit member.

Nevertheless, two complaints seem to strike a chord.

One is that the entire data set and code base disappears within three days – turning a suspension into a punishment. The other is that under certain circumstances Google support lacks human judgement – something echoed by other Google Cloud users.

"Simply ceding control to algorithmic judgement just won't work in the short term if ever at all," wrote one on YCombinator News.

"In our experience AWS handles billing issues in a much more humane way. They warn you about suspicious activity and give you time to explain and sort things out. They don't kick you down the stairs," added another.

A third commentator suggested it was a cultural issue at Google: "Customer support isn't and never has been in their DNA. It's often rage-inducing how hard it is to contact a human at Google. They seem to think they can engineer products that don't need humans behind them."

El Reg asked Google to comment but had not received a response at publication time.

We'd welcome your experiences of support from all the major cloud providers. In addition, we're keen to hear of any insurance policies you may have devised for such an eventually. ®




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