Google fail: it's the new blue screen of death

Are we putting our digital eggs in a badly made basket?

Blue screen of death

Last week, Google stopped working. This morning, Google UK was having issues - which were probably our broadband connection's fault - and our 3G phone signal went on the fritz yet again.

Anybody else feeling a sense of déjà vu?

In the 1990s, it was the dreaded blue screen of death: you'd be halfway through doing something or downloading something important and your PC would go on strike.

You'd swear, reboot, swear, reboot, swear and do a bit more swearing, and eventually it would work again.

Now, it's the dreaded outage: you're halfway through doing something or downloading something important and the website packs up, your broadband connection goes on strike or the internet goes in a great big huff.

You swear, retry, swear, retry, swear, reboot the router, swear and do a bit more swearing, and eventually it all starts to work again.

Everything's online

The difference this time around is that when your PC did the blue screen, it didn't take your radio, your TV, your phone, your games console and everything else with it. When the internet goes, it might.

We're rushing into a world where everything depends on an internet connection, whether it's your email, your online apps, your Xbox Live or your TV on demand.

Most of the time, that's absolutely fine. Great, even. But it means that we're more vulnerable to catastrophe and cock-ups than ever before.

If your files are on the cloud and the cloud blows away, you can't work. If your entertainment comes down a pipe, an angry mole or distracted JCB driver can cut it off completely. And if you're using Voice over IP, no IP means no voice.

Can the network cope?

Perhaps we should start paying more attention to the people we're relying upon. Can your ISP cope when everything from tellies to toasters is transferring data? Can you trust far-away firms to keep their servers running not just most of the time, but all of the time? The answer, we suspect, is no.

You can't even rely on GPS: this week, we discovered that there's a good chance the entire GPS network's going to pack up because upgrades have been delayed, delayed and delayed.

As if that wasn't bad enough, there's a growing number of voices predicting internet "brownouts" as tech firms' ever-expanding hunger for power overwhelms the capacity to deliver it.

Our advice? Make backups, find a way to generate electricity from your pets, learn to read maps again and stock up on candles and board games. Sooner or later, you're going to need them.

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