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Google Suggests Ways Around China Apps Roadblocks

The search engine giant is warning users of its services in China that disruptions to Google Apps are possible.

Thomas Claburn

March 24, 2010

2 Min Read

In an effort to reassure business users of Google Apps in mainland China who may be worried about continuity of service following Google's decision stop serving censored search results from its Chinese search engine, Google is offering advice about how to improve access to Google's Web apps.

The company said in a blog post that it hopes the Chinese government will respect its decision, even as it acknowledged that Chinese authorities could block its services at any time.

Although the servers for Google Apps, and now Google Search, reside outside of China, data for those services still needs to pass through the so-called Great Firewall of China to reach Google's users in the country.

Google on Monday launched a service availability dashboard for mainland China to provide up-to-the-minute feedback about local service problems, a phenomenon that isn't new. The dashboard shows that for the past three days, Google Docs and Google Groups, both part of the Google Apps suite, have been partially blocked. Another Google Apps service, Google Sites, has been blocked completely.

Acknowledging that its users in China may face service issues, Google suggests several technical countermeasures for more reliable, safer access.

"[I]t is important to know that there are several networking configurations and associated technologies available to help ensure ongoing access to your critical business services such as Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Docs," the company said. "These network configurations, such as a Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection, secure shell (SSH) tunneling, or using a proxy server, are already in place by many businesses with worldwide operations who serve their users from various locations. Companies should consult their own technical, legal and policy personnel to find a solution that works best for them."

This last sentence should be heeded: Trying to bypass censorship in China may present legal problems.

Google did not immediately respond to a request to clarify the number of Google Apps business users in China.

On Tuesday, authorities in China lashed out at Google, calling its decision to stop censoring Google.cn and to redirect queries to its servers in Hong Kong "wrong."

About the Author(s)

Thomas Claburn

Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful master's degree in film production. He wrote the original treatment for 3DO's Killing Time, a short story that appeared in On Spec, and the screenplay for an independent film called The Hanged Man, which he would later direct. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and a sadly neglected blog, Lot 49. His iPhone game, Blocfall, is available through the iTunes App Store. His wife is a talented jazz singer; he does not sing, which is for the best.

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