77 Comments

Summary:

If, like our little company, you run your business using Google Apps, you’re playing with fire. For time and again, the company has proven that despite all its talk, its offerings are as unreliable as those of any other service provider. Today, once again, Google’s Gmail […]

googlelogoIf, like our little company, you run your business using Google Apps, you’re playing with fire. For time and again, the company has proven that despite all its talk, its offerings are as unreliable as those of any other service provider.

Today, once again, Google’s Gmail service has gone on the blink, thereby disrupting our company’s work flow. For a few minutes, I quite enjoyed the fact that there was a lot less email than usual in my Inbox, but its absence gets in the way of getting any work done. Just to be clear — we have a paid version of Google Apps, so I have a legitimate reason to gripe about the Gfail.

What really bothers me is the crap Google posts on its Google Apps status page. “We are aware of a problem with Google Mail affecting a small subset of users,” it posted this morning. Seriously, guys? If you look at the number of people complaining on Twitter and Facebook, it sure doesn’t look like only a small subset of users is affected by this.

A large number of entities depend on Google for applications that include Gmail. The city of Los Angeles has been moving to Google Apps, as are other civic departments. Even the U.S. government is toying with Google’s offerings. But that would be a mistake — Google, as some of us can attest, is still not ready to reliably offer cloud services. Not even email!

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  1. Couldn’t agree more. Its even more scary that day by day, more services are ‘dependent’ on their offerings i.e. Contacts with iPhone, Calendar options, Docs – may be its us who have to be blamed to not have _one-provider-has-all_.

    But again, the whole point of having one interface/system bring them all _is helpful_ but only as long as things work.

  2. Hotmail and Microsoft services in General go down all the time, the community doesn’t care as much though. That’s why when Gmail goes down, everybody notices it.

    1. Is there a news story here? It’s hard to tell over the sound of the waaaambulance.

    2. i have never experienced downtime with hotmail/live this has very reliable for me – also keep in mind there is a difference from commeral mail like gmail and corporate mail like exchange server etc……gmail is a commercial mail that is not ready for the enterprise!

    3. Rahul Krishnakumar P11D Thursday, September 24, 2009

      I also have experienced little to no problems with Hotmail/Live. The service may not be “innovative” and provide the features that Gmail does, but it seems to be more reliable than Gmail at this time. I can’t even remember the last time Hotmail/Live seemed to have a problem. This is the second time in a month for Google alone. You just seem to be complaining to make yourself feel good for using Gmail.

    4. No hosted email service will be perfect but…point me to details of HOtmail being down all the time. Really. I’m waiting.

    5. This is a troll :-)

    6. “its offerings are as unreliable as those of any other service provider.”
      Or you can say its offerings are as good as others.
      Haha.
      So, Why Google?

  3. IMAP has worked the last few times and if you set up Gears with the web client it has worked okay too even during the outages. Anyway, ALL providers go down, that’s just the nature of the game.

  4. I agree GMail isn’t 100% reliable, but what service is? Not even USPS was in the snail mail days, no? Any better alternatives? Not in my view

  5. Agreed. Behind the scenes, Google is really an inept operation. You would not believe the magnitude of the criminal element that calls Google Apps home. *AND* Google only slaps their wrist. This is *not* a world class organization, folks. Do your homework before leaning 100% on Google.

  6. I understand your concern but I really don’t feel the complaint is valid. I have used all sorts of corporate email systems, over the years, and they have all failed from time to time. In my experience, Gmail has actually been pretty reliable – not perfect, but still quite good. That isn’t to say that they shouldn’t continue to strive for perfection, but I think it is unfair to suggest that they aren’t a viable alternative.

  7. A) IMAP still works, and worked during the last outage.
    B) Reliability is still at or near 99%. Ask around large companies that use Exchange and ask about their reliability – probably pretty similar. I think the fact is that NOTHING works 100% of the time – telelphones, power, 3G, etc. You may pay for Gmail but its a lot cheaper than running your own Exchange server and even that wouldn’t guarantee 100% reliability.

    I understand people’s frustration, but occasional outages should be expected. 2 in one month is a little unusual, but how about the long stretches of time with no outages?

    1. Brian

      IMAP stopped working for about an hour for me.

      More importantly I think there is a growing incidence of google mail outage over past few months. People have complained about lost emails and other such issues.

      @Fred you put it best on behalf of all of us who are too frustrated with Google.

      1. I absolutely agree. I’ve actually been noticing regular outages for over the last year and frankly have been surprised that there has not been a more vocal response (until now). The last six months have been increasingly worse. Perhaps some issues have been regional however the recent outpouring of complaints may imply a growing broader national, international issue. Additionally, and again surprised that this has not yet surfaced in the public discourse, I am noticing increasing issues using Gmail with Firefox (someone please take a note). I find that when that occurs I sometimes am able to access Gmail in Safari this while Gmail still being inaccessible in Firefox. There have weeks where this is a daily occurrence. There is definitely a bug there.

      2. During the outage, my mail “appeared” to be working. I sent a test email to another email account to very…. and it never arrived. That’s much worse than what you all experienced. How can I trust my gmail if mail seems to work, but never arrives at the destination???

  8. this is the risk of so much centralization. everything fails at some point – it’s a matter of reducing the size of the impact. in this case, so many people have flocked to google’s services that any failure has a huge impact. sit back and enjoy, it WILL happen again.

    1. Then again, if it’s a bigger impact, it may be more likely to have more support and get resolved more quickly because of the magnitude :)

      Not saying that’s necessarily the case here, just saying bigger impact doesn’t necessarily imply worse.

      1. in cases like this it would need to get resolved magnitudes faster! total up the lost minutes and hours of every person impacted and it becomes quite significant. their response times to this seem to be quite average in my estimation.

  9. Guess I’m not part of a Left Coast subset. Gmail still working fine in my neck of the prairie.

    1. Gmail was down in DC for me.

  10. A) IMAP still works, and did during last outage.
    B) Gmail is at least as reliable as any exchange server i’ve ever had to deal with. Not to mention (in a corporate environment) the T-1 line, the power, the phone system, etc. Nothing is 100%, Gmail is more reliable than most others, and free (though I understand you pay, no one promised more reliability for paying).

    I understand it is frustrating and has now happened twice in one month, but over time Gmail has been very reliable, and is better than Hotmail or Yahoo. If you want to do it yourself by all means set up an exchange server but my bet is you have similar problems as Gmail has.

  11. While Google Apps uptime isn’t 100%, it is quite good compared to my experiences with both other web-based email services and top tier corporate (fortune 100) companies.

    Admittedly, their communication regarding outages tends to be less than optimal, about on par with most corporations (unfortunately).

  12. I usually agree with and enjoy your posts Om. However this one is nothing more than childish whining. I especially have a problem with the following statement:

    If you look at the number of people complaining on Twitter and Facebook, it sure doesn’t look like only a small subset of users is affected by this.

    While everyone you know may post a significant amount on Twitter, however the actual number of people that post is much much smaller than the number of those with accounts. Now remove those that don’t have gmail or google apps and you have a very small population of people, most likely on the west coast. So common sense tells (by your very own admission) us that it is indeed a very small subset of users that are affected. I’d wager that most if not all are on the west coast.

  13. This is the squeaky wheel bias, people that are affected are going to be the ones making the most noise. For people whom this was working fine, aren’t. So the data are skewed towards the guys being affected. I can’t believe you fell for that.

    1. vijay

      i am betting you weren’t impacted. well we were and it caused massive delays and caused problems for our little operation.

      I think there are a lot of squeaky wheels out there today :-)

      1. Om, this is a statistics game. here is an idea for you. Get normalized (minutes of outage per user) stats across the board, estimate where cloud services are and then calculate out what the aggregate minutes of outage are on a user basis if it was run in house. I’d be curious, because while it is easy to see the world is coming down if any particular time ‘you’ are at subject to outage, it would be far more useful to see aggregate stats.

  14. leave alone the Google Apps even the standard Gmail is erratic

  15. Poor choice of headlines, Om. “Why you can’t depend on Google” would have been a better wording. I don’t trust Google (I have my browser programmed to block Google cookies, for instance) or depend on it (I run my own email servers), but those are two distinct issues.

    If you pay for Google Apps, check their SLA:
    http://www.google.com/apps/intl/en/terms/sla.html

    It’s actually not all that bad as far as cloud services go. Most cloud providers don’t even offer one. I tend to be extremely wary of stateful cloud services that are not for throw-away use, but to be fair, you would have to compare them to the actual availability and cost of doing it in-house. If you ran Exchange, your uptime would probably be worse than Gmail’s.

    1. @Fazal

      Point well made and extremely well argued. I will be more careful with my choice of words.

  16. Well in my company, we use Microsoft Exchange for our 20’000 inboxes. I wish it was at least as reliable as Gmail. We have outages a few times per week, such as slowdows and total unavailability.

    So cut them some slacks. Their track record is not bad, relatively.

  17. ouch. lost love.
    We use Google Apps in our business. Lately I haven’t been affected by GFail but I do see some bugs in Google Spreadsheets. We depend heavily on that and sometimes the bugs drive me nuts. But again any software you buy are likely to have these bugs.
    But Google mail as is is amazing. I can’t imagine having my business email accounts for free anywhere else (atleast so easy to use).

    1. you should look at what microsoft is selling – exchange, im, sharepoint in the cloud – i am running it and it has been very reliable – we have not experienced any downtime to date! I think microsoft calls it the business productivity suite – $15 per user!

  18. Same argument could be said for web apps. I do software consulting. For truly critical apps, anything that is web-based is out of the discussion. The accessibility of web apps is superb, the unreliability of the different hops between your computer and the server kills the whole thing.

    Anyway, now with all the talk about “rich client apps” we are going back, yet again, to client/server computing. Not necessarily a bad thing, though.

    The funny thing is, if you use Outlook as a client for Gmail, there has been no interruption of service. Nor was there the last time Gfail happened. Go figure.

  19. My work email goes down more than Google does.

    On a different note, it seemed like their entire Exchange system went down, I was unable to get updates to my Calendar and Contacts apps either.

  20. If it wasn’t for Google you would’ve been stuck with your 2MB Hotmail account until now, just stop whining for crying out loud.

    1. Yo bro – I pay 50 bucks per user for gmail (google apps premium) so do not think this is only related to free accounts.

      The bigger Microso$t became the higher the price and the lower the service – same for Yahoo, now it seems the same for Google.

      What the hell is it that says that performance and quality have to degrade with scalability?

  21. I was beginning to worry about this myself – thought paid would be the way to go but apparently not. What about ZOHO? I really don’t want to go back to Outlook.

  22. Krishna Chodavarapu Thursday, September 24, 2009

    So Om, having said all this, are you looking to move your email from GMail? In my opinion, cloud based services are by far and away more reliable and cost effective (well, not if you pay for it I suppose) way to get email.

  23. What is really interesting is the supposition many have that Google is somehow superior in terms of its technology development. Many of the blatant mistakes they make go almost unreported. For example some months ago they changed the way Google News worked. In the RSS feeds it produced it added a very common GET parameter to the URLs (I think it was sid). As a result links to services such as Bloomberg no longer worked.

    It was an astonishing “baby mistake”, and one that would have shown up if they had bothered to do any testing at all.

    So, I think it just needs to be understood that Google have developed a wonderful search engine, that works better than we seem to expect, but that the rest of their technology development is nowhere nears as good.

  24. Oh look – another blogger trying to ride the latest hot topic with nothing substantial to say.

    1. oh look another anonymous commenter without anything substantial to say.

      1. Not sure why it’s showing I’m anonymous since I’m logged in with fbook connect. My name is Jason Rundell.

  25. Having been with email for only 16 years I would have to say that Google is doing better than most in-house email servers have done in the past. I cannot tell you how many times that I have been totally disconnected from some in house exchange server. I agree that we have become dependent upon email for a great number of things but in perspective it sure beats the courier of old – even with it’s outages. Oh and the Google outage today got me also.

  26. gmail as a free service is fine but as a paid service it is not a substitute for enterprise based setups like MS exchange at least from an IT perspective.

  27. First it was AT&T, now it is Google’s turn to tremble following Om’s displeasure. I am sorry to hear of this interruption in your galactic mission. How dare Google do this to you, who has been charged with re-designing the floor plan of the universe.

  28. Dameon Welch-Abernathy Thursday, September 24, 2009

    Name a service provider that has the same scale, but is more reliable than Google. Use it. Problem solved. :)

    1. Poor example. Google has the largest footprint in the world. But that doesn’t mean they are a reliable source for enterprise data services.

      1. Define reliable. Given the magnitude of their footprint, they are likely much more statistically reliable than any alternative.

    2. Hmm who cares about scale? Only reliability matters.

  29. It’s not that Google, or Gmail in this case is worse than competing products. It’s that Google has in effect established itself on the basis of product perfection. How long did it take for Gmail to lose the ‘beta’ status? And yet on a product that has supposedly made it past Google’s high standards for a full, non-beta release, this product has proven itself to be no more reliable than the other reference products.

    Maybe we’d all be a little less frustrated had Google kept the ‘beta’ header up for another couple of years.

  30. Sorry, but the only thing that Google does that’s enterprise class is search. Everything else is an experiment that lives in perpetual beta status. It’s for this reason that I choose not to choose Google for anything other than search.

  31. Google is losing it. Sergey and Larry should stop trying to build solar panels and improve space travel and get back to basics. Your SITE has to work!

  32. Would like to know how many subscribers use a provider like Google for a personal account as well as their business email? Being able to use one when the other is down is a great thing on days like today. Read more here http://www.rackspace.com/email_hosting/blog/2009/09/dont-put-all-emails-in-one-basket/

  33. Om,

    Even if you ran your own Exchange server, it is bound to have down times.
    I agree that GMail should not fail, but you should give it some room for failure which is needed by any system.

    1. Agreed … but the incidence of failure is just increasing and every month things are going wrong with google mail service. from that perspective, it is a problem.

      1. Comparing Google’s GMAIL to a company’s Exchange Server does not seem valid to me. If a single enterprise’s email server goes down for an hour it impacts only that company. If Google has millions of customers and businesses on their platform and their services are down for an hour, the effect is widespread and at a single period in time. One company becomes responsible for a worldwide loss in productivity in the millions/billions/trillions of dollars.

  34. David Vielmetter Thursday, September 24, 2009

    I agree with ArbitHero,

    I’ve worked as an Exchange Sysadmin for 12 years and learned the hard way that security patching is the primary reason you can never achieve a 3 nine level of service. When you install critical patches you still gotta reboot and for an organization like Motorola cycling an Exchange server cluster with 10,000 accounts takes a while. Add to that the chance that many patches could cause an extended downtime due to a system failure or bug and you’re never going to reach up time even close to that of Google Apps.

    I think all in all for the price Google Apps is a pretty decent value.

    Just sayin,
    David

    1. Agreed. Let’s add to that downtime the typical MTBF of a standard server running Exchange. Let’s be generous and call it a 1U Dell dual core Dell server with 32GB of RAM and RAID5 disks. I’m willing to bet that hardware setup hurts your 99.9% overall uptime.

      99.9% uptime (3 nines) is 43 minutes 11 seconds of downtime per month (30 days). Is gmail down more than that per month every month?

  35. I can’t help but wonder about the true motivation behind this cheap rant..

    1. How about reading the post before making a comment like this one. When your business suffers, you complain. loudly. obviously you missed that part of the post.

  36. In one way I agree with the article writer. That you complain when someone doesn’t work. But…

    To explain your readers about how your successful company lost 1 hour even though google offered you a workaround with 100% working IMAP (tell me how many other companies would offer you that when they have problems/downtimes?).

    And when referring to “playing with fire” and “google”- your ISP, your web hosting provider, your car manufacturer, your insurance company, your bank and at the end even your company doesn’t play with fire from time to time or what is your point anyways?

    Bitching about a problem that, (i still remember from using Hotmail 10 years back- it was down for at least 20% in europe per day- no notification was given), happens few and there and YOU GET NOTIFIED on their progress!

    ps: i wonder how is your pagerank going to improve now that you’ve used all possible and most used keywords.

    Sad, really -.-

    1. i totally agree with you.
      the article is dumb and nobody is perfect, never.

      but its right that it should be easily possible to change your mail provider or whatever…
      google has a team for that. only to make it easy to go away.
      i like that.

      and i trust google.

  37. I am not really sure what you are saying here but what I hear is:

    I am upset that e-mail is not 99.999 reliable.

    I rely on e-mail

    I chose to use googles infrastructure and it had enough value that I paid for it.

    But I don’t trust it.

    And yet… I have no future plans to change it.

    All of this comes together to make you sound as if you are entirely living on the whim of google. But e-mail existed before google, and it was expensive to provide completely reliable service.

    The fact is that if you were managing your own email system you would have to:

    Buy redundant email servers with redundant locations with redundant ISP’s, and have onsight personnel available to do maintenance and quick fixes. Redundant E-Mail in remote locations is challenging because you need to have shared storage, so there is some pretty high speed connectivity there. Also backups.

    Anyway it would be costing you in at least several thousand dollars a year even if you tried to find the cheapest alternatives at each step. And you still wouldn’t be able to guarantee that your email was 99.999 up.

    I don’t know what google apps costs you, but clearly the price was right when you chose it. Can you find something better? Are you changing?

    If not, then you sound powerless and whiny.

    I don’t know if google apps gave you an SLA. If it did, and they failed to meet their SLA, then you deserve recompense.

    What I find extra funny is that you are suggesting to your competitors and other companies like yours that they can’t trust something that you DO trust enough to rely on almost all the time.

    Put up or shut up is what I say.

  38. overreacting much?

    people only complain about trains running late

  39. Robert Accettura Friday, September 25, 2009

    “We are aware of a problem with Google Mail affecting a small subset of users”

    I actually do believe it. Most people who follow this blog, use Twitter (and follow each other), and use Facebook… are all overlapping. Likely 80%+ live in the US. 80% of that on either coast.

    So everything is magnified. One village has an outbreak of the flu… when you have minimal communication with the outside world it looks like the end of times… until you realize it’s just a handful of people in 1 village.

    If it were a global outage, I think it would have been much more obvious. Would have been totally dead, and wouldn’t have resurrected so quick.

  40. I agree with most of what you said in your article, except for one thing.

    You can’t presume that just because a lot of people were complaining on twitter that it affected a large number of users. Whenever something goes wrong with a product or service you only hear about it from the people that had problems, not from the people that didn’t.

    That doesn’t prove that many, or all, Gmail users weren’t affected, but there simply is no way for anyone to prove it except Google themselves.

  41. one hour for mail not working for a blogger …how bad it can be for his business !! lol

    i worked in fortune 500 financial operations all systems went donmn all the time …..our system uptime was 96 to 98% …..so 5 nines is just a myth ….

    On serious note google infra is supposed to scale and be fault tolerant , they have designed it this way eg big table , gfs , map reduce …certainly something is not working

    …..i would recommend om get a linux box install zimbra or get some one to do it

  42. Dagmar d’Surreal Friday, September 25, 2009

    So, we’re supposed to think you’re not just another clueless complainer when you’re citing an outage of the _web frontend_ as if it were the end of the world? That entire day, pop3 and imap3 were still available, as was SMTP. No one lost mail, mail didn’t even bounce.

    Perhaps you’ll have something worth reporting if and when Twitter starts being used for something that matters, other than a pooling place for people to post things without bothering to see if they’re accurate or even half true.

  43. 10 years with yahoo mail, i have to say it’s the best

  44. The question isn’t really “will Gmail go down” (it inevitably WILL… we haven’t learned how to make perfectly reliable computer systems yet)…

    The real question is COULD your organization do collaboration system:
    That replicates the functionality of Gmail and Apps?
    Higher reliability than Google has achieved with Gmail?
    Anywhere near the convenience of Gmail?
    For a reasonable cost?

    My guess is… no, you couldn’t..

    Yeah, it hurts when Gmail and Apps go down, but given how much more productive I am using it, the minimal downtime is a reasonable tradeoff, especially for those of us who haven’t ponied up for the paid versions.

  45. The implication here is that if you made the investment in your own servers, applications, and IT resourcees to maintain them, you would have 100% uptime (or at least a much higher uptime than you currently enjoy).

    Do you really believe that?

    What would that increased reliability cost your organization, in terms of budget allocations?

    If the ROI is worthwhile, why do you not persue that?

    It’s easy to complain about #gfail, but what purpose does it serve? Better to spend your time crunching the numbers and determine which is the most cost-effective for your organization. For our us, it’s still to operate our business in the cloud.

  46. Outlook crashes more than 3 times PER WEEK where i work… GMAIL is 10.000 light years ahead of ANY competition…

    GO GOOGLE
    (stop acting like a kid Om)

  47. Om,
    You are becoming an influential media type, but you are too quick to through those that cross you under the bus. Yes, there was an outage, Yes, you were impacted. Yes, you are paying customer. But come on.

    I don’t like iPhones or AT&T either, but a lot of people do. But you really threw them under the bus too. There is news, and there is these guys really pissed me off. I like your news and observations, but your editorial rants diminish your credibility.

    Yes, you pay for Google Apps, so do I. I pay a lot less than I paid to maintain my MS environment and for me, it is improved reliability. If you want a higher degree of reliability go somewhere else and pay more. Google clearly is not the right answer for everyone. Every solution has its strengths and weaknesses and price point – as a business person make your decision and move on.

    It is news that Gmail has had some outages. Report it. I just don’t think your editorial – can’t be trusted – is reasonable because your business was impacted.

  48. Ohh poor guy, 1 hour without email !
    You told us yourselft that it was great not to have so much email (before you realize it was a problem).
    Are you so dependent that you can not live without for 1 hour ?

    And what, you aren’t happy because they said “a small subset” and what ? Doesn’t care how much, it care how fast it was resolved.

    And I read : you have paid ! yeah !!!! Please, go back, buy some other solution (Microsoft, IBM or whatever), see how much it will cost for your compagny, have look how much it will go down and at leat have a look on how often you get new release !!!!

    You don’t like the service, GO OUT OF IT ! Make a forward, if your not big enought to make your entire compagny change, and use something else !!! No one is catching you inside Google Products ! Use Outlook (the SMTP was working well during last outage), put your contacts just in your phone, and same for your calendar !

    Like Vetinary said : stop acting like a kid Om

  49. we cannot trust google because the videos says there is a toolbar in google 3d earth.But there is not.The other one I have sent to google.com.

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