Blog Post

Does Your Gmail Suck Too?

A few months ago, at the insistence of some of my team members, we switched from Zimbra to Google Apps for our own domain offering. The argument was that Google’s quality of service, thanks to its great infrastructure, would be great and that we could also use Google Docs for easy sharing of information.

And since everyone on the team (barring me) loved the Gmail interface, I acquiesced to their wishes. I shouldn’t have. Six months later we are getting frustrated by schizrophrenic nature of the Google Mail system. At the time, these ideas looked like they were all such great ideas in theory — but six months later we are all experiencing all sorts of problems with Google Mail.

Messages are either not getting sent or being lost by the system. Several people have complained about not receiving replies, even after we have sent them back. The mail system hangs up and you keep waiting for something to happen. And don’t get me started on the sub-par IMAP features of the system. How is one supposed to run a business on such an unreliable platform? The integration of Google’s services remains a distant dream, reminding us of the limitation of its competence beyond search and advertising.

And in order to get support we would need to upgrade to a premium version of the service that could set us back by $1,200 a month year. I don’t mind paying, but if their recent track record is any indication, I might as well light a cigar with 12 $100 bills. For the longest time I though we were the only ones with this problem. Apparently not. At least two other friends with startups who are using Google Apps for their domain are finding similar issues.

That is why I feel terrible for those 1.5 million Australian school kids who will now have to use Gmail instead of Exchange/Outlook. In some ways it’s like jumping from fire into the frying pan (being heated in that fire.)

Are you experiencing those issues as well? Go ahead and kvetch in our comments!

203 Responses to “Does Your Gmail Suck Too?”

  1. Alexander Ainslie


    What other providers would you consider as viable alternatives to the GMail service?

    I am looking to transition our organization to GMail and succumb to the GGods but haven’t taken the plunge yet.

    Perhaps we can benefit from your 20/20 hind sight!

    BTW, what name did you finally end up giving your new puppy?

    Paris, France

  2. I would not advise anyone to use Gmail for business. For one, they dont try hard enough to deliver mail. It is not enough that they have high uptime, smtp mail must plan for downtime on receiving servers too. Second, successive attempts to deliver mail are often from different IP addresses, which can cause problems with greylisting spam filters setup on many domains. Further, their spam filters are overly aggressive for business use (businesses receive messages that may sound spammy, but are legitimate).

    Worse, I think their cheerleaders stop any feedback from reaching them. The problem with lack of technical support is that you dont have that vital ear to the ground; you need to compensate that with sensible gathering of information from your user community.

    But I am interested in knowing what specific problems you had with Zimbra that you chose to shift? Or were you being a Google fan boy? Serves you right if so.

  3. @Stacey – My wife has been syncing her BB Pearl with GMail for ages. She even gets push email through it :-) I forget the setup process but it was really easy.

    As for GApps, I migrated over about a month ago and it’s better than I expected. I only use it for mail, not calendar or anything, so that’s one caveat.

  4. we switched back to Exchange from Gmail a month back- the reps who sold us gmail came with fancy presentations- but beyond giving us a sub par product at subpar prices all they gave us were headaches!

    no wonder they are able to sell it to the school system in australia- the teacher and kids at school do not require the kind of efficiency that a true business wants

  5. I have used it for my personal domain’s email every since Google Apps because available and oversee a few companies that use it with around 10 employees each. I have not had any of the problems you are talking about but everyone seems to use Mac OS X’s Mail and their phone’s IMAP applications and not the web interface. The only thing I have notices is occasional 30 minute time periods where the Gmail service is unavailable through IMAP and sometimes the web. It is maybe 2 times a month.

    It seems unusual that you are having so many problems but the comments all seem very positive. You should seek out a larger group than yours that uses Gmail for their email services and see what experience they have. Get in touch with that Australian school.

  6. @ ottoradke …. that is super helpful. now who knew. hidden in the fine print. I think 500 messages are nothing in this day and age, especially if you are in the information business as I am. Thank you for sharing.

  7. Om,

    I wish you had published this blog post 10 days ago. We just completed the migration of our email for the full staff and systems to Google Apps last Wednesday.
    IMAP with Google Mail is a total nightmare – I’m about to switch back to POP… which hopefully will be more reliable. My blackberry works but somehow messages are lost/read…

    I hope that your blog post will get things moving in the right direction at Google Apps – I certainly expected them to have cracked email outsourcing when I made the decision to switch and pay the pro fee.


  8. gmail’s been great for us. I personally use the IMAP service on a regular basis and that works out well too. Gmails labels are IMAP folders so just add a / in the names of your labels on gmail for a nested folder structure.

  9. I’ve been very frustrated with GMAIL lately. Lots of temporary errors (502s) and FF3 seems to be having problems loading the messages. GMAIL won’t respond in FF3 but work fine in Safari. Very frustrating since I manage all of my work and personal accounts via GMAIL.

    • I just switched back to mail… i have had MAJOR issues wth my gmail… they calendar won’t sync up properly…i can’t get INTO gmail… can’t open any emails at times…it hangs when sending or won’t send at all…and i’m talking HOURS not minutes….VERY DISAPPOINTED!

  10. I’ve been using regular Google Mail for a few years now. I just started using Google Apps for my own personal domain for the last 3 weeks. Both have been stellar.

  11. ottoradke

    Om – Regarding messages not getting sent. Google Apps has a limit of 500 unique messages per day per account, which could explain why some people might not be able to send messages.

    I moved my company to GAFYD and had issues with a site I run which delivers notification emails. I noticed that when we cut over, our delivery rates were terrible and un-earthed the limit via Google Groups. My solution to this problem was to not have GAFYD generate the email, which meant I had to put in place a SMTP server to send outbound email. Once this issue was resolved, everything worked perfectly.

    Hope that helps.

  12. Michael L

    @Stacey Have you tried the Gmail Blackberry application? It supports threading. I’d be lost w/o it. Go to on your blackberry and it should be a simple install. When you log in, you have to use your full email address for the username. You can also use the IMAP server with Blackberry’s mail application, but I don’t have any experience with that.

  13. Apparently OM has not received the memo that Google is God and there will be no negativity spoken about them. The Google worshipers are very reason I stay away from them.

  14. @ Adwait…. well you know the situation is that dire that i would some the money and hence kill myself, because i am so frustrated with GMail this morning. I missed the Nokia call because the frikcing email didn’t arrive till like ten minutes ago.

  15. I am only using Gmail through IMAP, I have 2 Gmail accounts. One is working fine, the other keeps having some connections issues (password rejected sometimes, can’t update the folders, etc.). Which is weird since both accounts are set the same way in my email reader.

    I am glad that I am not the only one with Gmail IMAP issues. Fortunately, I do not rely exclusively on Gmail. I guess we get what we paid for.

  16. Sorry to hear you’re having problems. I use the GMail web app for my person email, IMAP on my WinMo phone and also have lightly used the Google Apps email for my domain.

    The only problem I’ve ever had was with IMAP when it was first released and they only tested it with the phone with the smallest market share (iCrap). HTML emails caused huge problems for WinMo users which account for a much, much larger market share and it took them several months to fix it. Hopefully all the angry WinMo users made Google realize how stupid it was to not test with the largest user base. Other than that I haven’t had any problems.

    Like Mark said, I wouldn’t switch to another email system even if you paid me.

  17. I am using Google Apps for Domains. Switched from an outsourced Exchange provider roughly 6 months ago (for similar reasons as you stated).

    The last week or so I have seen what you are talking about. I have periodic hanging when trying to send an email. I wouldn’t say that this has been a constant problem — more likely if it happens I’ll continue for three or four additional times within the space of a couple days – then things seem to go back to normal.

    My iPhone seems less “lucky” with the imap integration to Gmail. I’ve always had lengthy “stalls” periodically when trying to retrieve email via the GMAIL imap setup. I can’t figure out if it’s my phone or GMAIL (I’m guessing GMAIL but have no proof).

    For all that GMAIL can do wrong, it has several things I love.

    First, if you’re on a Blackberry – you can get push email to your device without needing to use an expensive BES (Blackberry Enterprise Server). If you use one of the Sprint Simply Everything plans you won’t even need to pay for the BIS (Blackberry Internet Server).

    Second, the spam filter is rock solid. On Gmail you would not even know that a Spam problem ever existed.

    Last, I love that I get into Gmail with any web browser at any time.

    Oh yeah — I do not miss the constant grinding away as some third party program struggles to index my outlook email. Instead I rely on Google to do all the searching of my inbox.

    Overall I think the positives outweigh the negatives — however I admit – GMAIL can be frustrating.

  18. I am nit having your experiences; Gmail, for me, is one of the most reliable services I have ever used. I am possibly too dependent on it.

    I would, however, like to have a video of Om Malik lighting a Chocolate Cigar with a burning wad of monopoly money!

  19. Gmail has been fine for me since I switched late last year. I use the web interface on my Mac, and the Gmail IMAP implementation on my iPhone. That said, it’s a personal account not linked to Google Apps for a specific domain.

  20. Stacey Higginbotham

    I hate it, primarily because it’s a pain to sync with BlackBerries. Sure it can be done, but the beauty of Exchange and BlackBerry is that it’s easy and doesn’t require a lot of extra effort. Maybe if it worked with Gears, I’d give it more of a chance. I never thought I’d dream of Outlook.

  21. We are using Google Apps for our organization which provides 84 of our active members an email account. Unlike you guys, we haven’t had any issues so far. We’ve been with them since last year.

    Sorry to hear that.