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Gmail's Out…Again

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Update: Google says sorry about the GMail outage. That’s good enough for me. Here is what Todd Jackson, GMail product manager had to say on the company blog.

Many of you had trouble accessing Gmail for a couple of hours this afternoon, and we’re really sorry. The issue was caused by a temporary outage in our contacts system that was preventing Gmail from loading properly.

We’ve identified the source of this issue and fixed it. In addition, as with all issues that affect Gmail and our other services, we’re conducting a full review of what went wrong and moving quickly to update our internal systems and procedures accordingly. We don’t usually post about problems like this on our blog, but we wanted to make an exception in this case since so many people were impacted.

Original post below the fold.

It’s almost becoming routine, these outages at Google’s Gmail service. After we reported last week that there were some problems with Google Apps, today a much bigger outage hit Google’s email service, taking down the entire system, it seems.

Given that our company relies on Google’s Gmail and GTalk service, our operations came to a standstill this afternoon. We aren’t a large company but the losses are very real, especially in productivity. I wonder how the big customers of Google — folks like Sanmina-SC — are dealing with this e-blackout.

If an outage of this magnitude can strike Google, the company with a fearsome infrastructure, I wonder who — if any — can plan for the worst. I guess it’s time to stop picking on Twitter, which was fast becoming synonymous with the word “outage.” In fact, in recent weeks, not only Google’s services but those of Amazon’s S3 and Apple’s MobileMe have gone on the blink, leading us to rethink our assumptions about the reliability of the web as a platform. Clearly a lot of work still needs to be done.

How is your workday being impacted by Gmail outage? Share your stories with us.

Photo courtesy of Kyle May via Flickr.

55 Responses to “Gmail's Out…Again”

  1. austinandrew

    The problem isn’t just the inability to send email. It’s the fact that you can’t even search your e-mail when it’s down. So you can’t look up people’s phone numbers in e-mail, etc.

    Thankfully, I haven’t had any downtime.

  2. Wonder when the honeymoon will finally end for Google. “they said sorry, that’s good enough for me”… PLEASE! If this had been a MSFT or Y! service which failed for 14+ hours in a 7 day window the media would be standing outside their buildings with lit torches.

  3. jenkins

    GMAIL is great and very very unreliable! It’s one of Google’s biggest problems now and they need to fix asap or they will lose my entire company. They are acting like a second rate company. Get your act together Google! I’m sick of writing these posts on GigaOm.

  4. Regards the commenter who says: “you wont see such outages every…that is cause Y! has a well defined process in place…customers is their highest priority…how many times have you seen Yahoo! Mail going down?”

    Yahoo has gone down a number of times. Considering their enormous traffic they do a remarkable job, but are no more immune to these glitches than anyone else.

  5. As we all know, outages happen even in the best designed, managed, and process wrapped systems.
    Having seen many opaque and dishonest PR exercise explanations, I appreciate this simple and frank explanation from the GMail Product Manager.

  6. Gmail reliability the past few months has been quite spotty for me. This is a bad sign… Just because something is free, doesn’t mean that reliability can be bad. In fact, I wish Google would have a premium Gmail service for individual use, since my personal productivity is very dependent on staying in touch with others. I’d pay for better reliability.

  7. It was really frustrating since it was so inconsistent all day. Messages would arrive, but sending would fail randomly. The error messages would be inconsistent. If there’s an outage, the least they can do is to send a message or post a message somewhere that the systems are on a blink.

    I used to use a simple email service provider for many years with IMAP and they were cheaper and had fewer outages than Gmail. Went for Gmail option because of calendaring and now this…

    There were a bunch of Linux-based mail/calendar server companies @ LinuxWorld – from Europe and Latin America. Maybe I’ll try one of those guys after all…

  8. Everything breaks…even exchange servers in corporates go down once in a while and get infected by the latest virus..

    btw i did not notice gmail going down today..

  9. I depend on google apps for my company’s email too so i am worried as you are any time i lose access to google apps.

    But are your other choices any more desirable? for me, the answer is no.

    1. Do you want to run your own mail server? for some that’s a viable option. For me, no thanks. i’d rather focus on my core business.

    2. Even if you do run your own mail server, does that mean it will be more reliable? are you that good of a sysadmin? or do you want to hire one? is your net connection that reliable? the hardware the server sits on, the backups? or will you do it in a co-lo or hosted environment, where you will transfer part of yr dependency on google to some colo or hosting company? will they be any better/reliable than google?

    3.When you worked in a large corporation, are you saying there were never outages in email? I worked for large companies before, and they all had their occasional mail outages. Plus, even though they had less outages than perhaps you have experienced with google. i’d say my productivity with google has been higher simply because with google i can keep gigabytes of mail online in a quickly searchable environment.

    No sweating whether microsoft outlook’s PST file is corrupted or getting too large or crashing outlook or searching dog slow. And no getting messages like “your mailbox is full” and having to clear out the mailbox.

    In summary, I’ve had email support from large corporations, large ISPs, webhosting companies, email companies, and google, and if i had to pick one to go with, i would pickle google apps hands down.

    That doesn’t mean i don’t get ticked when i can’t get my email. Doesn’t mean i like it all But on balance it’s the one i’ve had the overall best experience with.

  10. Would you believe I didn’t even notice? The first I heard of this was your own headline in my Blogroll. Maybe I DO live in a cave…
    Thanks for the tip and the comments too; I learn a lot this way.

  11. It gave me reason to leave and take a break. And while I tend to use Gtalk the most, people know the other ways to get to me and having an AIM app on the iphone makes it easy to check in while I was out. Personally this is the first real gmail outage I can speak of seeing. my apps service was not interrupted during the last outage, and my imap support has never really had issues with connectivity. Even with the outages I’d use gmail for hosting over exchange servers.

  12. So a couple of points – one, i was happy it was down. I get more than enough email a day that a forced outage was a relief. Ofcourse, it lasted all of about 15 minutes before my blackberry beeped, and then when I figured out that it was still working on my blackberry, I was right back at work, so I didn’t as much as a break as i wanted.

  13. Om,
    Check out their fine print here:

    It says, “** The 99.9% uptime guarantee for Gmail is offered to organizations using Google Apps Premier Edition, as described in the Google Apps Premier Edition Terms of Service.”

    So the service was out for couple of hours.. so do the math

    IF (Last week+ Today 2hrs)/365*24 > 0.1?

    File A Lawsuit! Get Rich!*


    *Yes I know they cover their asses in the terms of service and 99.9% is only a marketing BS..

  14. “leading us to rethink our assumptions about the reliability of the web as a platform”

    Seriously, you are assuming how many 9s for a free (or very very cheap) email service?

    You get what you pay for, and with Google, you get pretty good stuff for a really great price. If your business can’t be without e-mail for a few hours, you really have a rude awakening coming. It is VERY EXPENSIVE to design, implement and support a messaging platform that produces 3, 4 or 5 9s uptime.

    Get real.

  15. The Internet as a service platform really concerns me, especially the same day Sprint announced its new mobile mail client. It forces its customers who use SpintPCS for email to totally depend on the internet for email service. I think that Sprints days are numbered, and the mobile application, which is creative is very raw with important features missing.
    A shame because the Sprint network is very solidi in So Cal.

    Apps like Igoogle rock though and If anyone gets Cloud Computing right it will be Google.

  16. Jim Houston

    Our gmail accounts, both personal gmail as well as several domain accounts hosted by Google have all been working today. However we did suffer with the half day outage last week that hit all our users and accounts (first time ever it hit them all once). Our normal outage pattern is that a user here or a user there has their IMAP access fail for an hour then everything is back to normal. Since we use the standard edition, which is free, we have decided to take the outages as “getting what we paid for”. After all, it works 99% of the time, and more importantly, they haven’t eaten any of our mailboxes (knocking on wood). However, if we were to ever upgrade to the $50 per user per year service for a domain, we would expect a better level of service as well.

  17. I observe all my web app activities via gmail at my daytime workplace. GMail being down, was quite an inconvenience. Its very surprising to see that big shops like Google/Amazon have single point of failures and holes in their monitoring services that are unable to detect outages upfront.
    Apple’s MobileMe situation is little bit more understandable, as this is probably one of their first web app of this magnitude. They handle that magnitudes with their ITunes servers but most of the content is probably driven from CDNs.

  18. Hmm. To be honest — the break in email was annoying, but it was a pleasant disconnect. I just went back to real work ;)

    I suppose my sentiments would be different if it was actually down constantly. 30 minutes here and there isn’t that major for me, in the scheme of things. Especially considering how annoying it would be if _we_ were the ones having to deal with the outage.

  19. This is actually the first time I’ve ever experienced a gmail outtage. I use it a lot for freelance and side projects and was not affected much. If anything, my addiction to check for new email was hurt, but nothing of consequence. Wasn’t too bad to be honest, and was back up and running in like 20 mins.

  20. Snehal Shinde

    this is one reason why Yahoo! rocks big time…you wont see such outages every…that is cause Y! has a well defined process in place…customers is their highest priority…how many times have you seen Yahoo! Mail going down? I sincerely feel Y! is the underdog…when they do things right no one talks about it…when they do one thing wrong….everyone is out there yelling out loud…

  21. I wrote a GMail outage survival post back in June. I’m used to seeing about 100 hits to it each time there is an outage with GMail from SERPs. It got over 2,000 hits in just two hours today. I spent my afternoon keeping an eye on the server and being thankful that my POP3 and IMAP access was still working.