Blog Post

When Gmail Fails, Users Adapt

Updated: Can technology users adapt to the relatively high failure rates of their favorite communications tools by skipping from service to service when one option fails? With Gmail (s GOOG) down last night, Twitter traffic relating to the failure was all over the place. Update: Hitwise says Twitter’s traffic on Monday was an increase of 35% compared to daily average so far in 2009. A quick (but obviously unscientific) peek at my Facebook page showed more messages than usual from my friends, some even noting that Gmail was down.

The companies behind these web services have huge data centers packed with servers running their social networks or mail functions; they’re designed so when one of those servers fail, it doesn’t bring down the entire application (clearly, last night something did in the case of Gmail). As users, we apply this redundant approach to keep our digital lives in synch.

Thanks to free (but less reliable) web services, we can face a failure and move on to the next tool in our arsenal with only a few minutes of complaining. Yes, it’s a lowering of standards to accept nothing but the fabled “five nines” provided by the wireline phone business, but it’s a road we’ve been on for years.  Think about what you will accept from a cell phone in terms of lost connections and dropped calls. Reliability is not keeping us tethered to our landlines by any stretch of the imagination.

Five nines is too expensive for most free, consumer-oriented web services to maintain, and realizing that, we seem to be building out our store of redundant communications. So now, when life offers us power outages, snowstorms and even Gmail failures, we’re able to pick right up and keep blogging, tweeting, texting and posting our thoughts into the ether.

17 Responses to “When Gmail Fails, Users Adapt”

  1. Five nines is a goal that many small to medium enterprises may not even be aware of, never mind achieve. I know of many small companies, less than 50 users, who suffer from chronic email problems. Not always is email flat out unavailable but there always seems to be some problem that keeps them from getting the most out of email. Even with the occaisonal 2.5 to 4 hour outage, for many organizations Gmail would be a better solution than what they currently have.

  2. Very good point on less reliable service, I don’t use gmail much because I don’t trust google enough to let them see all my private conversations but I also didn’t realize their service was down in USA time.

    I was following the links in your article and I found this statement just very awkward on Gmail support page:
    ‘Many of our users had difficulty accessing Gmail today’ yeah because your servers were DOWN. daa. It is not something they suffered from their connection or network issues; your servers were DOWN.

    I don’t know what’s wrong with the people in this century, nobody likes to take the responsibility. How hard it would be to put this statement instead:
    ‘Our servers were down due to technical problems and we apologize for the inconvenience.’

    Thanks for the article.

  3. Jesse Kopelman

    Five Nines still allows for 8.76 hours of outage a year, for a 24X7 service. Even if you have all of it at once, that doesn’t mean you aren’t hitting the standard. I’m not saying Google is really at Five Nines, just that even this fabled standard still allows for some damn annoying outages, as long as they are infrequent enough.

  4. More traffic they build more money They Made” that is what E-economy rule the world,Google down ,twitter up,twitter down ,”something UP,New brands will always be there and Innovation lies behing Gmail Head to take back there chances,SO for twitter dont be happy yet.Google mail WOnt that easy Just stay there being defeated