Blog Post

Why You Can't Trust Google

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!

77 Responses to “Why You Can't Trust Google”

  1. 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

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. Dagmar d'Surreal

    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.

  6. 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% … 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

  7. 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.

  8. “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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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 -.-

    • 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.

  11. 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,

    • Allan Leinwand

      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?

  12. Arbit Hero


    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.

      • Fred Amarole

        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.