Several Google users, some of them paying customers, found themselves knocked out of Google Apps and Gmail after an "access issue" knocked out the company's software as a service suite for 15 hours.
The snafu, spanning from 2 p.m. EDT Wednesday afternoon to nearly 5 a.m. EDT Thursday morning, came as an unwelcome shock to users who are not accustomed to outages on Google's Web services.
The search company spends billions of dollars on servers that can support the services its millions of Gmail and Apps users require; when the services go down, users are quick to express shock, awe and not a little anger.
Signs of the issue popped up on the Google Apps Discussion Group forum at 2:04 EDT Wednesday, when a user complained of a 502 server error.
Another three complaints popped up by the time a Google Apps adviser joined the thread to tell them: "A small subset of our users are experiencing this issue, and our technical team is currently working to resolve this issue."
To date, there has been no word on what the problem was, or exactly how many users were affected.
Google Apps and Gmail appeared to be turned back on for the affected users around 4:43 a.m. EDT, according to the adviser, who wrote: "At the moment, we don't have any details to provide but we are indeed working to strengthen our systems to prevent something like this from occurring again."
Perhaps just as annoying to the users is what they perceived as an unnecessarily long time for the Gmail and Apps outage, vague responses to questions about the outage, as well as the lack of reason for the outage when their services were restored. Indeed, user Tim, who sells on-demand services for a living, expressed shock that Google went down at all:
Many of the customers had only one of two or three Google accounts affected. Some of those accounts were for customers of Google's Apps Premier Edition service, which costs $50 per user per year.
These users run their businesses on Google Apps, so when these apps go down, the customers stand to lose money. Customers feel frozen out because they can't connect with their own customers through Gmail, or share word processing, spreadsheet and presentation files.
User Vulf wrote: "I was just recommending this service to a client today. Now I'm not so sure it's reliable enough. I know every hosted service has outages, I just expected better from Google."
Unless the outage victims were bluffing, it seems clear Google will lose some customers, paying and non-paying, to this latest transgression, which is another sign of the growing pains cloud-computing providers are facing as they attempt to serve software on the Internet.
Can Microsoft and other online newcomers up the ante? The situation will bear watching.