Gmail Outage Highlights Google's Restoration Response

 
 
By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2011-03-05
 
 
 

Gmail Outage Highlights Google's Restoration Response


When Google revealed that some Gmail users were finding their messages, labels and other inbox content missing Feb. 27, the clock began ticking on the company's cloud computing credibility.

Among the most pertinent questions were how soon would the company restore access to the .08 percent of users it claimed at the time were affected and what was the cause?

Gmail users, which number some 150 million or more people, would learn from Google Feb. 28 that actually .02 percent of users, or roughly, 30,000 people, were affected. This included a tiny percentage of customers who pay $50 a user, per year for Google Apps for Business.

Google March 1 revealed that a storage software update accidentally made e-mail messages and other data disappear. No e-mail was lost in the outage because Google backs up the data to tapes, which are offline.

Google feverishly worked on restoring access and diligently reported every update on its Google Apps Status Dashboard until Wednesday night, when everyone "except a very small handful of edge cases (i.e., huge mailboxes that were still processing data)" had their e-mail restored.  

Google March 3 noted in its dashboard that Gmail should be back to normal for the vast majority of people affected by this issue. Those still experiencing the outage could e-mail the company for help.

"We understand this is an inconvenience for users and obviously not an ideal situation, but we worked as hard and fast as we could to get everything up and running as quickly as we can - and keep folks informed as we did so," a Google spokesperson told eWEEK.

Google's transparency on its dashboard is commendable, as is its responsiveness in the Gmail restoration process. But this may be of small consolation to the "handful" of Gmail users who had their accounts disabled for as much as 5 days while Google worked on the bug.

Handful' of Users Go Without Gmail}

For some people, an hour without e-mail is too long, a day unthinkable, but five days? Unconscionable, a data-withholding transgression of the highest order.

What of the users trying to support their b


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For some people, an hour without e-mail is too long, a day unthinkable, but five days? Unconscionable, a data-withholding transgression of the highest order.

What of the users trying to support their business by using Gmail? Paid Google Apps customers or not -- and paid customers will receive SLA credits -- the suffering may seem interminable.

"Google did a good job of communicating the problem and resolution plan to users," Nucleaus Research analyst Rebecca Wetteman told eWEEK. "Unfortunately, as critical as e-mail (even if it's free) is, any downtime in the Google world where millisecond search responses are expected seems like a very long time."

Wetteman added that Google's brand is such that any trip-ups on the consumer side reflect poorly on Google's ability to support its applications, which causes concern for enterprises.

Gartner analyst Matt Cain had a more sympathetic take on the matter, pointing out the law of averages at work.

"Google probably delivers 99.9 percent uptime for Gmail, which is impressive even for enterprise standards," Cain told eWEEK.

"However, if you happen to be one of those impacted by a severe outage, a higher level appeal --- "but guys - we hit three-nines of uptime" falls on deaf ears, and is actually a call to incite. So, there is a greater good here, but unfortunately, some folks get hurt along the way. We just gotta hope that this is one lottery we don't win."

Actually, Google enjoyed 99.984 percent of availability for Gmail, its highest mark ever. This was impressive following a tougher 2009 and 2008, which were marked by a few severe outages that affected more users.

Google said it plans to offer a more complete report of the situation in the near future. Until then, the "handful" of users whose fat inboxes are still in enduring the restoration process, will continue to go without.

 

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