Gmail Outage Highlights Google's Restoration Response

Some of Google's 150 million-plus Gmail users saw their e-mail go down for five days. Tough to believe in a time of robust cloud computing, but outages happen, analysts note.

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.