Google Suffers First Gmail Outage of 2011

Google's Gmail e-mail system went down for .08 percent of users Feb. 27. The company disabled some accounts as it works to restore access.

Google confirmed that an e-mail outage left over 120,000 of its more than 150 million Gmail users without e-mail, contacts, labels and other content over the weekend.

Google's Gmail Help message boards began lighting up with pleas for help beginning Feb. 27, when one victim wrote: " I have lost ALL on my emails/folders etc. from gmail. Why would this happen? How can I restore everything?"

The complainant noted that when he accessed his Gmail account, everything was missing save four new e-mails that came in during the night.

Google acknowledged the problem and responded that some accounts were being disabled while it was performing repairs on its e-mail system.

A trip to the Google Apps status dashboard reveals that Google began investigating the issue at 1:36 a.m. EST Feb. 27.

In a follow-up note at 10:40 p.m. EST, Google's engineering team noted that the bug affected less than .08 percent of its Gmail users:

"Google Mail service has already been restored for some users, and we expect a resolution for all users in the near future. Please note this time frame is an estimate and may change. ... Google engineers are working to restore full access. Affected users will be temporarily unable to sign in while we repair their accounts."

Google's official press statement is:

"Today a very small number of users are having difficulty accessing their Gmail accounts, and in some cases once they're in, trouble viewing e-mails. This is affecting less than .08% of our Gmail user base, and we've already fixed the problem for some individuals. Our engineers are working as quickly as possible and we hope to have everything back to normal soon. We're very sorry for the inconvenience to our customers."

Update: Google later tweeted that .02 percent of Gmail users, not .08 percent as it originally reported, were affected. That bumps the number of affected users down significantly.

Gmail outages are an annual issue for Google, which provides e-mail for millions of consumers and businesses via its sprawling cloud computing cluster of servers and storage arrays.

However, after some nerve-wracking outages both in 2008 and 2009, 2010 was a pretty good year for Gmail in terms of uptime.

In 2010, Gmail delivered uptime of 99.984 percent for business and consumer users. That translates to 7 minutes of downtime per month over the last year, or small delays of a few seconds.

That success rate led Google to remove the clause that allows for scheduled downtime for Google Apps and pledge to give customers credit for any downtime.