Google’s Gmail service outage

Within the past few days, Google has suffered short-term e-mail outages on its Gmail service.

The company acknowledges one outage, but there were several periods this week when Gmail wasn’t accessible via its Web interface or through POP3. (I alluded to this in yesterday’s posting, “Google insists that Z Trek is a ‘spam blog.’ “)

How do I know this? I support a non-profit that uses Google Apps, and it relies upon Gmail. Throughout the day on Monday and Tuesday, I received calls from the non-profit’s staff telling me that they couldn’t get into e-mail through the Web interface or through Outlook. As far as I can tell, no mail was lost.

Google acknowledged one Gmail outage in a message, “We feel your pain, and we’re sorry,” posted to the GmailBlog on Monday evening. Unlike other online services, like Apple’s MobileMe or Amazon’s Web Services, Google doesn’t have a service health dashboard. Or, if they do, I haven’t found it.

We feel your pain, and we’re sorry
Monday, August 11, 2008 6:05 PM
Posted by Todd Jackson, Gmail Product Manager

Many of you had trouble accessing Gmail for a couple of hours this afternoon, and we’re really sorry. The issue was caused by a temporary outage in our contacts system that was preventing Gmail from loading properly. Everything should be back to normal by the time you read this.

We heard loud and clear today how much people care about their Gmail accounts. We followed all the emails to our support team and user group, we fielded phone calls from Google Apps customers and friends, and we saw the many Twitter posts. (We also heard from plenty of Googlers, who use Gmail for company email.) We never take for granted the commitment we’ve made to running an email service that you can count on.

We’ve identified the source of this issue and fixed it. In addition, as with all issues that affect Gmail and our other services, we’re conducting a full review of what went wrong and moving quickly to update our internal systems and procedures accordingly. We don’t usually post about problems like this on our blog, but we wanted to make an exception in this case since so many people were impacted. In general, though, if you spot a problem with your Gmail account, please visit the Gmail Help Center and user group, where the Gmail Guides are your fastest source of updates.

Again, we’re sorry.

Google still calls Gmail a “beta” service — even though it’s a central part of their offerings. It’s also part of their paid Google Apps Premium Edition service, which costs $50 per user per year for commercial entities. It’s free for non-profits.

I am disappointed that Mr. Jackson wrote, “we don’t usually post about problems like this on our blog.” If Google wants customers to rely upon its services, it should be open and transparent about problems — publishing uptime reports, telling customers causes the inevitable problems, and what it’s doing about them. That builds trust.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick