Along with millions of others today I suffered from the outage in Google‘s web-based e-mail service, Gmail (or googlemail). After the initial frustration, I began to think about how much we all rely on these “free” (aka advertising-supported) web-services and how much we feel bereft when they are not around. It is the equivalent of having an electricity black-out.
A number of other points occur:
- What happened to Google’s famed redundancy and massive server farms?
- Why did the outage last so long?
- Why were more informative error messages not posted, as opposed to the (rather hopeful) suggestion that you might care to try again in 30 seconds?
- Should I really have kept track of my HotMail account details?
- Was Outlook really that bad? [OK I might be getting carried away with this last one]
Mail outages happen. Perhaps they happen more in corporate environments if you allow for the number of mail users that Google supports. Last year I suffered a three day mail outage in a corporate environment, rather ironically relying on Gmail at the time. Maybe of greater concern to Google is the potential impact of problems like this on their move to provide corporate mail via their Gmail platform. I’m sure that their availability meets or exceeds that of most in-house mails systems, but problems like today’s create the wrong impression. This is particularly the case when they follow hard on the heels of their search problem of a few weeks back, when every page of every site was tagged as potentially harmful to your computer (true as this point might be philosophically).
In some ways it might even be comforting to some IT professionals to see that the best and biggest can be plagued by problems. But before we luxuriate in schadenfreude too much, it is worth reflecting that when any element of IT goes wrong, consumers of it tend to see this as an attribute of IT as a whole – after all it’s just yet another IT problem isn’t it?
This post was one that Computing used to compile their Editor’s Diary article about the gmail outage and also is featured in Editor Bryan Glick‘s further article explaining his innovative use of twitter to source the material.
There are also some discussions related to this area on the LinkedIn.com CIO Magazine Forum (as ever you need to be a member of LinkedIn.com and the group to read these).