What (if Anything) is the Matter With Gmail?

By  |  Tuesday, February 24, 2009 at 10:00 am

gmail1When I hit the sack early this a.m., Gmail was working fine for me. I was one of the lucky ones, apparently: During the wee hours in the U.S., many users of Google’s free e-mail service encountered an outage that lasted for two and a half hours, according to the Official Google Blog. (Why Google acknowledged the glitch on that blog and not at the Official Gmail Blog, I can’t say.)

Gmail outages are nothing extraordinary: I wrote about one major one last August, and a hiccup a couple of weeks ago. And it’s pretty darn common in my experience for Gmail to fail to load–I’m used to it, and just try again until it works. But is the service any flakier than your average Web site? I dunno. As one of the most-used, most-essential services on the Internet, Gmail is under the biggest of microscopes: When it misbehaves, millions of people take notice, and a major crimp is put in their work. Even if it’s actually more reliable than the average service–which it might be.

Google has apologized and says it isn’t yet sure what happened: I’d love to see the company follow up with a post discussing the outage, its cause, and the company’s response. I’m curious, for instance, whether there’s a single explanation for the multiple problems that the service has had in the past few months.

Meanwhile, I’m feeling Pollyannish about this and other major Internet outages: Somebody up there is reminding us that when you give up software for Web-based services, you run the risk of losing access to your data. Even when that data is in the hands of the single company that knows more than any other about delivering reliable services to millions of folks all at one time….


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7 Comments For This Post

  1. dave Says:

    i work for a major wireless provider and we get alerts for major vendors supplying our customers.

    if you think GMail goes down a lot (i use it and i dont notice any real issues that “refresh” does not solve) try the RIM network.

    they have nationwide outages nearly EVERY WEEK

  2. Pete Says:

    Mind you, I have no stats to back me up here, but I’d be willing to bet that, for all the screeching from the commentariate when it *does* go down, Gmail’s uptime compares quite well with that of just about any email provider.

    On the strictly anecdotal side, Gmail’s uptime is MUCH better than that of my current corporate overlords’ huge Exchange environment, which is down for hours at a time pretty much every weekend.

  3. Phil Says:

    Really. In the wee hours of the morning. I hadn’t noticed and wouldn’t have even known about the outage if you hadn’t told me. I was in bed. Asleep. Couldn’t care less.

  4. Alan Says:

    My “outages” with gmail all seem to come from using gears in Safari. Since I have removed off-line I haven’t had any issues. My other concern is, does gmail have a hit limit on an account. ie does my iphone mail, GNotifier, web client all checking at the same time cause an issue on the account?

    One reason I think that GMail gets so many “outage” reports is that it has moved past the other email service to a full blown mail service, that includes so many usable tools. It may just be some growing pains, since it seems they have rolled out a lot of new functions in the last 6 months.

  5. Stephen Says:

    Phil: Lucky you. It was the middle of the morning where I live.

  6. Terry Robinson Says:

    Gmail has unparalleled up time but Gmail outages are annoying because they’re almost entirely out of one’s control. So there’s a “what did I do?” aspect that doesn’t exist when one muffs up ones Exchange Server.

    This is the same mentality behind people knowing flying is safer than driving but doing the latter because they’re “in control”.

  7. Bob Says:

    Explanation now up: http://gmailblog.blogspot.com/2009/02/update-on-todays-gmail-outage.html