File Under: Software & Tools

Reactions to Gmail Outage Range From ‘So Sorry’ to ‘Tough Luck’

Monday, we wrote about Gmail’s seemingly unprecedented outage and the resulting panic on Twitter. Okay, sure, the world did not end as we prophesied — our emergency cyanide pills are left untouched on the shelf waiting for the big day.

The service was restored in time, and the panic on Twitter has since subsided to a distant quell of fear-mongoring, strange prophecies and naysaying.

Still, Gmail’s outage was a pretty big deal for cloud computing. You may not have your entire customer service department on Gmail or may not be a paying customer using Google Apps, but there are hundreds (if not thousands?) of companies that are.

Google knows it too. Vice president of engineering Jeff Huber hit the Twitter tubes and updated everyone soon after Gmail was restored to browsers everywhere:

Ow. Painful afternoon for Gmail users. Sorry. We’ll be working on better/faster communications, and of course making that not happen again. – Jeff Huber

The Gmail Blog followed up with an even more official response titled “We Feel Your Pain and We’re Sorry.”

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.

They are really, really sorry, and many of us appreciate it. For a few hours of our day, Gmail users lives came to a halt — that is, if you use email. According to a Pew Internet and American Life study 55% of us do everyday. It’s the most used internet application out there and so it is easy to see why people would get upset. We’re not even considering the addition of IM use, which is embedded in the Gmail service.

In some cases, when email is down, companies bleed money by the second — money used to pay employees twiddling their thumbs, lost orders, losses repairing the damage from the downtime, etc…

A lot of people probably lost big-time money yesterday by offloading their IT departments to Google. For them, yeah, it’s a pretty big deal — but one of the trade-offs of moving computing to the cloud.

Others reacted to the outage by urging self-restraint and perspective. Many dream of the kind of uptime Gmail has compared to their ISPs or local area networks.

Droopycom commented on our initial post with one perspective:

“On a personal level, I had more outages from my ISP, than from Gmail. On a professional level, I have had more outages at work because of power outage, ISP outages, company servers outage, or just my damn workstation crashing, than I had Gmail outages. Its not the end of the world. Its much better than a lot of stuff.”

In other words, if you can host e-mail servers with the efficiency Google has, hats off to you. For those of us who get their e-mail for free via Gmail, our only option is asking for our money back.