Apple's iCloud crash response only dents customer confidence

Apple's iCloud crash response only dents customer confidence

Summary: Apple's iCloud has recovered from a 90 minute email outage. The outage wasn't the primary concern: it was that Apple didn't tell anyone of the problem until after it had been fixed.

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Apple's iCloud service crumbled for 90 minutes on Monday, with the company only reporting the outage after the service had been restored.

The crash occurred between 8:00--9:30 a.m. PDT --- affecting approximately 12 percent of Apple's 125 million users --- pegging the figure at roughly 15 million people worldwide.

Apple remained silent during the outage, leaving those who were unable to access their iCloud email wondering why. It's not unusual for a cloud-running company to hedge on the possible causes of an outage as often the reasons are initially unknown.

But Apple's "after the fact" response only dents customer confidence in its ability to run its services transparently.

It is the second such outage in as many months. In April, a similar crash saw a mere 1 percent of iCloud customers without service access for 40 minutes. Apple updated its status pages to note that Mail and Notes were down, and only a minute later gave the all-clear.

Cloud services are not perfect; outages are expected from time to time, and users expect hiccups to occur. While such outages can be frustrating and impact business critical operations, a speedy and open response can absolve a company from the initial flak.

So far, Apple's track record for iCloud uptime has been on the whole good. Microsoft's uptime record is shaky and seen as unreliable.

But Google however holds the cloud crown with its long-standing policy on openness when it fouls up. Even when up to 35 million people were left without Gmail access in April, the company provided up-to-the-minute details on how many users were affected, any developments in status, and a post-mortem incident report.

Google's transparency aside, its email service has shown extreme resilience and reliability, with many opting for Gmail and Google Apps for outsourced corporate email services for this very reason.

Last year, U.K advertising authorities challenged Microsoft's claim that its Office 365 service could "guarantee 99.9 percent uptime". Office 365 replaced the trouble-ridden Business Productivity Online Services (BPOS), which was almost famed for suffering downtime.

Only a week after the regulator announced its investigation into Microsoft, Google announced its 99.984 percent uptime for Gmail during the first quarter of 2011, equating to less than five minutes downtime on average per month.

Apple does not plug iCloud as an enterprise email service. It's designed all but solely for consumers and has made no effort in targeting businesses as of yet. Beyond anything else, Apple may not want businesses to rely on iCloud if the company knows it cannot guarantee the levels of uptime Google can offer.

It's why Apple slapped a "beta" tag on iCloud for so long, and why Siri still has one. "Mountain Lion" feature Messages is one current example to allow Apple to stress-test its servers, despite its occasional hiccups.

It's rare for Apple to release a public beta of an upcoming product; normally restricted to when it requires infrastructure testing or an open developer base to stress its system. Apple will otherwise wait until a product is pitch-perfect before releasing it into the wild.

In the coming months as Apple's prepares to launch additions to its cloud platform at the WWDC conference, Apple not only has to bolster its platform for an expected hike in traffic, it must make a concerted effort to improve its communication with its consumer faithful.

Image credit: ZDNet.

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Topics: Cloud, Apple, Collaboration, Outage

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53 comments
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  • Dent Customer Confidence? Hardly....

    Are you expecting a revolt or a mass exodus from Apple users from using their products because of a brief outage of iCloud services? It seems no matter what stumbles Apple makes (from poor iPhone reception to the handling of virus patches) the shine never rubs off. They have a mountain of free passes and maybe that's because of their many right moves they've made over the last decade. I expect this to have little if any effect on Apple iCloud useage or image.
    SmoothDouglas
    • And yet we've heard nothing except that

      It's Microsoft that gets the free passes. Guess this is proof that those people are wrong.

      [i]So far, Apples track record for iCloud uptime has been on the whole good. Microsofts uptime record is shaky and seen as unreliable?[/i]

      Sure.
      William Farrel
      • I see William the Troll is here

        What's with this post? You claimed to be above this type of behavior, while flagging my posts, yesterday? Or is it not okay to point out bias, but it is okay to be a Microsoft Troll.

        And BTW Microsoft has in general gotten a Pass on their products poor uptime, otherwize the article would have been about Microsoft's poor service, not "Apple is Bad...mkay" (use voice of guidance counselor from South Park)
        Jumpin Jack Flash
      • Just following up on a thread a few users had going.

        and it was a direct response to SmoothDouglas' post claiming the same thing along those lines.

        The timing was perfect, wouldn't you say? ;)
        William Farrel
      • And for the record

        No Microsoft is rarely called out for their transgressions, on ZDNet. Microsoft intentionally bricked over a million xboxes a few years ago, and it was hailed as a good thing. Even though the majority of people that got screwed were not pirates, or what did Microsoft call them?, cheaters. Sure putting a bigger HDD is something bad, because you don't want to pay Microsoft 3 times the price, due to an oddball connector! Yet when Geohot violated Sony's TOS, Sony was bad for banning his account? It can't be one way for Microsoft, and the opposite for everyone else. If Sony was bad for banning Geohot,Microsoft was bad for banning those million plus people, and bricking their property. After all Microsoft sold the hardware for money, thus transferring ownership of said hardware.
        Jumpin Jack Flash
      • Well here, read for yourself,

        All you have to do is Google, er um Bing it:
        http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2392700,00.asp

        www.crn.com/.../cloud/.../another-cloud-outage-strikes-microsoft-bpos-exchange-online.htm

        See, it's easy!

        Zack,
        You must really hate Apple or something, the way you make your comments. Does Google give you some back end payments here or what?
        T-Wrench
      • Errr

        Microsoft gets "free passes"? Can you enighten us? Proof? Or just making it up?
        Gisabun
    • Free passes

      Hey SmothDouglas,

      I think the "free passes" that you reference really come about from Apple's overall operation. People are, on the whole, very satisfied with Apple - and for good reason. It would be really quite ridiculous to imagine that a brief outage in online services would send people running (as you say yourself!).

      Now, I absolutely agree that Apple's responses to security and product flaws tend to be pretty pathetic. I still remember the "You're holding it wrong" fiasco of the iPhone 4. Talk about arrogance.

      But here's where I justify my confidence in Apple: for the overwhelming majority of time, Apple produces extremely high quality products that work really well. More than any other company in technology, Apple really does care about the details, about quality assurance, and about releasing truly superb products. And this is reflected in the long life of their products, as well as the customer support that they provide. They have earned this customer confidence, and it would be ridiculous (in my opinion) to expect customers to lose confidence so fast.

      I guess what I'm saying is this: you can't lump Apple in with Microsoft, HP, or Dell. Why? Because unlike the latter three, Apple's track record in terms of QA and customer support has been on the whole amazing. People aren't fed up with Apple products, because they generally work really well. And that's why they're willing to give them the benefit of the doubt when these things occur.
      lapland_lapin
      • For the faitful are blind

        Apple's QA let those phones out with sketchy antenna reception? Or do they make you pay for support through your nose for genius bar support? Or is it their reliable phones that have glass that breaks faster than a coconut compared to any other device?

        Microsoft, HP and Dell have their niches. They do make good products. The only reason Apple is doing so well is because of one this. That is that they brought the touchscreen to the market and marketed it well. But their products are decent hardware quality. Their software and services are third grade, buggy and lackluster, expensive. I know plenty of people who switched from Apple products. So, dont proclaim that people aren't fed up with Apple
        sr27
  • Don't care

    While I have iCloud enabled on all my mobile iOS devices and use it from time to time mainly for syncing, there is no way I am using someone else's e-mail service, even Apples for anything serious (if for anything at all).

    I believe there are many people who use some public e-mail service, such as Gmail, but most of them are aware that it's provided without warranties of any kind anyway.
    danbi
    • Warranties?

      Google claims a 99.99% uptime. That isn't a warranty?
      Gisabun
      • No it is not

        If you can link to where Google guaranties this uptime then you could call it a warranty other wise it's simple a claim just as you said.
        non-biased
  • Silly article

    The article seems to be marketing google services, which is a shame.

    "Microsoft???s uptime record is shaky and seen as unreliable."

    - An idiotic statement.

    When it comes to Business, customers trust Microsoft services, not much of apple and google.
    owllnet
    • Yes Zach is the master

      of the unsupported rash generalisation. OR perhaps he was just speaking about the beliefs of ABM posters.
      tonymcs@...
    • Ubiquitous Nature...

      Business by its' nature looks for most economical solutions, not necessarily the most reliable. Microsoft became a standard for its' ability to run on even the cheapest of hardware, became a standard and almost all IT is invested in its maintenance therefore its' universal business acceptance. In the case of cloud use on any platform what made the user confident in it's reliability is beyond me. The cloud at this point seems somewhat an unreliable (sometimes convenient) means of accessing data not to be used if for mission critical purposes.
      partman1969@...
  • Source

    Off-the-cuff statements like this "Microsoft???s uptime record is shaky and seen as unreliable" without sources or facts to backup said claim is why you are a blogger and not a journalist.

    Give me a graph showing Apple, Google, and Microsoft's downtime over the past 12 months AND let me be the judge, your bias is not needed or necessary.
    clcrockett
    • Amen!

      I'd love to see that graph. Especially since from the user end of things, "Google???s transparency aside, its email service has shown extreme resilience and reliability..." seems inaccurate. I was annoyed for weeks by Gmail sluggishness and timeouts with nary an explanation from Google. I don't really expect up-to-the-minute reports during an outage; when it's down, it's down, and no explanation of why it's down is going to change that. But I'm interested in the history of the outages.
      spstanley
  • But did you track how much time it took for RIM to acknowledge any of their

    ... multiple day-long outages?

    It was like three hours or so. Apple already fixed and reported about the solved issue by that time.

    Why you did not mention RIM? Is it because you are long-time fan and thus you do not care of how fast RIM acknowledges their outages?
    DDERSSS
    • I was wondering about that one myself

      Why wasn't RIM mentioned?
      NonFanboy
      • Because....

        Blackberry is peanuts. They technically do not have a "cloud" service. Really it's just Email storage. The others stor documents and other stuff as well.
        Gisabun