Oh sure...4 days in and Gmail goes down

Oh sure...4 days in and Gmail goes down

Summary: I sell Apps to everyone, teachers have really bought in, and we make it through 4 days of school before a major outage. Seriously? Come on.

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I know email services go down. Whether you're running Exchange or a little Linux box, host your own mail, or use mail from your ISP or another service, it does, on occasion, crap out. We've been running Google Apps for Education since July with great luck for our year-round staff and had a really successful rollout for teachers last week (they had access this summer, but most didn't really dig into its capabilities until school started). We even rolled it out for our high school students yesterday and teachers were already sharing documents with students and engaging them in a variety of activities.

And what happens today?

I sell Apps to everyone, teachers have really bought in, and we make it through 4 days of school before a major outage. Seriously? Come on.

I know I'm whining here. Stuff happens, right? But this hurts my credibility and it hurts adoption. Couldn't we have at least made it through a week? I have teachers who are converting every single one of their powerpoints, syllabi, and course documents to Google Docs so that they can easily be shared with students. Other teachers have fully migrated their blogs, personal websites, and other course materials to Apps since it's so easy to make these resources widely available within the context of Apps.

And now it's down. I'm sure it will be up and running tomorrow and, unlike a mail server I host myself, getting Apps available again takes no work on my part. I just get to blog and complain about it. It's more just a matter of Murphy's Law. Tomorrow will be a damage control day, as I convince teachers that it's still OK to put their faith in Apps. Bummer.

Topics: Cloud, Apps, Collaboration, Google

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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210 comments
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  • Live by the Sword...

    ...and die by the Sword. But this is what I like about your blog -- like Oliver Cromwell, you paint the situation "warts and all."

    Nevertheless, it's exactly this sort of scenario that keeps our small non-profit from making the switch to the "cloud" exclusively. But look on the bright side -- the resolution of the situation with your users provides topics and material for several future posts.
    Curbuntu
    • I agree

      I have talked a few out of Google Apps primarily because of issues that many seem to be encountering of late with Google (not to mention the privacy issues, either)

      I do not suggest they host their own, but instead point them to work with their ISP, as issues like email outages very, very, rarely occure with some of the companies in our area, and are usually taken care of within a very short time span, usually much less time then Google takes.

      The local ISPs have redundent servers and backups, and have been doing this longer then Google has, so it seems I never really hear any real issues with the large ISP's email servers having these outages.

      For us, we host our email through our ISP, and have never been stuck with an outage for longer then 30 minutes in the 8 years we have been with them.
      GuidingLight
      • You do know

        That your ISP can be subpoenaed just as easily (if
        not more) than Google can, don't you?
        AzuMao
        • No, he doesn't

          As yet another of the many tedious MS trolls on here, he only 'knows'
          that MS is great and everything else is bad. Please ignore them; with a bit
          of luck, they may go away.
          rahbm
          • Its about volume, not MS

            If you put your data out on something as vast and far reaching as Google, you have a far greater chance of being hacked. This is why MS Windows gets hacked all the time, because there are a lot of them. If everyone used OSX, you'd hear about security breeches all the time.

            I wouldn't want anything I wanted private to be in the hands of MS, Google or any of them. More than likely, there are a large number of people who have access to your data.

            However, for most of my "data," I really don't care who reads it. So, using Google or any other public share doesn't matter to me.

            BTW, anyone who jumps at calling someone else an MS troll just shows how much you hate one company. That's just sad. Without MS right now, you'd be paying 2-3 times more for your hardware right now. They are not the best, but they are good competition.
            A Gray
          • What's this have to do with MS?

            Wherever you host it, as long as it's in the U.S.,
            can be subpoenaed just the same. Whoever you have
            host it will have to give it up if requested.

            If you're talking about security from hackers,
            though.. obviously MS is not the way to go.
            Hotmail has been hacked more than pretty much all
            the other web-mails combined. While having a much
            smaller share of the market.
            AzuMao
        • You do Know

          What does that mean? Are you doing something illegal that has you concerned about being subpoenaed? What a fabulous tool for law enforcment to have for fighting cyber crime or other illegal activities. Speed in the Justice System is a wonderfull thing.
          Trauk
          • GuidingLight is, and thinks that doing it on his ISP instead of Google

            will somehow protect him, apparently.
            AzuMao
      • Redundant doesn't always mean access

        [i]The local ISPs have redundent servers and backups, and have been doing this longer then Google has, so it seems I never really hear any real issues with the large ISP's email servers having these outages.[/i]

        This is true, but in my experience, when there is an upgrade/maintenance, customers may lose access for a short period of time. The redundant servers store the accumulated mail and catch anything new until the system is brought back online. This is so no email is lost, just delayed. Your experience may differ.
        mystic100
    • When you use something for free ...

      ... you get what you pay for.

      Budget Airline? Expect delays and cancellations with no Plan-B.

      Free email? Expect some outages?

      Free cloud services, especially complex ones? Just assume they are going offline when you need them most. You need a Plan-B for those times.

      At least with a local application and data, you can make your own backups and remain in control. Collaboration is one thing, but if you keep the master copies out of the cloud, you can always fall back to conventional email, file shares, ftp, or burning disks. If the master is on the cloud, you are at the mercy of a service with NO guarantees and no come-back if it fails.

      It's all a matter of your priorities.

      You get what you pay for.

      (and yes I do use Gmail and GDocs when it is appropriate)
      A.Sinic
      • Exactly ...

        You get what you pay for! What did you expect!
        dwarth
        • It's not a matter of paying.

          Most people pay for electricity, yet it is less
          reliable than Gmail..
          AzuMao
          • Hang on? Electricity?

            Electricity's less reliable than Gmail?

            The last time I experienced a power cut was when I was seventeen. It was at my parent's house in a small village and the council were doing some repairs to powerlines after a major storm (the storm didn't knock out the power, just knocked down a few trees).

            Wherever you live, I'm glad I don't live there! I like my electricity constant and my email as near as can be.
            JessMeats
          • Mother nature here as well...that was just a da statment - nt

            nt
            ItsTheBottomLine
          • You are either really young or very lucky!

            No power outages???? We usually have two or three a year and I live near a big city in Michigan! And try a power loss in the middle of winter, gets damn cold! So yes I would say Gmail is at least as reliable if not more reliable than electricity.

            As far as control and getting it back, what a crock of that smelly stuff. The only difference between an outage at Google and a local outage is that for the local outage you get to have your boss breathing down your neck as you fumble through tapes and such trying desperately to get the system back on line. And let's hope we don't have bad tapes or a drive failure.... or the secretary that you put in charge of tape changes has not done it for weeks. Or worse yet, you have kept all your tapes on site all the time and the building burned down and now you are totally screwed! For all the little bumps in the road I would count on someone like Google for good solid disaster recovery first.
            atomicsupergeek
          • Less Reliable Than Electricity (By definition)

            Just to point out an obvious fact: when you don't have electricity, you don't have Gmail, so by definition Gmail is less reliable than electricity.

            My point is that things in the cloud are dependent on several systems being up: electricity, your Internet connection, AND the Gmail servers. If any one of them fail, you have nothing. These systems are in general pretty reliable, but that is the risk you take.
            ted15
          • Red: ted

            The thing is, if you have a local problem and
            your stuff is on the cloud, you can just go
            somewhere else to access it.

            So it's not really a bigger point of failure at
            all.


            Although it would be best to have redundancy
            (store stuff on the cloud [i]and[/i] locally).
            AzuMao
          • I've had over 3 hours of electrical outage in the past 4 years.

            Far worse than Gmail's uptime.
            AzuMao
          • Where do YOU live?

            Where I live -- a small town in Central VT -- the power fluctuates often enough that resetting my telephone's clock is ridiculous waste of effort.
            jemd9
          • I Guess You're Lucky

            Over the years...
            Car hits pole, power is out. Branches break wires (windstorm, icestorm), power is out. Transformer overheats or blows up, power is out. Lightning strikes substation, power is out.

            Occasionally, internet service goes down, so no email during the outage.
            mystic100