Gmail outage: The sky is not falling

Gmail outage: The sky is not falling

Summary: Gmail: Still the safest place for your mail. Really.

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The blogosphere was buzzing Monday with news of Google's Gmail outage. ZDNet's Larry Dignan outlined backup options, while young Zack Whittaker could barely contain his glee that Microsoft wasn't alone in hosing a major webmail product. And yet, despite the inconvenience, the sky simply isn't falling. The cloud is alive and well and Gmail remains one heck of a safe place to store your email (and everything else for that matter).

Every time something like this happens, cloud naysayers take the opportunity to tell us why it's a bad idea to store valuable information out in this mythical, mystical cloud. Those naysayers are usually no fans of Google, since the web giant has so much riding on cloud strategies and would just love for all of us to join them in embracing the unseen, distributed web. It's not like Google has a competing desktop product for what it does. The Chrome OS only solidifies the idea that computers need merely be portals to the web with anything of value stored and synced across Google's servers.

And you know what? Count me in. No matter what I do, I'll never be able to replicate all of data around the world in multiple secure, regularly backed-up servers. I'll never be able to ensure the sort of uptime that Google does. Even if I download all of my emails from my three Gmail/Google Apps accounts to Outlook or Apple Mail, it's far more likely that my viciously teething daughter will chew the hard drive right out of my laptop than Google will actually, permanently lose my emails and documents.

Before so many of us began to rely on webmail services, whether Yahoo Mail, Gmail, or Windows Live Mail, how often were we worrying about those Outlook .pst files and backing up desktop redirections to make sure that nobody lost an email or a calendar appointment? Even if I had the time, inclination, or wherewithal to be a slave to backups, Google is going to do it better.

That 2 hundredths of 1 percent of Gmail users who were affected by Google's most recent outage were no doubt panicked and wildly inconvenienced. However, when all else fails, Google even has tape backups from which they can retrieve your stuff if given enough time.

Larry's suggestion to back up your Gmail to another webmail service (or vice versa) probably isn't a bad one. If hell freezes over and Google goes bankrupt tomorrow, shutting down their many international data centers, then at least Yahoo will still have your emails, right? Fair enough. But Gmail's (and, to be fair, Hotmail's) outages represent a miniscule fraction of the system hours for which there were no outages and for which nobody gave a second thought to where exactly their email lived. Can the same be said for those of us who manage our own mail internally? Probably not.

Topics: Browser, Cloud, Collaboration, Google, Outage

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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109 comments
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  • RE: Gmail outage: The sky is not falling

    That the percentage of affected users is low does not mean much. Next time it might be much higher. You can't predict that. What we have seen in two seprate incidents within a few short weeks is that Googles on line servives are vunerable. More than we thought.

    A server outage is anoying but a potential loss of data is just unforgivable.

    It is a big blow in my confidence in cloud storage solutions (not just googles) and I will backup my gmail from now on.

    I would advice companies to only consider a cloud based solution if in combination with frequent backups solution which will increase the cost considerably over simple cloud solutions.
    IE11
    • RE: Gmail outage: The sky is not falling

      @IE9 who wouldnt include a backup solution? its just silly to even think you would invest in a cloud without some means of backing up the data from the cloud....
      nickdangerthirdi@...
      • Giving GMail not even supporting sort

        I'd excuse anyone not doing backup as the whole thing is not intended to be a serious service from get-go. No wonder hardly a lot users bother to pay for GApps.
        LBiege
    • RE: Gmail outage: The sky is not falling

      @IE9 <br>Advise, not Advice, one is a verb (advise), the other is a noun (advice)<br>As for G-mail, personally , I don't care, I have an account--accessed only once. Had to set it up to use my phone. I am not even sure how to get to it via anything. I use Hotmail (first email account, still have it. or my ISP's (ISP's come and go) email which is via Yahoo (AT&T). At work we use Lotus Notes.
      dhays
      • RE: Gmail outage: The sky is not falling

        @dhays Lotus Notes? OMG... Talk about prehistoric reptiles.... LMFAO
        eleaders
    • RE: Gmail outage: The sky is not falling

      @IE9 Exactly. Everyone needs to back up their own data. Most people foolishly ignore it. Google + Outlook + IMAP + PST = backup.
      LarsDennert
    • RE: Gmail outage: The sky is not falling

      @IE9

      So far as I can tell I have every single e-mail I've ever received since October 2004. I can search it at a whim. It's actually ACCESSIBLE AND USEFUL ALL THE TIME, ANYWHERE. By contrast, my work e-mail can handle about 3 months if I don't receive any particularly large technical illustrations before needing to be archived. I can search those messages slowly painfully, and only on on the device upon which they are stored. Exchange = FAIL.
      tkejlboom
      • RE: Gmail outage: The sky is not falling

        @tkejlboom - Don't know where you work but it sounds like your Exchange admins have capped your mailbox size (where I work it's capped at 50mb, yes, that's 50mb, have to archive to a PST daily), so if I'm right, this isn't an Exchange issue so much as a policy issue.

        Also, I do searches in Outlook and it does the searches quite quickly. Perhaps you're not using an indexed client? Just a thought.
        PollyProteus
    • RE: Gmail outage: The sky is not falling

      @IE9<br>"That the percentage of affected users is low does not mean much. Next time it might be much higher. You can't predict that. What we have seen in two seprate incidents within a few short weeks is that Googles on line servives are vunerable. More than we thought."<br><br>- Point taken, but what is preventing a disaster from happening with the work or personal backup storage side? How many more screw-ups are there with failing to properly backup data at all for many companies, especially the smaller sites? Google probably hasn't permanently lost much, if any data.<br><br>"A server outage is anoying but a potential loss of data is just unforgivable."<br><br>Again, see the above. Many places don't even properly back-up data anyhow, or they have all the backups in one location. I had a huge issue with this dealing with an insurance company who's server room caught fire, and the backups were in the same room! In the end though, we're human, and we can't predict much.<br><br>Cloud solutions are nice in some areas. The data is often backed up in several locations, and there is lower risk of data loss (in some cases like Google). The cloud isn't "bad"... perhaps just over-used. I'm not a fan of the 'online-only' application approach that some companies are attempting to create, as it excludes those without internet from technology, widening the gap between people.
      Liath.WW
    • RE: Gmail outage: The sky is not falling

      @IE9 :)
      www.awwgame.com
      lariosshow
  • RE: Gmail outage: The sky is not falling

    Why my posts is not shown?
    tomahoo@...
    • this one is.

      @tomahoo@...
      redking44
  • Agreed Chris.

    I have never experienced any issues.
    I use both Gmail and Google Apps and am very satisfied.
    Dietrich T. Schmitz, ~ Your Linux Advocate
    • RE: Gmail outage: The sky is not falling

      @Dietrich Well that's it then, no problems with the cloud.
      nicholas22
    • RE: Gmail outage: The sky is not falling

      @Dietrich T. Schmitz, Your Linux Advocate - No one said here no one isn't satisfied, but, it's all yet another apps, not yet ready for Enterprise. Let's accept it. Recent outage by salesforce.com thru Avanade (Accenture child) went down for an Australian relailer i think, say, the cloud can be used as an additional backup option, not any primary enterprise solution.
      jinishans
    • RE: Gmail outage: The sky is not falling

      @Dietrich T. Schmitz, Your Linux Advocate <br><br>Your reasoning reminds me of the 7th graders who refuse to wear a helmet while riding bikes just because they haven't "experienced any issues" yet.
      mejohnsn
    • RE: Gmail outage: The sky is not falling

      @Dietrich T. Schmitz, Your Linux Advocate You can't trust the public cloud, the Fortune 500 companies should have in house cloud implementations where their IT security and operations staff is responsible from executing regular backups of email servers, if you trust an outside vendor like Google, if Google is hacked, they won't be able to give your data back, it's better to invest in security inside your company to protect your most valuable asset, your data.
      Gabriel Hernandez
    • RE: Gmail outage: The sky is not falling

      @Dietrich T. Schmitz, Your Linux Advocate - Wow, that was such a Loverock Davidson style comment that I had to read it twice to make sure there wasn't someone using a "look alike" name for their posts.

      Using your logic, since I've never had problems with my Windows systems, then Windows is perfect.

      But since I have had problems with Linux and Mac OS X, then they must be inferior and have absolutely nothing to do with my limited skill level on those operating systems.

      Keep in mind that I'm using *your* logic method in making these statements.
      PollyProteus
  • Guys pls. Dont, dont ever come and support google henceforth.

    Oh, pls. Google is one such company run most of thier apps over web in Beta for quite long time, and Gmail was such an app, was in Beta for years. Why in this world such a co. like Google kept it in Beta for so long, made it to general public after several years, went ahead against MS and filed a lawsuit against US State Govt. for they choosing MS Exchange as their email solution, oops...! I'm tired.<br><br>Now, their site is down, Oops, Gmail ? Then, next week, say comeback and say 0.00001 % accounts are RESET (oops !), then saying it's only 500,000, next day no no, it's only 40,000. <br><br>Give me a break ! They created a panic for rest of the 99.999999 % and awakened that Google is yet another Yahoo/Hotmail/Facebook nice to have app's over web, but, not reliable. Better keep it backed up in your local PC's, take 2-3 backup of it in external drives, have it backed up in some cloud servers like Amazon S3/Microsoft Azure thru backupify.com (I searched for one online backup solution yesterday and configured it) and have one of your external safest external drive in a firesafe box, etc.<br><br>Pls. dont' come and support Google.
    jinishans
  • Always make backups regardless.

    An interesting time for this to arise as I'm backing up my e-mail from my own server (a Solaris 10 system). I do this at the first of each month. Copy it to another Solaris 10 system and roll it off to tape. Never have I lost an e-mail from my server but having an off site copy is a must.
    ye