Following a two-hour outage yesterday, Google has now managed to get its Gmail service up and running. This outage follows two other well-publicized outages in February and May of this year. What do these outages say about Google, and email in general?
Well, the most apparent conclusion that can be drawn in that Google is not infallible. The company is like every other and is prone to failures. And let's remember that Gmail is primarily a free service, so we as users get what we pay for. This outage has, ironically, been put down to changes to the request routers that direct queries to the service's web servers, changes that were meant to improve service. I doubt that if we all paid Google for the pleasure of using Gmail that you could eliminate downtime totally. Someone made a change, things went wrong, everything came crashing down. It happens.
But the fact that downtime is an inevitable side effect of relying on any technology doesn't mean that every time Gmail suffers downtime, decision makers think twice about turning to Google for web services, especially services that they rely on like email. Email is a critical business service, and downtime not only frustrates, it costs money.
Is it realistic to expect 100% uptime? After all, email is something that's been around for decades. Seriously, no, it isn't, for the reasons I mentioned earlier, but it still doesn't mean that people don't demand it. As Gmail continues to grow, the seriousness of each outage period will grow. That said, even though expecting 100% reliability is unrealistic, it's in Google's interests to improve reliability and add measures to prevent the entire email system from collapsing.
Outages such as this also paint Google's OS aspirations in a different light. Would a Chrome OS put increasing pressure on Google's infrastructure and make outages more commonplace? Will users put up with this?
How did the Google Gmail outage affect you? Do you think that it's time for a company to offer 100% uptime guarantee? Do Gmail outages make you suspicious of relying on Google?