More than one in ten Google users around the world lost the use of some or all of the company's services on Thursday as a result of a major network outage.
Blamed by the company on a systems error that caused network traffic misrouting, the failure occurred at approximately 3:15pm BST and lasted for two hours. The outage affected Googlemail, search and other services. Many UK users were affected, according to online comments on Twitter and other forums, although people reported rapid changes in connectivity over time and dependent on which ISP they were using.
Google issued a statement on its blog after the event. "An error in one of our systems caused us to direct some of our web traffic through Asia, which created a traffic jam. As a result, about 14 percent of our users experienced slow services or even interruptions. [...] We're very sorry that it happened, and you can be sure that we'll be working even harder to make sure that a similar problem won't happen again."
In October, Google extended its service guarantee for paying Gmail customers to other Google Apps, including Google Docs and Google Calendar. The agreement guarantees that service will be available 99.9 percent of the time to premium-service customers, or Google will pay a refund. In its announcement, Google pledged to improve communication with customers if its services went down.
"We've made a series of commitments to improve our communications with customers during any outages, and we have an unwavering commitment to make all issues visible and transparent through our open user groups," Matthew Glotzbach, director of Google Enterprise product management, wrote in a blog posting in October.
Although the exact reasons of Thursday's failure are not known, internet service provider operators and monitoring companies have detailed some of the effects.
Craig Labovitz of Arbor Networks, an ISP services company, reported that traffic across ten major North American ISPs collapsed from 15Gbps to around 1Gbps.
"Outage began roughly at 10:15am and lasted through 12:15pm EDT. Looking at the data, most large transit providers appear to have been impacted (e.g., Level3, AT&T, etc.). Other providers (e.g. large consumer DSL / Cable) showed no drop in traffic from/to Google", Labovitz wrote in a company blog.