Google solves long Gmail outage, but questions remain

Google finally solved the latest Gmail outage on Friday night, but questions remain about its cause.

Late Friday night Google solved the third Gmail outage of the past two weeks, but questions remain about the stability of the Webmail service, which is affecting the Google Apps hosted software suite.

Like the previous two outages, the latest one occurred as a login error that locked users out of their accounts. This time, some users were prevented from accessing their accounts for more than 24 hours.

All three outages affected not only individual Gmail users but also people who use it as part of the Google Apps suite of collaboration and communication applications.

Google acknowledged the Gmail problem Friday and said it affected "a small subset" of the service's users. The company didn't immediately comment about what is causing the recurring login problem, nor did it provide a more specific figure for the amount of Gmail users affected.

The long outage was painful for several Google Apps users contacted via e-mail.

Denmark's chapter of Fair Allocation of Infotech Resources (FAIR), an international nonprofit group, just started using Google Apps. When the outage hit, system developer Benjamin Bach was showing the suite to his colleagues, ahead of the planned launch of FAIR Denmark's Web site this week.

The outage lasted more than 24 hours. "Seeing such a long outage during the very first few days makes us wonder if a free solution provided by Google is actually 'pro' enough for us. We cannot correspond with schools in Africa or partners in Denmark and afford being out-of-mail for a whole day," Bach said.

FAIR, based in Norway, is devoted to supplying computer products to developing countries. The Denmark chapter is just getting off the ground and expects to grow its Apps user base from four people to up to 20.

Google Apps comes in versions, including Basic and Education, which are free, and Premier, which costs US$50 per user per year and includes additional functionality, a 99.9 percent uptime guarantee for Gmail, and phone technical support.

"I can give them a lot of credit for providing a free service, but they lose some of that when saying 'your e-mail is totally inaccessible, and we're not going to tell you why or for how long.' It's arrogant. I'm a system administrator, so I deserve to know a little more," Bach said.

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