Gmail activation problem in Apps finally solved

Goodwyne's client signed up for the free Standard version of Google Apps, which doesn't include phone support. He recognizes that Standard edition users can't expect the same level of responsiveness as those who use the paid Premier version, which includes phone support.

However, Goodwyne said Google owes Standard edition users an acceptable level of communication either via mass e-mails or timely and useful postings on the Apps discussion forum. After all, Google Apps is designed for workplace use, where availability is key, and Google does generate revenue from ads placed in the product.

"They need to be more responsive. They're offering a free product, so you won't have the same level of support as in a paid product, but they went for days without responding at all and then took another full day to actually say 'we have a problem,'" he said. "You could tell from all the people posting on the forum there was a tremendous amount of frustration."

The administrators' impatience stemmed from the fact that once the process to transfer control of their domain to Google Apps begins, they can't access their e-mail until their Gmail accounts are activated.

While the problem lasted, affected users trying to access their inboxes got an error message indicating that the e-mail service was not available. The problem affected Gmail access but not mail delivery, so all messages in affected accounts were routed to their intended inboxes.

Precisely because messages flowed into the locked inboxes, work-arounds existed for the problem. However, Google never suggested any.

Goodwyne, for example, realized that messages could be downloaded to e-mail desktop software like Outlook, although they couldn't be sent out. He then set up a temporary account unaffected by the activation problem, and set it up for sending e-mails, with the original, affected address as the "reply to" address.

Google Apps is a hosted collaboration and communication suite aimed at workplace use that includes various applications, including Gmail. More than 1 million businesses use Google Apps.

Apps' Standard and Education versions are free, while the more sophisticated Premier edition costs US$50 per user per year and includes, among other premium features, a 99.9 percent uptime guarantee for Gmail and access to phone support. The Education edition also includes phone support.

Last week, a Gmail outage that lasted about 30 hours affected some Google Apps customers. Also last week, an unrelated bug affected both the layout and functionality of the suite's Start portal pages in some Apps accounts for about 16 hours.

In August, Gmail had three significant outages and as a result, Google decided to extend a credit to all Apps Premier customers and said it would do better at notifying users of problems.

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Juan Carlos Perez

IDG News Service
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