Gmail outage was much ado about nothing

Posted by Ron Miller on Jan 27, 2014 2:28:00 PM

Man pointing to cloud connected to various nodes.As you no doubt heard, Gmail went down on Friday afternoon for about a half hour. Judging from the reaction on Twitter, it was a worldwide catastrophe, but in truth it was a small glitch that happens to everyone whether they're on-prem or in the cloud.

As a business user who relies on Gmail, I was as annoyed as the next person to not be able to send or receive emails for a bit. But it wasn't the end of the world. Ultimately, Google figured out the problem and we were back to normal in fairly short order.

I like to point out when these types of glitches happen - and they do happen to everyone, regardless of where you store your data - that the cloud is a data center, and whether you control or it a vendor does, there will be issues from time to time. It's just the nature of working with computers and software.

That doesn't mean you write off the cloud any more than you would decide to write off your Exchange server because it went down for a short time -and you can be sure that somewhere in the world, an Exchange server or two went down on Friday afternoon too.

Of course, we didn't hear about it because no company in their right mind is going to tell the world their email is down. They are going to fix it and get back to business as soon as they can -- just as Google did. 

What Google had to deal with was the added pressure of being a highly visible public cloud service and have the whole internet discuss it while they tried to trace the problem.

And at the same time, Google dealt with issues with Google Calendar and Google Plus. 

It's worth noting that the outage just affected the web interface. No data was ever lost. You just had to wait a few minutes to see it. 

And the good news is they found the problem, which turned out to be some sort of internal configuration issue. Google says the outage only affected 10 percent of all users and lasted between 25 and 55 minutes, depending on where you were.

I'm sure that someone, somewhere wrote a blog post about cloud outages after this happened. I know one person I follow on Twitter tried to take advantage of the situation to spread some good old-fashioned anti-cloud FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt). But today so many businesses rely on cloud services for at least part of their computing that, that kind of FUD just doesn't have the impact it might have had a few years ago.

That's because when you use cloud services, you know that the vast majority of services maintain 5 nines reliability and that's probably a better rate than many companies have in their own data centers. And you want to know why?

It's because cloud vendors are in the business of staying up. Surely, there are outages and they do make headlines, but in reality cloud vendors understand better than anyone that staying up and running is how they stay in business.

You don't see constant problems with online services because they make it their business to stay up and running, sure and reliable. That's why we notice when our favorite services stop working. It's because we have come to rely on them and we miss them dearly, even when they're down for just a half hour or so.

 Photo Credit: CanStockPhoto

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