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Google's Gmail goes down for more than an hour

September 02, 2009|David Sarno

Google Inc.'s Gmail electronic mail platform went off-line Tuesday for more than an hour, prompting an outcry from tens of thousands of users and reminding consumers that the Mountain View, Calif., company is not immune from widespread outages.

"Gmail is down & everyones having panic attacks," wrote Anna B., a Twitter user in Los Angeles. "Including myself."

Later in the day, Google said it fixed the problem and was investigating the cause. Gmail is the third-most-visited e-mail service, with nearly 37 million unique visitors, according to ComScore Inc.

Many of Google's services exist in what is known as the cloud, a style of computing that allows users to run Google programs through the Web rather than from their hard drives.

That means the company's business and reputation depend on services' being available without interruption.

Because the problem persisted for more than 10 minutes, the outage met Google's own definition of a "downtime period," a designation the company tries strenuously to avoid.

For paying customers of Google Apps, a package of Web-based office software and e-mail, Google guarantees that the service will be up and available at least 99.9% of the time. Any less and Google starts to lose money back to businesses, which are credited with free service days based on the extent of the outage.

That leaves Google a bare 0.1% of a month for glitches, which is only about 45 minutes -- a limit exceeded Tuesday.

According to Google's website, Gmail had a "service disruption" Monday as well.

Google has kept its major outages relatively rare. Gmail went down for more than two hours in February and about the same length of time in August 2008. In May, the search engine was unavailable to many users for about an hour.

On a blog post that appeared on The Times' website, Google spokesman Andrew Kovacs left a comment apologizing for the situation.

"On behalf of Google I wanted to let everyone know that we're really sorry for the inconvenience and working to fix the problem as fast as we can," he wrote.

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david.sarno@latimes.com

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