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Outage Knocks Gmail Offline For Many Users 209

Posted by timothy
from the blissfully-sleeping-through-it dept.
Many readers noted an outage affecting Google's gmail service last night. Firmafest points to a statement from Google, according to which only a small subset of users were affected. According to reader CaptHarlock, mail itself remained accessible through IMAP clients, and the chat feature via external applications. jw3 asks "Of course, gmail is just one of the many providers of web-based e-mails. When I look around, almost everyone seems to be using them nowadays. So — what do you do? Do you trust that the site of your web-based e-mail provider will never go down? Do you make backups of all your e-mails?" (Some readers still seem to be unable to reach the site, too.)
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Outage Knocks Gmail Offline For Many Users

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  • Ma.gnolia! (Score:5, Funny)

    by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @10:50AM (#26969339) Homepage Journal

    I never worried about backups. Then I watched this video [citizengarden.com] and now I back up everything. For all I know this "Google" company is a couple seventeen year olds with an old 386sx in their mom's basement. I like their stuff but I can't depend on them to know how to protect my data.

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [nhojovadle]> on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @10:50AM (#26969341) Journal
    Use Thunderbird [mozilla.com] with GMail [mozillazine.org] and configure it so that every time there's a new message it is synced to your local hard drive but also left on the server (IMAP probably though I think the same can be done with POP).

    My linux box at home has been doing this for years, I just leave Thunderbird open and set my monitor to sleep after 15 minutes of inactivity. I don't care if my GMail and college mail accounts temporarily go down, it's all mirrored on that machine.

    Anti-Microsoft zealot bonus rant: I stopped using Hotmail when I realized I could not access it outside of Outlook Express ... I'm aware of ways [freepops.org] around [izymail.com] this but there's a simpler solution: don't use Hotmail. This and the fact that (last I checked) it didn't support forwarding are two very good reasons to move on to a free mail service more dedicated to you. The choice is yours.
    • by zappepcs (820751)

      I'm setting this up at home for the family. Do you know if deleted messages in Thunderbird can by sync'd to Google so that only a single delete is needed?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by 4D6963 (933028)
        Yes, it's in the server/mail options. It's easy to find.
        • by eldavojohn (898314) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [nhojovadle]> on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @11:07AM (#26969569) Journal
          Actually, I think what he's wants it to do is delete it but not move it to the trash (delete it permanently which I think means they have to compact the folder it's in). Note: I'm not an expert on IMAP. I don't believe this is possible [mozillazine.org] although I'm not sure why this would be a problem. From that support link it seems that you can only mark it was deleted and it will be deleted when the folder it is in is compacted. However, it adds:

          Shift+Delete deletes the message without copying it to the trash folder, and is also supposed to compact the folder (if you have that preference set). However, some users report that Shift+Delete doesn't always compact the folder.

          That link has something on why what he's asking for isn't possible:

          Remove it immediately

          "Remove it immediately" doesn't actually remove the message despite its name. It just hides it from view and flags the message as deleted. That appears to be because Thunderbird doesn't support the optional UID Expunge command, which requires the server to support the optional UIDPLUS capability. It will be physically deleted when you compact the folder.

          Although that page was last touched on Oct 2008 they may have added that functionality, I'm not sure ... but it may frustrate users to add that feature when the server doesn't support UIDPLUS. Like I said, not an expert though I think this may actually not be possible.

      • use IMAP, duh
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      I do this myself. One thing I like though is to pull in other e-mail accounts and have everything just appear in my inbox without having to have Thunderbird open all the time to automatically check. So in addition, my setup uses fetchmail [berlios.de].

    • by Elledan (582730) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @11:05AM (#26969559) Homepage
      Yup, I just use Hotmail for registrations and such which I'm sure may result in spam and other unwanted messages. It's a serious pain to know whether you have got new messages (I don't use MSN), so I hardly use it. GMail's IMAP function on the other hand is perfect. It really elevates this email service from Yet Another Web-Based Email to something that is actually usable and integrates well with my normal work flow.

      Great job, Google.
      • by D Ninja (825055) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @12:49PM (#26971149)

        You don't even need to use Hotmail for spam anymore. Instead, you can use GMail's (+) feature. So...when signing up on a site, type something like...

        your.email+spam@gmail.com

        Put whatever you want after the + sign. It will still route directly to your inbox. Then, just setup a filter to put anything with "+spam" to the spam folder or the trash or wherever.

        It's a beautiful thing.

        • by vux984 (928602) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @01:53PM (#26972371)

          Put whatever you want after the + sign. It will still route directly to your inbox. Then, just setup a filter to put anything with "+spam" to the spam folder or the trash or wherever.

          Yes, that's why when I see an x+y@gmail.com address in my zombie net I just strip off the +y.

          It's a beautiful thing.

          If by beautiful you mean trivial for spammers or anyone else who knows the first thing about google to get around, then yes.

          • by Kijori (897770)

            You can also use spam.yourname@gmail.com, which isn't trivial to bypass because lots of gmail usernames already have dots in them.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Fëanáro (130986)

          The TO-header can and often will be set to anything by the spammers

          So a lot of the spam that you get which does not contain your email address at all might have been sent to the x+spam@gmail.com alias

          The envelope-to header is the one that cannot be forged, but gmail does not allow you to filter based on it.

    • by Admodieus (918728) <john AT misczak DOT net> on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @11:07AM (#26969567)
      Hotmail now has free POP3 to any client and supports forwarding to any address. It does still lack IMAP though.
      • by Thaelon (250687)

        Last time I used it, it also send you advertisements from MS/Hotmail that you couldn't mark as spam, couldn't block the send for, and could not otherwise game the system to block. Basically you were being forced to accept spam from your mail provider.

        Also, they'll close your account after a a few months activity, and you have to jump through hoops to get back in.

        So I used my ISP's mail until gmail came along, and I never looked back.

        I should probably setup Thunderbird to mirror my gmail though. Can anyone

      • Be careful with this, though, because a lot of places you wouldn't expect don't support the + sign. For example, when I had to renew my SSL cert after the debian ssl debacle, I had a problem: the email I used was me+thawte@gmail.com. Thawte has no problem sending junk email to this address, and they accepted it just fine when I initially accepted the cert, but when I went to renew the it, their system was silently dropping the plus and throwing an error when I tried to confirm the reissue.

        Their technic
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by vally_manea (911530)
      I have a different way. I set up a dovecot & fetchmail for GMAIL and I can still access my email online from wherever I go.
    • I find the windows live mail desktop application does a good job of holding a local copy of my hot mail account. So does my WinMo cell phone (for the last 50 messages).
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by spyrochaete (707033)

      I do what you do, but I recently switched from Thunderbird to Windows Live Mail (a free, better Microsoft mail client than the lame Windows Mail which comes with Vista). Thunderbird is an exceptional mail client that does a great job of handling multiple addresses, but the only thing Windows Live Mail does better is that it allows mail to be indexed and searched from the Vista start button.

      BTW I use POP3 but configured Gmail to automatically keep a copy of each mail in its archives. I'm doubly protected t

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by xaxa (988988)

        Thunderbird is an exceptional mail client that does a great job of handling multiple addresses, but the only thing Windows Live Mail does better is that it allows mail to be indexed and searched from the Vista start button.

        Why not? If it's because no one has implemented this in Thunderbird yet, fair enough. If it's because the APIs aren't available, then this is precisely the kind of thing the EU told Microsoft they weren't allowed to do.

        • by AndrewNeo (979708)
          I was reading around on the MSDN, and it looks like Windows 7 is already set to provide search handlers for applications that want to use it, so hopefully we'll see a round of upgrades for Firefox and Thunderbird with Win7.
        • I don't know whose fault it is that Thunderbird doesn't take advantage of Vista's native search, but I wouldn't be surprised if the fault was Microsoft's (due to monopoly tactics) or Mozilla's (due to Thunderbird being so stagnant). All I know is that Windows Live Mail is a really fantastic mail client so I don't see any reason to switch back to the ageing Thunderbird.

          By the way, you can use a third-party search solution like Google Desktop or Copernic Desktop to search-enable Thunderbird mail, and Microso

    • by SkyDude (919251) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @12:27PM (#26970731)

      Use Thunderbird [mozilla.com] with GMail [mozillazine.org] and configure it so that every time there's a new message it is synced to your local hard drive but also left on the server (IMAP probably though I think the same can be done with POP).

      Stole my thunder you did. Great minds do think alike.I have a similar arrangement, and I use the POP/SMTP settings rather than IMAP. Gmail is my email aggregator, mostly because it's so damn convenient.

      I've never lost sight of the fact that it's a free service, and I can't depend on it for mission critical needs. But as free services go, it's definitely the best out there.

      When cleaning is needed, I just clear out the Gmail inbox in one swoop, knowing that my HD has everything on it. I occasionally use Gmail as an offsite backup for files, or as a way to transfer files between machines. In many wasy, Gmail is something of a Swiss army knife.

    • Works fine with other POP/IMAP clients, too ;-)

  • Do you trust that the site of your web-based e-mail provider will never go down? Do you make backups of all your e-mails?

    Or do you just not place all of your trust in GMail and do it all yourself? It's more customisable, more unique and more individual, amongst other things.

    • by pimpimpim (811140)
      I was there when there was free webspace and free urls by "big names" around 95. I forgot the names(!), but I do remember how I had to fight pop-ups that were introduced along the way, or urls that were impossible to use after a year, because they were not your property. I lost several webpages in cyberspace there.

      So I have now my own, paid, virtual server for my url, pages, my e-mail that are not mailing lists, etc. That is still not the holy grail, though: my virtual server provider, one of the bigger o

  • Never go down? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by onion2k (203094) * on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @10:55AM (#26969417) Homepage

    Do you trust that the site of your web-based e-mail provider will never go down?

    100% uptime is possible, sure, but you're going to have to pay for it. It'll be horrifically expensive (thousands of dollars a month) because you'll need multiple levels of redunancy across your MTA server(s), web server(s), and connectivity, in two or three locations.

    So, because that's a ridiculous expense for practically everyone, you should just chill out. A morning without your email isn't going to kill you. In fact, it might even be good for you. Take some time out. Go for a walk. Spend a few hours with your wife/kids/friends/dog.

    People are talking about this outage like it was the end of the world. It made the BBC news! I swear the entire world has lost all sense of perspective (except me, natch).

    (I was tempted to make a joke about email services being like girlfriends and how you don't need one that never goes down, but I thought that might be tacky. :) )

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Spazztastic (814296)

      So, because that's a ridiculous expense for practically everyone, you should just chill out. A morning without your email isn't going to kill you. In fact, it might even be good for you. Take some time out. Go for a walk. Spend a few hours with your wife/kids/friends/dog.

      You're oversimplifying things. Many people rely on Gmail to be their primary source of e-mail for their business. People host their domains on it for their companies. For some people a few hours means money lost. Sure, it's their own fault for relying on "the cloud," but when you get used to a level of service and it suddenly cuts out it can be a major impact.

      • Re:Never go down? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by aclarke (307017) <spam@clark e . ca> on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @11:22AM (#26969763) Homepage
        No, he's not oversimplifying things. If your business relies on email uptime, then rely on a system that will provide/guarantee that.

        I'm sure I'm not the only person here who has worked on systems where an hour of downtime meant many thousands of dollars of lost sales. If being down for 4 hours a month costs you $40,000 in lost sales and $12,000 in lost profits, then be willing to spend $12,000 per month more to get the extra 4 hours per month of uptime. If people rely on a free service without a sufficient SLA for this type of business, then they are being foolish.

        Personally I host my domains' emails through Google. You know what? I didn't even know it was down. And even if I did, I wouldn't have really cared that much. I would have done one of the many many many other things on my to-do list that don't require email access, and would have expected that if a client was trying to reach me that badly during that period, they'd have just picked up the phone and called.
        • Re:Never go down? (Score:5, Informative)

          by mmkkbb (816035) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @11:28AM (#26969837) Homepage Journal

          Google Apps for Domains HAS an uptime guarantee. This may not have been affected by the outage.

          99.9% uptime reliability guarantee

          We guarantee that Google Apps will be available at least 99.9% of the time, so your employees are more productive and so you can worry less about system downtime.*

          • by aclarke (307017)

            Google Apps for Domains HAS an uptime guarantee. This may not have been affected by the outage.

            That's a good point and maybe I should have been more clear. For reference, here's the Google Apps SLA [google.com].

            They will provide you up to 15 days of credit per month if you request it, depending on the downtime. In other words, this is nothing if you are a free user. They're going to provide you 15 days per month of extra free service? Additionally, in my post I mentioned a "sufficient SLA". For instance, if you

          • by Aladrin (926209)

            Google App Domains were affected by this. We were unable to access our mail via web at our office. We actually wouldn't have noticed, but we were having a little (unrelated) emergency of our own and had to check mail from home for a change.

      • Re:Never go down? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by commodore64_love (1445365) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @11:29AM (#26969843) Journal

        >>>Many people rely on Gmail to be their primary source of e-mail for their business.

        Yes, and many people rely on local mail exchanges, which in my experience fail at least once a week. ("Sorry cannot send email at this time. Server connection lost.") If Gmail only fails once every five years, it's still a better choice in my opinion than the current locally-provided email service.

      • by slim (1652)

        Did you know that you can pay Google money for Google Apps for Business? $50 per account per year guarantees you 99.9% uptime.

        That said, I bet todays outage for free accounts was less than 0.1% of a year (which would be a tad under 9 hours).

      • by MightyYar (622222)

        Many people rely on Gmail to be their primary source of e-mail for their business.

        If that is the case, then they need the thousands of dollars per month solution that the parent referred to. You need multiple physical connections from multiple providers, because you can't get your email if your data connection is bad. You'll also need backup power, since if a car runs into the poll out front none of your PCs will work at all.

        Of course, for most businesses, the loss of email connectivity for a few hours may cost some money but it would still be cheaper than paying all that money for a bul

    • by dotancohen (1015143) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @11:48AM (#26970119) Homepage

      Spend a few hours with your wife/kids/friends/dog.

      For those who's wife's kid's friend doesn't have a dog, you can browse some porn.

    • by SkyDude (919251)

      So, because that's a ridiculous expense for practically everyone, you should just chill out. A morning without your email isn't going to kill you. In fact, it might even be good for you. Take some time out. Go for a walk. Spend a few hours with your wife/kids/friends/dog.

      You must be new here or else an insensitive clod.

      My gawd, two /. cliches in one sentence!!

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      That's a very old "blonde" joke and it goes like this:

      How is a blond like a computer? You don't really appreciate one untill it goes down on you.

      Here's another blonde computer joke:

      How can you tell if a blond has been using your computer? There's whiteout on the screen.

    • by kabocox (199019)

      (I was tempted to make a joke about email services being like girlfriends and how you don't need one that never goes down, but I thought that might be tacky. :) )

      Um, I don't know about you, but my spouse does go down fairly often. Say about twice a week. Now my e-mail provider may have what an hour or two down time through out the year. I don't think that I'd compare the two at all.

  • I know all of you won't hesitate to state the obvious, but I've become sort of reliant on Google Docs.

    I conduct personal business using it. I have PDFs up there that I only back up to DVD.

    Gmail is fine, but if Google Docs had an extended loss of service, I would have to drive 100 miles and go fish out DVDs to restore the docs - and some docs I only have there, and maybe my HD.

    The fact that Google Docs won't let me put my files up there in AXCrypt format bothers me. If there was another online stora
    • by edmicman (830206)

      You could always pay for hosting, and store your encrypted files on an FTP site, right?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Spazztastic (814296)

        You could always pay for hosting, and store your encrypted files on an FTP site, right?

        This. $10 a month and I can have an off site backup. $20 a month and I can have TWO off site backups for my personal data, all encrypted using GnuPG/Trucrypt/whatever both on separate continents. Stop using the "GOOGLE IS MY ONLY OPTION" excuse, there's plenty of other ways to back up your data.

        Personally, I use SSHFS and all my files are stored on my home server. Nightly they're archived, encrypted. and shot off to a datacenter in Chicago. It costs me $20 a month for the bandwidth and storage, and it's all

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by dotancohen (1015143)

          You could always pay for hosting, and store your encrypted files on an FTP site, right?

          This. $10 a month and I can have an off site backup. $20 a month and I can have TWO off site backups for my personal data, all encrypted using GnuPG/Trucrypt/whatever both on separate continents. Stop using the "GOOGLE IS MY ONLY OPTION" excuse, there's plenty of other ways to back up your data.

          Personally, I use SSHFS and all my files are stored on my home server. Nightly they're archived, encrypted. and shot off to a datacenter in Chicago. It costs me $20 a month for the bandwidth and storage, and it's all encrypted.

          I do that with Amazon S3. The data is backed up in two locations (US and Europe). It costs me 0.83 USD last month.

        • My solution is even simpler. I don't have any emails that are so important that losing them would be a show stopper.
          Cost per month - nothing.
          Technical knowledge needed - none.
          How do I sleep at night - soundly.
    • by Admodieus (918728)
      Can I ask why you don't keep any sort of local backups? Even if you work on thousands of documents, surely you could download a few of the most recent or important ones to ensure continuity should Google Docs become unavailable?
    • by MPAB (1074440)

      Back up to USB memory and carry it along. Some of them take less wallet space than a coin.

  • by theaceoffire (1053556) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @10:59AM (#26969469) Homepage
    I turned on the "Offline Gmail" feature in the lab...

    Did it for the extra speed increase of having all my mail/attachments pre-downloaded, but this also means that I still had access to everything in my account prior to the outage.

    So instead of loosing my email, I just had a delay in getting *new* emails.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by AKAImBatman (238306) *

      ^Win.

      Welcome to the new web, where there are solutions for age-old problems like downtime. ;-)

      I was also affected, but it was past my bedtime anyway so I didn't worry too much about it. As long as there's not an extended outage, I'll be fine.

    • Grammar Nazi here :-)

      Loose? lose? - please look them up. This grates my poor old mind, much like "should of", instead of "should have", or "I could give a damn, instead of "I couldn't give a damn" - Bah.

      USAGE The word loose is sometimes confused with lose; as a verb loose means unfasten or set free, while lose means cease to have or become unable to find. It is therefore incorrect to say this would cause them to loose 20 percent, the correct version being to lose 20 per cent.

      Sorry :-/

    • by aclarke (307017)
      loose [reference.com]
      lose [reference.com]
    • by jopsen (885607)
      So did I... and it worked fine... I even wrote an email during the outage... And it was send now that gmail's up again...
      that said I wish GMail had a native client instead... Thunderbird or Evolution just doesn't cut it for me... They remind me way too much of my dad, who uses Outlook...
      Perhaps I ought to write a serious python frontend for GMail... With storage backend, and webmail-like GTK interface...
  • by trmanco (1344269) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @11:01AM (#26969505) Homepage

    I always had access to my emails, just:

    Enable IMAP:

    http://mail.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?answer=77695 [google.com]

    and configure your email client:

    http://mail.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?answer=75726 [google.com]

    No Gmail fail for me...

  • small subset? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by imbaczek (690596) <imbaczek&poczta,fm> on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @11:03AM (#26969529) Journal
    apparently half of europe is a small subset of their users, way to go!
  • I see a lot of people here complaining about a non-issue. Google offers offline access for Gmail, Google Docs and several other services. Simple go to settings>labs>offline access in Gmail and enable. It's simple and free.

  • by PPH (736903) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @11:10AM (#26969605)

    ... no actual users were harmed during this incident.

    Following the cracking of GMail's Captchas and the amount of spam I've seen with a GMail address, I'm guessing that the only things that were knocked off like were bots.

    • parent is funny, but should be modded insightful.

    • by Inda (580031)
      I haven't noticed yet.

      If the family have sent me emails, they'll wait.

      If Blockbusters, Ebay, PayPal, My Bank, Slashdot Mods, BBC, subscribed newsletters, and the rest have sent me email, I'm sure it'll wait.

      If a long lost friend has tracked me down and sent me an email, he'll wait.

      If any of the 200 spam vendors have sent me email, they'll get the same long wait as usual.

      Since when did _personal_ email become so important that I need it 24/7? If any one is using gmail for business then they're a fucking donk
  • The gmail labs offline option is great, but it doesn't back up all of your mail; only several thousand messages. 95% of the time, that will leave you with what you need offline.

    Of course, it's that remaining 5% of the time...

  • My main computer still uses POP to download everything. In the others I use IMAP.
  • For about an hour last night I couldn't access anybody except Google and a handful of sites, apparently at random. I could ping the DNS servers but could not reach most sites. I restarted the DSL modem, my Netgear router, and my machines - no effect. Came back as suddenly as it disappeared.

  • by kellyb9 (954229) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @11:16AM (#26969695)
    Come on guys? what do you expect, it's still in beta testing.
    • I'm curious if any of the paying customers, non-beta, were affected. Not curious enough to RTFA though.

  • by slim (1652) <john@ha[ ]up.net ['rtn' in gap]> on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @11:26AM (#26969813) Homepage

    "Do you trust that the site of your web-based e-mail provider will never go down?"

    No, you trust that it'll never go down *for long*, and that when it comes back, your data will still be there.

    Over the years, GMail has had way better uptime than anything I could have constructed myself, and the cost to me has been negligible.

  • by dotancohen (1015143) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @11:43AM (#26970049) Homepage

    ...don't go down.

    • Since you seem to know so much about it, why don't you start a web based email service. Then attract millions of users worldwide and then guarantee 100% uptime. That should be easy for a nice guy like you. Right?
  • by EddyPearson (901263) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @11:49AM (#26970137) Homepage

    I am a business customer of Google's. We use their apps and e-mail package.

    "99.9% Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Talk uptime SLA"

    The service was down for over 45 minutes, how do you think google will react to a refund request? I'm probably not going to make one, but do you think many people are? Has anybody here? How did it go?

  • I've been locked out of my gMail account for two weeks, and nothing I do will get it back. Google thinks the account belongs to someone else and that I've hacked into it. You'd think that the fact that I haven't written of opened any emails in it since I started trying to get access back might clue them in.

    Come to think of it, I'd better change my slashdot default email.

  • I gave the Imap access a shot with Kmail and although it worked pretty decently, I'm actually happier with the Pop3 access for the simple reason that I've got a local copy of the message on my system. As to whether I want Gmail to delete anything, hell no it's very nice to know that I have copies of all my gmails and can download everything again should I have a system failure on my end.

    • by RGRistroph (86936)

      Imap access can also allow you to keep a local copy of all emails, in fact that's the way it is most often set up.

      I prefer to set up imap, but that's because in my case I control the server, and keeping the mail on the server in one big spool file (which is how most pop servers do it) gets slow and clumsy. Keeping it in Maildir format is better. Of course you can provide pop access regardless of how the mail is stored, with courier or any other modern server. I would immagine that gmail uses custom code

  • by ReadParse (38517) <.john. .at. .funnycow.com.> on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @02:53PM (#26973299) Homepage

    Gotta get people using it somehow :)

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