Remember the Great BlackBerry Email Debacle of 2007? Yesterday's unexpected Gmail outage wasn't on quite the same scale, but if your business relies on Google's uptime to manage email, there were no doubt some tense moments around the water cooler. Was this a wake-up call for your company? Did it make you start thinking of Plan B, in the event your Gmail account ever goes around the bend and doesn't come back? Me too. Let's talk.

According to the official blog post, a temporary outage in Gmail's contact system prevented email from loading properly. Although the team already fixed the issue, they are "conducting a full review of what went wrong and moving quickly to update our internal systems and procedures accordingly." No data was lost, and downtime was minimal. All things considered, the outage was little more than a minor inconvenience for most people, though it could have been much worse.

If you're a Google Apps Premier Edition customer, then you're paying for a 99.9% uptime guarantee, but don't get complacent. As the Gmail Service Level Agreement (SLA) points out, it's not a promise you'll be able to access your email 99.9% of the time, only that Google will issue you service credits if you can't. Furthermore, they've also included verbiage that absolves Google from the agreement for performance issues "caused by factors outside of Google’s reasonable control."

That's fair enough, but don't assume a behemoth like Google can't be brought to its knees by random acts of strangeness when Web sites like Slashdot, RackSpace, Mobile Me have their share of unexpected down time.

If Gmail keeps your business' wheels turning, then you can't afford to cross your fingers and just hope nothing ever happens that will lop off large chunks of email you've archived or saved. The number one thing you can do to protect your data is back it up. If you use Gmail, it's a dead simple process. Just download it locally every day, then include it in your company's nightly off-site backup routine. You do have an off-site backup routine, right?

If it's not archives, but incoming mail you're panicked about missing, then consider ways to build email redundancy into your infrastructure. Any commercial email platform vendor worth its salt will have triple-secure systems in place to make sure your mail is never lost or misdirected. Sure, a service like Atmail or SureMail comes with a price tag whereas Gmail is free, but, hey, Gmail is also still a beta product. Do you want to trust your company's most vital communication tool to something that's still under development?

I'm not knocking Gmail, I've been a loyal and happy customer for years and years. Outages like yesterday's inconvenienced me, but I can weather them. If your business can't, make sure you have a Plan B in place -- before you need it.

Was your business affected by yesterday's Gmail outage?

About the Author
Member Avatar Lisa Hoover Junior Poster

I have an unhealthy love of computers, software, and Web 2.0 apps. I probably need an intervention, but please wait until I finish catching up on my RSS feeds... took me sometime to realise what was going on but I still trust gmail with my emails because such things happen very rarely with google.