Update: Google Gmail outage leaves thousands of users without e-mail

Google engineers say they're working to fix the problem; some accounts back

Tens of thousands of Google's Gmail users woke up Sunday morning to missing e-mails, contacts and chat histories.

Google engineers noted on the Apps Status Dashboard at 10:40 p.m. EST Sunday night that e-mail services were restored to "some" users and that they expect to fix the problem for everyone in the "near future." They were not, however, specific regarding how many users had their Gmail services restored and how soon everyone else should expect to get their services back.

A Google spokesman told Computerworld Monday afternoon that the company's estimate of the number of users affected by the outage has dropped from Sunday's figure of 0.08% to 0.02%. That brings the number of affected users down to about 35,000, as opposed to earlier reports of 150,000.

The spokesman also said Google engineers have restored service to about a third of those affected and hope to have everyone else up and running in about 12 hours.

Rumors circulating on the Internet said a hack was responsible for the outage. The Google spokesman called those reports "completely false" adding, "I can say absolutely that it was something on our end."

He noted that Google may release a short report Tuesday explaining what caused the outage.

One user looking for help on Google's Help Forum wrote, "Don't scare me I have 4 years worth of eMail on that!!!!!!!!"

While many users complained that they were missing key parts of their Gmail service, which includes e-mail, chats, contacts, folders and settings, some reported that their accounts seemed to have been reset so they appeared to be brand new.

Google first acknowledged the problem on its Apps Status Dashboard Sunday at 3:09 p.m. EST. Several hours later, Google engineers reported that the issue was affecting less than 0.08% of its Gmail users.

Then, at 8:02 p.m., engineers noted, "Google engineers are working to restore full access. Affected users may be temporarily unable to sign in while we repair their accounts."

This kind of outage could very well affect Google and its efforts to work its way into the enterprise market .

"This will slow their momentum in selling Gmail into enterprises," said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst at Technology Business Research. "I don't think it will much affect the cloud, in general, except to give every competitor an opportunity to explain why it couldn't happen to them."

Gottheil added that the episode will add to executives' fears about trusting their critical e-mail to the cloud.

"While I believe most other e-mail systems have outages, this cuts to the heart of enterprises' fear about cloud solutions," Gottheil said. "A difficult on-premise problem feels more controllable than a remote one."

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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