Outages: Is GMail the new Twitter?

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    GMail's Fail Whale?
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Where do you go when GMail goes down, as it did again this morning?

For many, it's straight to Twitter to lament the latest #gfail.

But a far more productive and informative place to head is Google's Apps Status page. It's sort of like one of those fire alarm annunciator boxes in schools and commercial buildings, or a more specific version of the infinitely useful Down for everyone or just me. There, Googlers keep concerned users abreast of any problems the various Google sites may be experiencing.

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This morning's outage affected what Google says is a small percentage of users (hey, this writer's inbox stayed afloat) and was resolved just before 1:00 p.m.

We've written before about GMail's unscheduled downtime, wondering if the outages are getting worse. Chris Dawson over at ZDNet Education asks if we shouldn't all just adjust our expectations for the free (or nearly free, for businesses) email service:

I’m not saying we should lower the bar and, obviously if this becomes a chronic problem, then other cloud-based solutions will start looking mighty attractive. However, for a service that is free (or low-cost for businesses) and offers serious collaboration tools beyond email, I find it isn’t too hard to bide my time when we hit a service disruption.

What's easy to forget when staring at a "503 Error" is how far free Web-based email has come. Remember when GMail was the cat's pajamas? When it debuted, its 1 GB of storage so dwarfed its competitors that geeks everywhere were crawling all over themselves to get an invitation. And it hasn't stopped innovating. In addition to increasing each user's available inbox size seven fold (take that, corporate email), GMail has added bunches of features – attachment reminder, mobile access, chat, and, um, "mail goggles" all spring to mind.

But all has not been rosy. The GMail outages are only one problem Google users are encountering these days. Earlier this week newshounds reacted with shock (and misplaced fear of zombies) as Google News went down for almost two hours. And more recently, some GMail users are lamenting loss of contacts (the address book kind, smartypants), a much more serious problem.

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What's your take? Should we all just get over GMail's outages? Would you pay for guaranteed 100-percent-uptime email? Leave a comment or catch up with us on Twitter.

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