2 September 2009
Yesterday Gmail experienced a major outage. I couldn’t get to my mail for over an hour and a half, it was not pretty. Mary found that the Luther Seminary “corporate” Gmail was down as well. Yikes!
Within a few hours Google had posted a very informative mea culpa on their Gmail blog. It was remarkable in its directness (yes, we had a big problem, we apologize) and in its informativeness (here’s what went wrong, here’s what we learned).
I remember trying to convince the technical staff at the libraries, back when I ran that tech shop, that direct communication with our customers (our librarians and even patrons) after failures would be helpful. I was tired of messages that just said things like “catalog server down” and “catalog server back up”. We were depending on these services and I thought our customers deserved to know what had gone wrong and what we learned. It was like pulling teeth to even get such reports distributed on a timely basis internally, something we did eventually accomplish.
It is great to see a company as big as Google putting a priority on communicating with customers. This message was probably too technical for most and not detailed enough for the rest, but it does convey clearly that Google recognized the problem and was working to see it never recurs. That is a reassuring message for those of us depending on Gmail, and a great model for those of us that run mission critical services.