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Gmail outage highlights cloud risks

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For organizations harboring doubts about moving critical applications to the cloud, an outage of Google Apps and Gmail early this week may confirm their fears. Accounts for a small percentage of Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) users--reportedly about 35,000 to 40,000 users--went down Sunday, leaving empty email archives and returned messages. If nothing else, the incident highlights the need for contingency plans when using cloud services. 

The account problems were caused by a bug in a storage software update, which affected multiple copies of emails, Google said in a blog post Monday. Google assured users that no data was lost permanently because copies were saved on good, old-fashioned tape, but it would take some time to restore them. 

A number of commenters noted that there's something a little ironic about a preeminent cloud services provider having to turn to physical tape to restore customer accounts. Fortune's Seth Weintraub put it the most succinctly: "Tapes?"

Google has touted Gmail as less expensive and more reliable than on-premise email systems, notes Michael Hickins at the Wall Street Journal. "For the many users who store all their email in the cloud--a sense of security for which is being promoted by the likes of Google, Amazon, Salesforce.com and other companies that offer Web-based services--this outage has created considerable panic in the ranks," he writes.

The episode illustrates that when you turn your data over to web-based service providers, you should be prepared for the worst. "If the worst ever does happen, and a free web service dumps your stuff permanently, the only response you can reasonably expect from these companies is 'Oops, sorry,' writes Ian Paul at PCWorld.

For more:
- see Google's blog post
- see Seth Weintraub's post at Fortune
- see Michael Hickins post at the Wall Street Journal
- see Ian Paul's post at PCWorld

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