Google apologizes for Gmail bug that shook 150,000 users

Google says it is "very sorry" for a Gmail software bug that reset some 150,000 accounts and left their owners contemplating the prospect of having lost years worth of data. The outage affected only a fraction of one per cent of Gmail users, but its severity was particularly noteworthy.

From a post last night on Google's Gmail blog: "I know what some of you are thinking: how could this happen if we have multiple copies of your data, in multiple data centers? Well, in some rare instances software bugs can affect several copies of the data. That's what happened here. Some copies of mail were deleted, and we've been hard at work over the last 30 hours getting it back for the people affected by this issue."

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The issue left Google engineers scrambling to access backup tapes. More from that blog post: "To protect your information from these unusual bugs, we also back it up to tape. Since the tapes are offline, they're protected from such software bugs. But restoring data from them also takes longer than transferring your requests to another data center, which is why it's taken us hours to get the e-mail back instead of milliseconds."

While there have been no subsequent updates to the Gmail blog or the Gmail team's Twitter account, Google's Apps Status Dashboard is showing "no issues" with Gmail at the moment.

In January, as part of an announcement tightening its service level agreement standards, Google reported that Gmail had a 99.984 per cent uptime rate in 2010 for both business and consumer users.

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Paul McNamara

Network World
Topics: unified communications, Gmail, E-mail services, Google, Networking
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