Gmail activation problem in Apps finally solved

Google has finally solved a problem that kept recent subscribers to its Apps suite from accessing their new Gmail accounts.

The problem struck last Friday evening, causing a delay in activating the Gmail service for end-users in newly created Apps accounts.

Google acknowledged the problem on Monday and later said it would have the issue resolved by Tuesday at 3 p.m. Eastern Time.

By Tuesday afternoon, Google had started fixing affected domains, but the work wasn't completed until more than a day later, at around 9 p.m. on Wednesday.

"The problem with the Mail service should be resolved. We apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience and continued support. Please rest assured that system reliability is a top priority

at Google, and we are making continuous improvements to make our systems better," a Google representative said on the official Google Apps discussion forum on Wednesday evening.

On Tuesday, a Google spokesman said in an interview that after an organization completes the process to transfer its domain to Apps, it typically takes about 48 hours for its end-users' Gmail accounts to turn on.

However, for accounts created since around late Friday evening, the activation process took longer due to a Google glitch that slowed down the DNS (Domain Name System) propagation process, he said.

Ron Goodwyne, who runs IT services provider company Affordable IT Guy with his wife in Charleston, South Carolina, had just set up Google Apps for a client on Friday when the bug arose.

Of his client's 10 users, five were affected. Two of them finally gained access to Gmail during the day Wednesday, and the others at some point overnight, he said in a phone interview.

"That was the first time I'd ever seen that happen with Google Apps, and I became rather frantic," said Goodwyne, who has set up Apps for 15 or 20 other clients.

In his experience, users gain access to Gmail within hours of completing the setup process. Only once did a client have to wait a day, he said.

With this incident, the affected users went between four and five days without access to Gmail. "The client was pretty frustrated. It's a business that's heavily dependent on e-mail," Goodwyne said.

If the problem had lasted until Friday, he would have reverted the accounts back to their previous e-mail provider.

While the problem itself was frustrating, what made it worse for Goodwyne was what he perceived as very poor and slow communication from Google about the problem, its causes and estimated solution time.

Although Google Apps administrators began reporting the trouble in the official discussion forum for the hosted collaboration and communications application suite on Friday and throughout the weekend, Google's first acknowledgement came a little before noon on Monday.

In that posting, however, the Google representative only said the company was "looking into this issue" and asked administrators to post their domains so Google could investigate further.

Google's next communication came more than 24 hours later, at around 1 p.m. Tuesday, when it did acknowledge the problem was with its own systems and gave the original estimated resolution time.

"My confidence in Google has definitely suffered. It's hard to quantify how much. I'm certainly not prepared to go and move everyone off of Apps. My biggest frustration wasn't so much that the problem existed but that you couldn't get any information for three or four days," Goodwyne said.

It makes a big difference for Apps administrators, whether they are outside consultants like Goodwyne or in-house IT staff, to be able to tell their clients or end-users what the problem is, what Google is doing to fix it and when it might be solved.

"You might not have the happiest customer in the world, but you have him placated at least for the time being. But when all you can do is go in and say, 'there's a problem and I have no idea when it will be fixed,' that's a pretty uncomfortable situation to be in," he said.

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Juan Carlos Perez

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