14 August 2008

Gmail Outage

Apparently Gmail went down for a while on Monday, starting at 2PM PDT, and was down for a few hours. I hadn't the slightest idea. I find it interesting that many people complained and were mortified that the service went down. Gmail is, after all, a free service (paid for via advertising), and there are numerous alternatives. I remember reading about a prominent professional blogger who felt that her job came to a skreching halt as soon as Gmail went down, and repeatedly swore never to use the service again.

It strikes me as a very odd decision to pull a freely available service into a critical position in your work flow. Kind of like deciding to depend on a free ride to make it to the airport. Mission critical parts of your job should be the kind that have redundant backups and support contracts; if your job depends on it working, then you had better have a way to make it work if it's not. Email accounts (with maintenance contracts and much more storage space than offered by Gmail!) are cheap and easy to find. Remember the immortal words of Robert Heinlein: TANSTAFL: There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.

Gmail is a great service -- I use it every day -- but I get the impression that many people use it as a kind of email aggregator; they have multiple work-related email addresses filtering into Gmail, and then use the Gmail spam-detection software and filtering software to process the email. A great idea at the outset, but the critical path for the workflow is going through a component over which you have little, if any, control.

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