The cloud has failed roughly 150,000 Gmail users, whose emails have been deleted and accounts disabled by a mysterious glitch.
Users on Google's help forum report that the Gmail bug responsible deletes everything, including emails, labels, folders, and settings. When affected users log on, they see a welcome message as if they've never used Gmail before. Other users simply found their accounts disabled while repairs are being done. According to Mashable, the bug affects less than 0.08 percent of users.
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It's not yet clear whether Google will be able to restore the deleted emails. Google hasn't addressed the issue on the official Gmail blog, and the Google Apps Status Dashboard only acknowledges an ongoing "service disruption." Eventually, Google will have to explain how this happened and what will become of affected users' accounts.
For everyone else, the lost emails are a reminder of how Web storage isn't completely immune to failure. If you rely on Gmail to safeguard emailed documents and important correspondences, consider backing up your account.
PCWorld's Ian Harac reviewed Gmail Backup in December and found it to be a functional, but feature-barren option. The software is free, but right now I can't access Gmail Backup's website. (Perhaps it's overwhelmed by demand.) Ian also recommended Gmail Keeper, which offers multiple profiles, scheduled backups, and account migration for a one-time price of $30.
If you're comfortable backing up Web-based email to another Web-based service, Backupify routinely saves Gmail accounts and other services such as Facebook and Picasa to its own servers. The first 2GB are free, and premium plans costs $5 per month for 20GB and $20 per month for unlimited storage.
The lost emails are reminiscent of a Hotmail server problem that temporarily deleted the emails of more than 17,000 users in December. Microsoft was able to restore access a few days later, so maybe there's hope for those unlucky Gmail users.