When Gmail crashed on Monday, affecting many organizations that depend on it for work e-mail via the Google Apps suite, widespread gnashing of teeth ensued.
At Alaska's APTI public TV and radio station, reporters working on deadline scrambled to gather information without e-mail as a tool.
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In the middle of an important press announcement, staffers at San Francisco Internet startup Kwiry sought alternate ways to stay in touch with contacts.
At Davidoff Communications , the outage hit less than 24 hours after the Chicago company's migration of its five users to Google Apps.
"Since we're only on day four of our implementation, let's just say if Apps were on my baseball team, it would be hitting at the bottom of the lineup," said Davidoff Systems Administrator Mitch Wilkos in an e-mail interview this week.
With its Apps hosted suite of communications and collaboration applications, Google is a leading proponent of software-as-a-service (SaaS), an emerging model of software delivery that backers say represents the future.
Because vendors host applications in their own datacenters, companies don't have to concern themselves with hardware provisioning and software maintenance. By living in the Internet "cloud," these hosted applications simplify sharing and collaboration among employees.
However, the experience of users living through the recent Google Apps outages could serve as a deterrent to some IT and business managers who might not be ready to ditch conventional software packages that are installed on their servers.
If a company relies on Google Apps for its e-mail, its IT and business managers have little to do when a Gmail outage hits them, and, with end-users demanding explanations, this waiting game can be a very stressful situation, as John Proffitt, IT services director at APTI, can attest.
"For me as the Google Apps administrator, the disruption was pretty damn irritating. Aside from getting kicked out of e-mail I need to do my own job, it also forced me to completely refocus on figuring out what's happening with Gmail and Google Apps," he said in an e-mail interview.
For the two hours that the outage lasted, Proffitt estimates that about 75 percent of the organization's approximately 40 employees were affected, some severely, including the journalists who make up about a quarter of the staff.
"It was constant troubleshooting, testing, research, posting to the Google Apps forums and so on. Plus there's the emotional strain of wondering whether you completely screwed up by moving everyone to Google Apps as our sole e-mail system. That's what freaked me out: Did Google just make me look like an idiot?" Proffitt added.
That's not a nice feeling to have, especially since Proffitt did his homework and took his time before deciding to move his end-users to Google Apps. He used the suite for about nine months himself "as a guinea pig" and then rolled it out to the entire organization six weeks ago.