Google Gmail outage compensation: $2.05 per user

Affected Google Apps Premier customers get 15 days of free service for the 2.5-hour outage, the equivalent of $2.05 per Gmail user.

Stephen Shankland principal writer
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Stephen Shankland
2 min read

If your business used Gmail and the service went out for two and a half hours, do you think you lost $2.05 per user in productivity?

That's the monetary equivalent of what Google offered to compensate Google Apps Premier Edition customers after Gmail was unavailable for about two and a half hours on Tuesday. And it was being generous: All it had to offer was the equivalent of 41 cents per user.

CNET Networks / Josh Lowensohn

For customers who pay the $50 per user per year price for the Google Apps service, Google strives to keep it up and running 99.9 percent of the time each month. According to the Google Apps service level agreement (SLA), Google promises three extra days of service if availability slips down to the 99 to 99.9 percent range.

According to a Gmail outage blog posting by Gmail site reliability manager Acacio Cruz, the outage lasted "approximately two and a half hours." By my math, assuming there were no other outages in February, that means uptime of 99.63 percent for the month.

However, Google decided to extend affected customers' service more than the 3 days the SLA required. "Given the extent of the outage and as a gesture of goodwill, we are extending their service for 15-days," spokesman Andrew Kovacs said in a statement. Ordinarily the service has to slip below 95 percent uptime to provide a 15-day extension.

So how does that math work out exactly? Well, at $50 a year, Google charges a rate of 0.57 cents per hour. So a three-day extension is the equivalent of 41 cents of revenue per user, and a 15-day extension is worth $2.05.

Before you judge, bear in mind some of the factors at play--how essential e-mail is to a company, how common Gmail outages actually are, the time of day of the outage, whether e-mail was available through other software such as Outlook even though Gmail's Web interface was down. And another relevant comparison is how reliable your own company's e-mail servers are. You're in effect valuing your employees' e-mail productivity lower than Google does if you have worse uptime than Gmail.

However, whenever Google is apologizing for outages, the company takes pains to mention it feels the pain acutely given how the company uses Gmail internally. My suspicion is that the company values its employees' time a bit more highly than what it grants Google Apps Premier customers.

Google also offered an explanation of what happened on another blog post.

"This morning, there was a routine maintenance event in one of our European data centers. This typically causes no disruption because accounts are simply served out of another data center," Cruz said. "Unexpected side effects of some new code that tries to keep data geographically close to its owner caused another data center in Europe to become overloaded, and that caused cascading problems from one data center to another. It took us about an hour to get it all back under control."