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Latest Google Apps outage brings down Gmail (for some)

The latest in a series of Google Apps outages affected the company's Web e-mail service, keeping many from being able to do business.

A server bug kept some Google Apps users from accessing their Google-hosted Web mail on Tuesday. The problem has since been fixed, but for a small segment of users the outage lasted for close to 22 hours.

A Google spokesperson told CNET News that the outage began sometime around 2 a.m. PST on Tuesday, and that service was restored for "nearly all affected users" within 30 minutes. For remaining accounts, the issue appeared to have been sorted out shortly after 12 a.m. PST on Wednesday.

Google has not gotten into specifics about what went wrong, but from the Google Apps help forum it seems as though most of the affected users were running on the secure version of the mail client which takes advantage of https. This level of security encrypts data coming to and from the user's machine. One workaround for affected users was to suspend their account, then re-initialize it, while switching back to the unencrypted version, however this method did not work for all account holders.

Google has apologized for the outage and says it takes "issues like this very seriously." For customers of Google Apps Premier Edition that could mean another compensated service extension like the one they got for last month's system-wide two-hour outage. According to the Google Apps service level agreement, Google has to give extra days of service when a service becomes unavailable less than the 99.9 percent range that's promised. For users who experienced off-time beyond Google's stated 30-minute mark, this brings them into that territory.

Staunch critics of Google's online office offerings may find this as another reason to be wary of relying too heavily on cloud-based business tools. While they can be cheaper and easier to roll-out than traditional IT solutions, an increasingly valid fear is uncontrollable downtime.

See also: Worst Web glitches of 2008.