Gmail Loses Data for Thousands of Users: What Happens When Your Web Service Goes Down?

Linda Sharps

Did your Gmail contacts, folders, and messages suddenly disappear yesterday? If you were one of the unlucky 120,000+ users who experienced the glitch, you're up a creek without a tech paddle until Google gets the problem squared away.

Engineers are working hard to resolve the issue, posting on their Apps Status Dashboard that they are attempting to restore full access. "Affected users may be temporarily unable to sign in while we repair their accounts," they added.

Google says that “less than 0.08%” of all Gmail users were affected by the bug—but that's a lot of people, and a hell of a nasty bug. Accounts were completely reset, and Google Calendar, Reader, and Documents cut off.

As more and more of us depend on web-based services, these kinds of outages aren't just inconvenient, they impact our lives in critical ways. Imagine if you lost everything from your email—what sorts of problems would that cause? Loss of time, business, revenue?

I was thinking about this recently when I read about a photographer who lost all 3,400 of his Flickr images after Flickr accidentally deleted his account. The company initially told him his photos couldn't be recovered, and offered a few years of free Pro hosting as an apology.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the guy (who had spent 5 years building up his photo sets) wasn't satisfied with that, and Flickr has since fully restored his account.

I try and remember to back up my Flickr images every so often, but I've never thought about doing so for Gmail until now. Google's glitch is a good reminder that nothing is bulletproof.

Would you freak out if your email disappeared?

Image via Flickr/Ramberg Media Images

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