Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Google Apps' New Promise: No More Downtime

Google is announcing some changes to its service level agreements for its Google Apps customers today. It would seem routine except for what on its face comes across as an extraordinary promise: No more downtime, not even for maintenance.

The promise comes in a blog entry posted by Matthew Glotzbach, product management director for Google Enterprise. “Unlike most providers, we don’t plan for our users to be down, even when we’re upgrading our services or maintaining our systems,” writes Glotzbach. From now on, all downtime that does occur will be counted and applied toward the customer’s service level agreement. In fact, the entire section of its SLA that covers scheduled downtime is being removed. This includes periods of 10 minutes or less, which under the terms of its old agreement didn’t count as downtime.

Google also released some data about the availability of Gmail, both the consumer and enterprise versions. It says that in 2010 it managed to maintain uptime 99.984 percent of the time. This, Glotzbach says, works out to about seven minutes of downtime per month. Citing data from the Radicati Group, he says that makes Gmail 32 times more reliable than the average on-premise email system and 46 times more reliable than Microsoft Exchange.

Over the years, Google Apps has taken some criticism for downtime issues and for not meeting the level of availability spelled out in its agreement. Shortly after it introduced its premier version in 2007, there were reports of availability problems. And there have been occasional Gmail outages like this one in 2009. As services we use daily migrate to the cloud, downtime seems an unavoidable by-product, as this list of incidents in 2010 from Data Center Knowledge suggests. It may seem like a small thing, but Google is making a strong statement here. It will be interesting to see if any of the other cloud providers respond in kind.


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There’s a lot of attention and PR around Marissa, but their product lineup just kind of blows.

— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google