Gmail, Google's free email service, went offline earlier today for the second time in a month and for a couple of hours. Gmail suffered a major outage at the end of February when it went down for several hours.
Users this morning reported on Twitter that their Gmail accounts were timing out, displaying a cryptic Error 500 message with a numeric code 67. Last month's downtime was attributed to a problem at one of its European datacenters.
The free service is used by more than 110 million users and is the Internet giant third most important online property after Google Search and Youtube.
Google confirmed that a small subset of its Gmail users have been affected and in a statement to the BBC said that "We're aware of a problem with Gmail affecting a small subset of users. The affected users are having difficulty accessing their accounts. he team is working as quickly as they can to resolve the problem. We know how important e-mail is to our users, so we take issues like this very seriously."
An update on its Apps Status Dashboard says that the majority of its users should be back online with service to the rest of the users restored within the next 24 hours.
In another incident that highlights the relative fragility of free Software-as-a-service, Facebook has admitted that simultaneous hard disk drive failures at one of its data centers caused its users to lose up to 15 percent of their stored photographs "temporarily".
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A smart guy once said that you get what you paid for. In Google's case, don't expect the sky when you paid zilch. Sure, paid Gmail customers can expect up to a few pounds worth of refund for last month inconveniences but that will be it. Adopting SaaS was always going to be a compromise where pricing would be paramount. Amazon and Salesforce have already suffered downtime in the past so expect more in the future.