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10/14/2009
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Google Postini Customers Fuming Over Outage

E-mail delivery problems dogged Google's Postini Tuesday, and the company's business customers are demanding better communication.

Google's Postini message security and archiving service experienced significant e-mail delivery problems on Wednesday, leading to a flood of outrage from business customers using Postini's service separately and through Google Apps.

The day-long outage prompted pages of complaints on the Postini Help Forum, mainly focused on the lack of communication about the problem.

As a user identified as "Ajax517" put it, "This is shaping up to be a big FAIL on Postini's customer service side."

A user identified as "jcinfargo" offered a similar assessment: "I talked to one reseller yesterday that also uses Postini and he said he has a law firm client that needed an e-mail for their client's trial yesterday that they did not get. This is an epic fail on Google/Postini."

The service disruption also turned into an opportunity for competitors, with some users suggesting alternative business e-mail services.

A representative from one of those services even joined in the discussion, to present an engineering viewpoint and not to make a sales pitch, he insisted.

Erik Boles, senior sales engineer for MX Logic, a competing message security company, said in a forum post, "It amazes me how many companies buy into a product or service based on either the name (Google/Postini) or the price point, and then complain when bad things happen. ...The biggest problem I see here is the complete lack of customer care by Postini."

InformationWeek was contacted by a public relations firm that counts Microsoft as a client to make sure we had heard about the discontent arising from the outage. Such outreach may represent a counteroffensive against Google's marketing campaign to convince businesses to consider "Going Google."

On Tuesday evening, a Google spokesperson said, "We're aware of an issue that's causing a delay in mail delivery for some Postini customers, and are working to fix it as quickly as possible. Outbound mail is fully functional, but inbound mail has been flowing at a reduced rate for affected users."

Some Google Apps Premiere customers, who receive the Postini security component as part of their $50 per user annual fee, were also affected.

On Wednesday morning, at 1:49 AM Pacific Time, a Google engineer said in a forum post the situation had been resolved and that mail delivery rates had returned to normal. The posting states that while e-mail was delayed, "no messages were bounced or deleted."

As per the pattern in outages of this sort, there was an apology and a promise to post within 48 hours an incident report and a list of corrective actions to prevent a repeat of the problem.

Google made similar apologies following a 100-minute Gmail outage in early September, a Gmail outage in August, a major Google outage in May, and a Gmail outage in February.

And of course Google isn't alone in such troubles. Microsoft's Danger has been wrestling with major data availability and loss problems that have affected T-Mobile Sidekick users for about a week. And about 150,000 Facebook users have been experiencing login problems over the past week.

InformationWeek has published an in-depth report on the public cloud, digging into the gritty details of cloud computing services from a dozen vendors. Download the report here (registration required).

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