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

Thomas Claburn, Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

October 14, 2009

3 Min Read

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).

About the Author(s)

Thomas Claburn

Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful master's degree in film production. He wrote the original treatment for 3DO's Killing Time, a short story that appeared in On Spec, and the screenplay for an independent film called The Hanged Man, which he would later direct. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and a sadly neglected blog, Lot 49. His iPhone game, Blocfall, is available through the iTunes App Store. His wife is a talented jazz singer; he does not sing, which is for the best.

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