gmail downtime

In the second major glitch this month for Google, the Internet search giant's popular Gmail e-mail service went offline for several hours earlier today.

The downtime knocked Gmail offline for about two and a half hours, according to Google.

"Shortly after ... 9:30am GMT our monitoring systems alerted us that Gmail consumer and businesses accounts worldwide could not get access to their e-mail," Acacio Cruz, Gmail's site reliability manager, said in a blog post.

It's still unclear what caused the problem, however. "We're actively investigating the source of the issue and will share more information with our users as soon as we have it," Google spokesman Andrew Kovacs told InternetNews.com

The news comes at a time of growing interest in Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and cloud technology, which promises to make applications available from any Internet-connected computer. Google has been pushing the benefits for businesses of its cloud-based Gmail as well as its broader Google Apps suite of SaaS applications, and has signed a number of blue-chip companies as customers.

But today's outage highlights the risk businesses may also be taking in relying entirely on the cloud.

"We know that for many of you this disrupted your working day. We're really sorry about this, and we did do everything to restore access as soon as we could," Cruz said in a later blog post. "Obviously we're never happy when outages occur, but we would like to stress that this is an unusual occurrence. We know how important Gmail is to you, and how much people rely on the service."

While Gmail outages are rare, today's was not the first its suffered. Last August, the service went through a similar outage that affected an unspecified number of Gmail users.

Like other cloud providers, Google offers Service-Level Agreements (SLA) that give its Apps business customers credit when it doesn't deliver service at least 99.9 percent of the time per month.

Kovacs said that Google would also be making good on its SLA after the latest downtime.

"As per our SLA, affected Premier Edition customers are due a three-day extension of service for the month of February," he said. "As a gesture of goodwill, we are extending the full 15-day SLA credit."

Google has in recent months taken steps to mitigate the impact of downtime in its hosted applications. For instance, the company recently added offline access features to Gmail so that when online access isn't available, users can at least continue to use the application and view e-mails locally.

This article was first published on InternetNews.com.