Well my Gmail account is finally back up. Actually, it was back up as of yesterday morning around 4:30am Eastern. In this post I’m going to write up my experience in hopes of convincing you that Google is not infallible and that it is important to have backups and other means of communication.
Tuesday 11/07/2006 : Gmail First Goes Down.
I woke to find that I no longer had access to my Gmail account. I wasn’t too worried as servers always have issues and it usually doesn’t take long to fix. I was also reassured that it was a server problem when I found out that other people I know who have Gmail were also experiencing issues. I emailed the Google Team just in case.
Later on in the day my friends’ Gmail account came back online while mine was still down. What was really confusing is the fact that all my other Google services were working fine.
Wednesday 11/08/2006 : Gmail Still Down
I spent another full day without access to my Gmail account. After exchanging a few emails with Google Support I still didn’t have any resolution although they did tell me that their engineers were working hard on the problem.
Thursday 11/09/2006 : Gmail Comes Back Up
I woke up at 6:30am Eastern to find that my account access had been restored. Unfortunately I’ll never know if I lost any email.
I emailed the support team to find out what the issue was. The only answer I received was that it wasn’t caused by anything I had done. I was hoping for a little bit more than that simple brush off. Maybe they will email me back about it.
The Important Realization
After this whole debacle I came to an important realization - I have been relying on Google way too much. All of my email, over 1GB worth, was in their hands. Only in their hands. If something major happened all of that email would be lost. All the personal messages from my girlfriend and my ex-girlfriends. All the emails from my friends and family. Bill confirmations, software registrations. Everything would be gone, two years of my digital history lost.
This is a problem and not just for me. It is a problem for almost everyone on the Internet. How many people create backups of the data that they leave in the safe keeping of these corporations? We use services for our email, our bookmarks, our spreadsheets, our documents, our financial statements. How much important data do you let someone else keep safe? How would you feel if it all suddenly disappeared?
As our lives turn more digitized this issue is going to keep arising and we need to find a way to protect ourselves. In the end I think it comes down to making backups. Unfortunately this too has problems. On site or off site? CD/DVD media or tape? What format should I store the data in? A proprietary MS format or something open source? Think of how many 8-track players you’ve seen in your lifetime and you’ll realize how important format can be.
Right now I don’t have the answers, I just have unanswered questions. The only thing I know for sure is that I will be making backups and I want my paper statements.