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Gmail down; outage could last 36 hours for some

Google Inc.'s Gmail e-mail service is down for an undetermined number of users, and while the outage has been partially fixed, some people could be locked out of their accounts for many more hours.

In its latest update about the problem, posted at around 9:30 a.m. Eastern time, Google said that it could take between 24 hours to 36 hours to restore all affected accounts.

A Google spokesman characterized the problem as “a minor issue” that struck at 5 a.m. Within 30 minutes, the service had been restored for “nearly all affected users,” he said via e-mail at 4:30 p.m. today.

“We are working to fix the issue for the few users still affected. We know how important e-mail is to our users, so we take issues like this very seriously and apologize for the inconvenience,” he said.

The issue, which at its peak affected “a small subset of users,” prevents people from accessing their accounts. About two weeks ago, Gmail suffered a major outage that affected many users worldwide and lasted for two and a half hours. Gmail also ran into problems several times in August and October of last year.

The outages affect all types of people, from casual users, who use Gmail for personal communications, to those who rely on it for their work e-mail as part of the Google Apps hosted collaboration and communication suite. That's because Google serves all of its Gmail users from the same data center infrastructure, including Apps Premier users, who pay for their service and are covered by a 99.9% uptime commitment.

One outage, on Aug. 11, lasted about two hours and affected almost all Apps Premier users. Two others — one on Aug. 6 and the other on Aug. 15 — hit a small number of Apps Premier users, but both outages were lengthy, affecting some users for more than 24 hours. In all of the incidents, users were unable to access their Gmail accounts. In mid-October, an outage locked some users out of their Gmail accounts for around 30 hours. Later that month, a glitch delayed by days the activation of the Gmail service for new Apps subscribers, leaving them without e-mail access during that time.

Shortly after the Gmail outage in February, Google delivered a previously promised dashboard that showed the performance status of Apps services.

Performance and availability problems continue to be among the main objections to and concerns about Web-hosted applications, which are gaining popularity among IT managers and CIOs. There are also concerns about security and privacy. This weekend, a Google glitch made some Apps files accessible to unauthorized users in a small number of accounts.

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