Gmail FAIL - children starve, cities burn, Four Horsemen sighted
You can't take over the world and expect nobody to notice when you screw up. Last night Gmail went down around the world for just under two hours, leaving millions of people without access to Pizza Express vouchers and other documents of vital importance.
While we suffered the failure after 8pm during the peak of primetime television, US users lost Gmail during the working day. Google have already blogged about the issue and the causes:
"We took a small fraction of Gmail's servers offline to perform routine upgrades. This isn't in itself a problem — we do this all the time, and Gmail's web interface runs in many locations and just sends traffic to other locations when one is offline.
"However, as we now know, we had slightly underestimated the load which some recent changes (ironically, some designed to improve service availability) placed on the request routers — servers which direct web queries to the appropriate Gmail server for response. At about 12:30 pm Pacific a few of the request routers became overloaded and in effect told the rest of the system "stop sending us traffic, we're too slow!". This transferred the load onto the remaining request routers, causing a few more of them to also become overloaded, and within minutes nearly all of the request routers were overloaded."
For those who rely solely on Gmail for email access, it brings home the fact that Google is not impervious to FAIL - fortunately Gmail was restored before the rioting and cannibalism got out of hand. So what can you do about it? For starters, open up another email account and begin forwarding all new mail that you receive to your Gmail account onto it:
You'll find the option under Settings > Forwarding and POP/IMAP. Your Gmail account can still receive all your mail, but a copy will automatically be sent to your secondary account. There are plenty to choose from, just make sure it's not another Gmail account. Yes, some people back up their Gmail account with another one. The secondary account may not have all the labelling and threading abilities of Gmail, but if means you're less likely to be without access to documents and other important stuff.
Secondly, use the same page in the settings to set up IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) access. Yesterday's outage only affected the front end of Gmail, so while you couldn't log in online you still had full access via a third party such as Outlook or through a smartphone. There are more instructions on setting up IMAP access on Google.