Google's Apps Status Dashboard at 7:29am PT noted, "We're aware of a problem with Google Mail affecting a small subset of users. The affected users are unable to access Google Mail, but we've provided a workaround below."
The workaround consists of accessing Gmail via the IMAP protocol, as opposed to the POP protocol or over the Web.
By 8:29 am PT, Google reported that the problem had been resolved for most users. However, the company acknowledged possible problems accessing contacts through Gmail. It advised users to try visiting google.com/contacts as a workaround.
An update at 9:35 am PT indicates that while the problem has been resolved for many users, ongoing problems remain for a small set of users.
A 9:58 am PT post states, "The problem with Google Mail should be resolved. We apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience and continued support."
Twitter users have been marking the outage with a flurry of tweets. A Twitter user identifying himself as Lucas Alexander repeated the frequently heard concern about the cloud computing that surfaces every time a Google service goes down: "This Gmail thing today, not making [software-as-a-service] look great."
Other Twitter users noted that Gmail was working fine for them.
Thursday morning's outage comes just three weeks after 100 minutes of Gmail downtime at the beginning of the month. In a blog post apologizing for Gmail's inaccessibility, Google engineering VP and "Site Reliability Czar" Ben Treynor called that outage a "big deal," and said, "We've turned our full attention to helping ensure this kind of event doesn't happen again."
Google suffered another service interruption earlier this week. On Tuesday, Google News, Google's news aggregation service, was unavailable for a significant number of users for about two hours.
While Google's critics tend to use such occasions to suggest the company's services aren't reliable enough for businesses, Forrester analyst Sheri McLeish has observed that Gmail's availability is pretty much on par with other hosted services or with in-house Microsoft Exchange installations. The 99.9% availability that Google promises for Google Apps works out to somewhere between eight and nine hours of downtime per year.
Google provided the following statement via e-mail: "A problem with Google Contacts caused many Gmail users to experience slowness and degraded service for about an hour today. Mail was back to full speed for everyone around 8am Pacific and the issue affecting Contacts was resolved shortly after. We're sorry for the inconvenience. As usual, we'll provide an incident report on the Apps Status Dashboard, where we also gave ongoing status updates as this issue progressed: http://www.google.com/appsstatus."
Update: Added Google statement.
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