The web was buzzing yesterday with stories of the 150,000 or so Gmail users who found that they could either not access their accounts or found that their accounts were empty.

At first, Google thought 0.08% of its 193 million Gmail user accounts had been affected, but then it lowered that number to 0.02% or some 40,000 accounts. Nearly all the Gmail accounts have been restored as of now, it claims.

According to the official Gmail Blog, what happened was that even though Google has multiple copies of its Gmail account data spread across multiple data centers, a programming glitch in a software update apparently was still able to delete the multiple copies.

The Gmail Blog went on to say:

"We released a storage software update that introduced the unexpected bug, which caused 0.02% of Gmail users to temporarily lose access to their email. When we discovered the problem, we immediately stopped the deployment of the new software and reverted to the old version."

In addition:

"If you were affected by this issue, it’s important to note that email sent to you between 6:00 PM PST on February 27 and 2:00 PM PST on February 28 was likely not delivered to your mailbox, and the senders would have received a notification that their messages weren’t delivered. "

However, the Gmail Blog post also said:

"To protect your information from these unusual bugs, we also back it up to tape. Since the tapes are offline, they’re protected from such software bugs. But restoring data from them also takes longer than transferring your requests to another data center, which is why it’s taken us hours to get the email back instead of milliseconds. "

Yep, you read that correctly: tapes.

As this controversial blog post over at Fortune points out (it has gotten lots of nasty comments), that's likely a whole lot of tape.

UPDATE: Thursday, 03 March 2011

Apparently getting all the affected Gmail user accounts back online is taking longer than Google expected.

As related in this blog post at the LA Times last night, Google now is refusing to confirm that everyone would get their service restored by Wednesday evening. Google had originally promised that the problem would be fixed by Monday night, this article yesterday from ComputerWorld noted.

This updated blog post at the LA Times reports Google claiming eveything is back to normal, but just in case it doesn't appear to be, to contact them since it may be an unrelated issue.

The Conversation (0)

Why the Internet Needs the InterPlanetary File System

Peer-to-peer file sharing would make the Internet far more efficient

12 min read
An illustration of a series
Carl De Torres

When the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in early 2020, the world made an unprecedented shift to remote work. As a precaution, some Internet providers scaled back service levels temporarily, although that probably wasn’t necessary for countries in Asia, Europe, and North America, which were generally able to cope with the surge in demand caused by people teleworking (and binge-watching Netflix). That’s because most of their networks were overprovisioned, with more capacity than they usually need. But in countries without the same level of investment in network infrastructure, the picture was less rosy: Internet service providers (ISPs) in South Africa and Venezuela, for instance, reported significant strain.

But is overprovisioning the only way to ensure resilience? We don’t think so. To understand the alternative approach we’re championing, though, you first need to recall how the Internet works.

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