Google confirms bug hit Gmail – full service to resume

1 Mar 2011

Google’s Gmail engineers confirmed a bug caused 0.02pc of users’ accounts to disappear but has promised the 150,000 or so users that their email was never lost and full access will be restored – through it may take longer than originally expected.

It emerged yesterday that around 0.029pc of Google Gmail users have been affected by a glitch that has deleted their email, attachments and Google Chat logs.

Ben Treynor, engineering VP and site reliability czar, said his team is making good progress.

He said that in rare instances, software bugs can affect several copies of data stored in Google’s various data centres and some copies of mail were deleted.

In a rare insight into Google’s backup policies, he explained that in order to protect copies of users’ data, this data is also backed up on to tape.

Because the tape is offline it is protected from such bugs but retrieving the data from them takes hours rather than milliseconds.

The cause of the problem

Treynor said the problem was caused by the release of a storage software update that released an unexpected bug that caused the 0.02pc of users’ data to disappear.

“When we discovered the problem we immediately stopped the deployment of the new software and reverted to the old system.”

Treynor said that email sent between 6pm PST on 27 February and 2pm PST on 28 February was not delivered to the affected users’ mailboxes and senders would have received a notification their email wasn’t delivered.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years