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Google Services Down, Government Offices ‘Hectic’

For governmental offices that rely on Google’s office apps, Friday’s service shutdown meant a “slight pain in the you-know-what.”

For about 45 minutes on Friday, Google services such as Gmail and Docs went down, causing a disruption for the company’s estimated 17 billion* users, including state and local government agencies in 45 states. 

Not that those governmental IT workers wanted to talk about the disruption. 

“I’m going to have to refer you to our spokesperson,” said Eric Button, Community Services Administrator for the St. Louis County Library. 

“Can we get back to you?” an unknown worker in Laramie, Colo., asked after answering the phone. “This whole thing has been a slight pain in the you-know-what.” 

“Things are kind of hectic at the moment,” said the woman that answered the phone at state offices in Wyoming, adding that CIO Flint Waters “is aware of the situation.” 

Asked if it caused any problems, she said “it did somewhat,” but didn’t offer any more specifics. 

It’s fuzzy exactly what problems governmental organizations had to deal with when the cloud-based services went down. At the very least, it’s a reminder to governmental and other groups that hosting key office functions on the cloud invites the occasional rainy days. 

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The problems began around 11 am PST; Gmail and Docs went down, with many accounts displaying a (500) code, signaling the problem was an Internal Server Error. Users also reported problems with Google+ and YouTube. 

Soon, users from across the globe ran to social media sites to log their complaints.  Many users took to Twitter, including the team at Yahoo who took an opportunity to poke at their Google counterparts, before promptly removing it and posting an apology. 

Earlier today, a tweet that reflected bad judgment was posted and has been deleted. We apologize to @Google and the @Gmail team. — Yahoo (@Yahoo) January 24, 2014
Dave O’Connor, a Google Site Reliability Engineer, was about to begin a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) when the service interruption started.  Being that his job is to make sure Gmail and other services are working, O’Connor was pelted with questions about the unfortunate timing of hosting an AMA while Gmail crashed. 

Still, the Dublin-based O’Connor took it in stride. 

“Following any service issues, we are more concerned with how we’ll spot and mitigate things like this in the future than placing blame, and start working to make our systems better so this won’t happen again,” O’Connor wrote on Reddit. 

By around 12:30 p.m. PT, Google let its Twitter followers know that things were going to be OK. 


Hang in there—most of the issues w/ Google services have been resolved. Check the Apps Status Dashboard for updates: — A Googler (@google) January 24, 2014

*Not an actual estimation