back to article Google blames bug for Gmail deletions

Google has blamed problems with a storage software update for a glitch that deleted an estimated 40,000 Gmail accounts. The snafu meant that affected users lost access to their archive of emails, contacts and IM chats. Initially Google said the glitch might have affected 0.29 per cent of its user base but this figure has …


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  1. Whitter
    Thumb Up

    Proper back-up

    A proper working backup is one of the things Google can offer: if done quickly and losses are rare, then its a good service.

    You're still a nutter if you don't keep your own copies of the valuable stuff however.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Get what you pay for....

    that is all, nothing to see here, move along.

    - Just restore from your own personal backups. Fail cos i bet you dont have any.

  3. Owen Carter


    "The online ad giant doesn't say this but the use of off offline backups means that its likely the most recent emails on affected accounts will be lost."

    This is very possible; but an alternative explanation is that Google is run by Engineers and they only say things that are accurate (unlike Journalists who extrapolate at every opportunity).

    If Google has mail inbox spools (a record of the mail as received @the gmail Mailbox Servers) that pre-date the backup tapes then they can replay these, filtering the data for he affected accounts, and nothing is (in theory) lost. At worst some mails were very slow to deliver.

    Keeping such inbox records could be done precisely in order to cater for this sort of issue, but more likely in order to analyse them for marketing data (if is within their privacy policy retention scope) or in preparation for sending them to the CIA/NSA/Whoever.

  4. Hayden Clark Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Kudos to Google

    For actually having real backups, on tape.

    And a system that allows the restoration of individual accounts, on demand.

    Hello, Flickr!

    1. Rob Moir


      Now that gmail is/can be a paying service, both of those features are no more than should be expected. It's like saying kudos to vauxhall for actually remembering to put wheels on your new car.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Not so much "on demand" as "quite some time after demand."

  5. chillvisio

    "The good news is that email was never lost and we've restored access for many of those affected,"

    "The good news is that email was never lost and we've restored access for many of those affected," well we needed to hear this. Now NSA and CIA should have a nice dream, being happy that user emails are always there. It was so sad to thing that those "lost" emails are not already on paper in someone else's office.

  6. HansG

    Christ, how many tapes??

    I can't imagine what their tape backup involves, very impressive I'm sure

    Have been using Gmail Backup for a while to keep local copies of emails. Website is completely offline now and software hasn't been updated in years, which is a shame. Still works on Windows though

    1. Captain Scarlet


      I would have thought they would use de-duplication and I imagine all text emails would compress nicely.

      But yeah they probably have more tapes then I can imagine.

      1. AlexH

        and Gmail users probably work in packs

        I would also speculate that GMail users often communicate with other GMail users so they could really take advantage of this by identifying common message fragments and attachments and only storing each of these once. Sort of like an app-aware de-dupe on steroids.

  7. The Dodoman

    Only free gmail customers affected?

    I wonder how realistic those figures are... It would not be in Google's favour to state whether paid subscriptions have been affected and if I was a paying gmail customer, I would keep my mouth shut and never disclose to my clients that I have lost their "confidential" mail.

    1. Owen Carter

      No such thing...

      Google don't really have a 'paid' email service; they have a free service up to 1Gb, and then you pay for additional storage. The gmail service itself remains the same; but the size of your mailbox is restricted when in freetard mode. (This additional paid for storage can be shared between all your Google online user services; gmail, picassa, etc. in any combination.. However some more commercial stuff, like Google Apps, has a separate pay model.)

      Once they start charging for storage I would hope that backup is one of the services provided for the fees.

      1. Goat Jam

        "they have a free service up to 1Gb"

        Say what?

        My free gmail accounts current status is;

        "You are currently using 683 MB (9%) of your 7556 MB."

      2. rob hindle

        Paid Gmail

        what about

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    This clearly isn't a proper working backup, or at lest, it's not a proper working recovery. For a start, something this big should have come back from a disk snapshot, followed by playing the logs. Restoring from nearline tape (ie: in a robotised tape library), for something this big is a last resort, going to offline tape (ie: from an offsite store or shelf) is a total failure. Furthermore, their systems should be sized to get the data back much, much faster than this. If they are claiming 0.02% of their users have lost their mailboxes and it's taking in the order of days to get the data back, what happens if they lost everything?

    This is a monumental storage cock up.

    And, for those "you get what you pay for" comments: If I view their adverts and let them have all that metadata they want from me, I have paid for their service.

    1. SilverWave

      Err Its Free and they have lots of backups... that's better than most

      And I trust the to do the right thing.

      This is a good deal.

      TBH keeping huge amounts of old mail is a bad idea... best delete most of the old stuff and if its important save an off line copy to your PC.

      But its a pain checking and deleting old email :-)

  9. Shannon Jacobs

    Google's bad karma just ran over the no-evil dogma?

    I think this crash was karmic payback, but Google isn't going to report that. I'm expecting worse as Google find even more EVIL on the dark side. Money, money, money!

    I thin the real root of the problem is bad laws driving companies to evil. Ergo, I think we need to change the political system. Today's suggestion: Since the write-in vote has become a silly and meaningless option, we should add a new alternative voting option for a "kick me" vote. I'll spare you the technical details, but the basic idea is that voters who want to vote for politicians who are going to kick them AFTER they are sworn in will be able to get more immediate gratification without waiting. If enough of the masochistic voters get robotic kicks in the voting booth, thus eliminating their short-sighted votes, then maybe we'll get better political leadership?

  10. IanR-


    Agree totally with the AC... if Google had to go for offsite tapes, this is indeed a disaster recovery situation...

  11. Tron Silver badge


    ...when you finally delete your e-mails, do Google delete them from those back-up tapes?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I would think...

      I would think it's like everywhere - the backed up mails eventually drop off retention. After all, a backup isn't much good if it deletes data which has been deleted from the primary system.

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