In a wake of Gmail outages and buggy Apps that drew the ire of its loyal user base, Google on Thursday announced a service level agreement (SLA) for the Premier Edition of Google Apps.
Google's premium online productivity and collaboration suite now comes with a 99.9 percent uptime guarantee for Gmail, Docs, Calendar, Sites and Google Talk.
Through its internal research, Google determined Gmail has been available more than 99.9 percent of the time for the past year, despite the negative headlines in August 2008. Even if you factor in the August outage, Google said there has been an aggregate 10-15 minutes of Gmail downtime per month over the last year. That 10-15 minutes per month average represents small delays of a couple of seconds at a time.
"A very small number of people have unfortunately been subject to some disruption of service that affected them for a few minutes or a few hours. For those users, we are very sorry," Matthew Glotzbach, a product management director at Google Enterprise, wrote in the company blog. "And for Google Apps Premier Edition customers, we have extended service level agreement credits to them."
Google Toots its Reliability Horn
According to Radicati Group, companies with on-premises e-mail solutions averaged from 30 to 60 minutes of unscheduled downtime and an additional 36 to 90 minutes of planned downtime per month.
From this research and Google's own analytics, Glotzbatch concluded that Gmail is twice as reliable as a Novell GroupWise solution, and four times more reliable than a Microsoft Exchange-based solution that companies must maintain themselves.
Gmail's reliability jumps to more than four times as reliable as a GroupWise solution and 10 times more reliable than an Exchange-based solution if you factor in the planned outages inherent in on-premises messaging platforms, Glotzbatch noted.
"Compared to the costs of Microsoft Exchange, IBM Lotus or Novell GroupWise -- including software licensing, server expenses and the labor associated with deploying, maintaining and upgrading them on a regular basis -- Google Apps leaves companies with much more time and money to focus on their real business," Glotzbatch said.
Exploring the Apps SLA
More internal Google data reveals that more than one million businesses have selected Google Apps to run their business, and tens of millions of people use Gmail every day. With this type of adoption, a disruption of any size -- even a minor one affecting fewer than 0.003 percent of Google Apps Premier Edition users, like the one a few weeks ago -- attracts a disproportional amount of attention, Glotzbatch said.
Google's guarantee offers customers three days of service at the end of the contract if the uptime is 99 percent or below. If the uptime is from 95 to 99 percent, the customer gets seven days credit. And if the uptime is less than 95 percent, the customer gets 15 days of credit. The agreement will not refund the cost of the days lost.
"If anything could kill the adoption of these services it downtime," said Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence. "I don't think the Gmail outages have tarnished Google's reputation or there is any terrible doubt about Google Docs. But this guarantee is important to preempt those types of concerns or considerations from affecting people's decision-making around adoption. It gives people confidence."