Google promises 99.9% uptime for premier edition of Apps

Google is offering a service-level agreement for a version of Google Apps, a move that may provide some comfort to enterprises spooked by a long Gmail outage and a buggy Apps portal earlier this month.

The Premier Edition of the Google Apps online productivity and collaboration suite will come with a 99.9 per cent per-month uptime guarantee for the Gmail, Calendar, Docs, Sites and Google Talk services.

In effect, Google is promising compensation if downtime exceeds around 45 minutes a month — but it won’t count outages of less than 10 minutes’ duration towards this total.

The SLA conditions define downtime as when the “user error rate” exceeds five per cent, as measured on the server side. Customers could therefore experience far more than 45 minutes of downtime, in shorter bursts, without compensation.

There’ll be no compensation either if the downtime is for scheduled maintenance for which Google has given more than five days’ advance notice. Scheduled downtime will not exceed 12 hours a year, Google said.

If Google doesn’t hit its marks, it will give customers credit toward more service. For only 99 per cent uptime, Google will add three days of service to the end of a contract; from 95 to 99 per cent, seven days and for less than 95 per cent, 15 days.

The agreement says money can’t be substituted for user credits. The SLA may give Apps customer additional confidence in Google, which experienced several problems with its services this month.

The starting portal page of Google’s Apps suite malfunctioned as the company was apparently updating the layout and other functions. Administrators complained they would have preferred it if Google warned them before making changes.

Some Google Apps customers could not access Gmail for up to 30 hours after a service outage earlier this month. Google already offers a 99.9 percent uptime guarantee for Gmail for users on Google Apps Premier.

In user forums, system administrators complained of outraged CEOs and executives in their companies who could not access e-mail.

However Google has a new offering on the table, Gmail will be including SMS Chat.

Google will reportedly add SMS sending capabilities to Gmail Chat today which will now let desktop Gmail users swap instant messages with mobile phone users via SMS protocol. Previously Gmail users could communicate to mobile phone users, but were limited to sending e-mail messages.

The Official Gmail Blog hasn’t announced the new SMS chat feature yet but reports indicate that SMS support in Gmail Chat will be available for all US users some time today.

When the service becomes available it will require you sign up for it through Google Labs. To do this simply go to Gmail, then Settings (upper right-hand corner of Web page) and select Labs. Simply scroll down and “enable” SMS chat.

The new feature joins a plethora of new experimental features launched this month by Google Labs. SMS in Chat, according to reports, is only available in the US.

How SMS in Chat works

To get started using the service just type a phone number in the Chat search box or search a contact by name (if you have their phone number stored) and click the “Send SMS” option.

The person receiving an SMS from Gmail’s Chat will see it as coming from a 406 area code number. This pseudo-phone number will be associated with your account once you first use the feature. That 406 number now can be used for others to send you text messages that will pop up right in your Gmail Chat window.

Potentially Harmful to Your Wallet

This feature is not free. The person receiving SMS messages from you via Gmail Chat will be charged by their mobile carrier each time you hit enter in the chat window. The same applies if they reply to that message. While sending the messages from Gmail is free, at the receiving end users will pay standard text messaging rates to their wireless carrier.

SMS in Chat is a feature that differentiates Gmail from other large webmail providers such as Windows Live Mail or Yahoo! Mail, which do not have such functionality. AOL’s instant messaging platform AIM does support SMS messaging in chat.

With its Apps, suite Google is trying to draw customers away from desktop-based software from companies such as Microsoft. While hosted software requires less maintenance and enables easier software updates, it also leaves in-house IT specialists with few options but waiting when things go bad.

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