Increase in poor service quality with Web-based e-mail services

 

LiveSide article about Hotmail service outage (March 12, 2009)

BBC Technology article about recent GMail blackout (February 24, 2009)

An increasing number of people are using free Web-based e-mail services like Windows Live Hotmail, Google GMail and Yahoo Mail because of their free, anywhere access model. What is happening now is that these popular services are groaning under the weight of their huge userbase and traffic demands.

This is manifested through slow response time during sessions and, lately, the services enduring significant amounts of downtime. I have even observed this with a friend’s GMail service which was off-air for a significant amount of time and this friend worrying about e-mail they or their correspondents were meant to receive. The situation ends up with users losing faith in the services or wondering what is happening with their incoming and outgoing e-mail, especially if the service is their primary e-mail address.

Most of these services typically run huge server farms on a high-availability arrangement, but they may need to identify ways of identifying potential bottlenecks and spreading the load. This could involve localisation of the user experience or simply extra machines or server farms providing a failover role.

Some of the recent Web-mail failures have been targeted not at the e-mail storage or handling but at the user-experience servers. A few people in the IT industry reckon that some of these servers are being subjected to DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks by computer hackers.

The situation that is happening with GMail and Hotmail needs to be observed by Web-based Internet services like the Bebo, Facebook and MySpace social networks; and the photo-sharing and video networks like Picasa and YouTube. This is in order to keep the Web 2.0 services alive and resilient.

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