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Email Service disruptions – maybe we really can’t trust cloud service reliability

by Avivah Litan  |  March 2, 2011  |  2 Comments

I try to keep my personal life out of my blog and my research but I must admit I well up with outrage when I hear from my daughter that her cloud-services email account (provided by a mega Internet Services Provider and white labeled by her university) is still dysfunctional. That’s over three and a half days of no service with no end in sight. All the ISP says on a very unhelpful customer service page is that service will be restored in ‘the near future.’ This hurts even more than when my electrical utility service goes down for the umpteenth time. At least in those cases, I still have wireless Internet connectivity and a fireplace.

My daughter is at that ultra-sensitive stage of graduating college this Spring and is waiting for all kinds of important communications to land in her email box. She doesn’t have all her contacts’ email addresses handy so she can’t write them from another email account. She also gets her coursework and associated materials via email and has to find other means to do so now.

The ISP is not giving her any tools to automatically forward the emails they can’t process to another external email account. And chances are, this ISP will never deliver some of the email that’s been sent to her in the past few days.

Adding insult to injury, it takes at least two days for this ISP email service to send any sender of email to her account a reply message informing the sender that her account is temporarily disabled.

There is no human being my daughter can speak with at this ISP’s help desk and her University says there is nothing they or she can do, and that she is just part of the unfortunate .02 percent of their total user population who are affected.

Well maybe some of the security analysts are correct when they predict cloud service disasters and severe disruptions because of them. I used to think this was an extreme FUD-filled prediction but I don’t anymore.

I realize my daughter is just one little data point, but in her universe, this is a near-disaster. And it could conceivably become a total disaster if she misses a time-sensitive email that could help shape her future in a very big way.

If I were in charge of an IT organization’s email system, I would certainly think very hard and carefully before I moved it to the ‘cloud.’


Avivah Litan
VP Distinguished Analyst
12 years at Gartner
30 years IT industry

Avivah Litan is a Vice President and Distinguished Analyst in Gartner Research. Her area of expertise includes financial fraud, authentication, access management, identity proofing, identity theft, fraud detection and prevention applications…Read Full Bio

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  2. Ellen Moskowitz says:

    Sounds like a good thing that my sons in college still rely on either gmail or who seem to be very consistent in this department Hope things resolve and she isnt too burnt by this event. Regards

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