Google app icons on a smartphone display

Google has opened up about why some of its services went down in the U.S. on Sunday. Affected users were temporarily unable to access Google products like YouTube, Gmail, and Google Drive, or could do so only in a limited capacity.

In a post on the Google Cloud blog on Monday, Google apologized for the foul-up, stating: “It’s our mission to make Google’s services available to everyone around the world, and when we fall short of that goal — as we did yesterday — we take it very seriously.”

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The company also outlined the reason for the mishap. Google said it had intended to make a configuration change to a small number of servers in one location, but that this change was accidentally applied to many more servers in more regions. Those servers then had their network capacity reduced by more than half; the resulting overload and congestion is what caused the connectivity issues for users.

Google said its engineering teams are now “conducting a thorough post-mortem to ensure we understand all the contributing factors to both the network capacity loss and the slow restoration.”

Is the outage a big deal?

Google’s services do go down from time-to-time — core products also went offline for some hours back in October last year. Judging by Google’s cloud status dashboard, this recent problem lasted for around four and a half hours.

In the grand scheme of things, these are minor hiccups — I’ve been using Gmail for about eight years now and can’t remember ever experiencing such an issue first-hand. But to folks waiting on an important message, or those who need to access a critical document in their Drive folder, it can be an agonizing wait for normal service to resume.

Thankfully, Google seems to appreciate how importance its cloud infrastructure is, and I suspect such errors will remain an infrequent occurrence.

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