It’s the biggest thing that’s happened in backup and recovery in a long time. I can’t imagine being “the backup guy” on the other end of this story. Can you imagine the stress of being the last line of defense for gmail? Wow.
We all know the story, right? A software update bug caused somewhere between 150,000 and 500,000 gmail users (which they said was .02% of their user base) were greeted with an empty inbox one morning. Google took a few days to get everything back, and in the end, they had to resort to tapes to do it.
I’m no Google lover. I’m a fan of google.com. I used to use gmail and Google Apps to host my email, but I’ve since moved off and went with hosted Exchange. So I don’t want anyone accusing me of being a Google fanboi, OK? So when I start talking about my thoughts, please don’t suggest that the praise I send Google’s way is due to any sort of loyalty, alright?
Here’s what I learned via this outage:
Google is backing up gmail
I spent some time at a very large ISP a few years ago and was shocked to learn that they were not backing up user’s email account. These were paid ISP subscribers’ accounts and they were not backing them up. “It’s just email,” they told me. “Do you know how much it would cost to back that up?”
So I find it admirable that one of the things that came out of this story is that Google is backing up gmail — even free gmail. There were no comments that said something like “Pro accounts were restored, but free gmail users were not.” They backed it all up and they restored it all.
Google is backing up gmail to tape
In this world of cloud backup and disk backup, it was interesting to see that Google’s last line of defense was still tape. They replicate things to multiple data centers, but at some point they back it up. And when they do, they do it to tape. The biggest reason that I can think of is that with the sheer volume of data they are dealing with, tape is absolutely the cheapest way to go.
Let me state this again: a company who is notorious for rolling their own and could totally code their own backup application and take advantage of dedupe, etc, is backing the world’s most popular cloud service to tape.
It think both of these things I learned are huge. How about you?
----- Signature and Disclaimer -----
Written by W. Curtis Preston (@wcpreston). For those of you unfamiliar with my work, I've specialized in backup & recovery since 1993. I've written the O'Reilly books on backup and have worked with a number of native and commercial tools. I am now Chief Technologist at Druva, the leading provider of cloud-based data protection and data management tools for endpoints, infrastructure, and cloud applications. These posts reflect my own opinion and are not necessarily the opinion of my employer.