Friday, August 2, 2013

What is the most common reason for a Google Apps Gmail outage?

Answer:  The failure of your Domain Name Server (DNS) host.

This morning subsidiaries of EIG which are Bluehost, Hostgator, Hostmonster, and JustHost completely failed affecting some of our customers.  As of 5 pm Eastern time today, 12 hours later, millions of EIG customers effectively still don't exist on the internet.  No email, websites, or anything that connects over the internet to will work for EIG customers.

Domain Name Servers (DNS) are the telephone directory of the Internet and are required to translate domain names like into an ip address.  When DNS fails sending email servers can't lookup the location of the Google Apps email servers to deliver your emails.

A coincidence, but another Google Apps customer was down for most of yesterday because DNS hosted at their small IT consulting firm failed.  We had recommending moving the DNS hosting for higher reliability 6 months ago.  Today we switched them to to avoid future issues. did have an outage in 2012 but this has happened only once in the 4 years we've been working with them.

GoDaddy's control panel for changing settings is user friendly and the modifications propagate quickly meaning we can complete our work on behalf of customers faster. Many DNS hosts have horrible control panel user interfaces and take many hours to push changes to the internet.  Many others amazingly don't support SPF, DKIM, or DMARC entries which are required to take advantage of Google Apps security measures for sending emails and blocking spoofing.

Here are our recommendations related to domain registrations and DNS:
  • Use or which are the official Google domain name registration partners and the world's largest Domain Registrars by Total Domains. is a good option too.
  • Do not transfer your DNS (also known as name servers or NS records) from one of these partners to a separate website hosting company.  Just change the pointers/ip addresses for the website in your zone file and don't change the Name Server records (NS)
  • Never allow your IT consulting company to transfer/register your organization's domain name in their company name.  If a Whois lookup shows something other than your name in Registrant Name or Registrant Organization get this changed right away because legally you don't own your own domain.  If the Registrant becomes unavailable or uncooperative you have the nightmare situation of losing control of your own domain name and website.
  • Retain the username and password for your account at and so that you can provide access to consultants and service providers as needed.  Too often we can't fix an emergency problem or get started on a project because the holder of the keys to the DNS is unavailable.
  • For the ultimate in reliability we can configure your DNS at two different hosting companies.  This way both hosts must fail to experience an outage.
The Internet was designed to be highly resilient to failures.  It just requires configuring things the right way to avoid issues.  Certainly contact us at if we can be of assistance.