Here’s the scoop, I’ve set up email for a domain through Google Apps.  I’ve done this before for jMonkeyEngine (and there are a number of users as well as forwarding rules set up there) and have been quite satisfied with the results:  Mail comes, mail goes, the thing works.  Now let’s set up an account with some real traffic.

After getting through the administration setup, I began the process of uploading everything that wasn’t currently archived locally from one IMAP account to its shiny, ad-driven, home at Google.  8,000 messages and about 5GB of attachments took a while to get through, but it went up safe and sound.  I let it do its thing overnight and was frankly impressed in the morning when it was done and hadn’t kicked out with any bandwidth errors.  That was November and life was good.  For the better part of a year its been smooth sailing until Thunderbird 3′s status bar turned red with an insane number like “20837%”.  After collecting my nobel prize for finally defeating the limits of a finite set (the food at those events is never as good as you hope for), I set about investigating what was going on.  Seems like Thunderbird is dead in the water.. can’t send or receive anything.  Same story on the phone and Apple Mail on the laptop, certainly a cause for alarm.

After reading through a number of threads on Googles [at times] pitiful support forum, I decided that the best course of action was to disconnect everything for 24 hours and work from the web interface.  Annoying, yes, but at least Google was kind enough to afford me some access.  Its worth noting that most of the folks complaining about similar problems were using Google Mail with their own domain name.  I have more mail in my personal account and have never encountered the problem but quite the contrary, it sometimes seems like GMail is the only thing I can actually count on.  The longest thread I found was from September and October of 2009 where people were hitting a snag on their Snow Leopard machines.  For the most part, the Snow Leopard specific issue seemed to be addressed in 10.6.2, but what I was left with was a stinging sense of how Google planned to treat its customers.

By chance, one person in the issues forum was a premier subscriber which allowed him to email or call Google support.  I can understand paid support being a requirement for phone calls, but no email support?  I suspect this has something to do with the company attempting to keep their appearance as “lightning fast”.  Seriously, have you seen how fast results come up in a search?  How would you feel about a company if you found their email address for support in under a second only to wait three days for a reply to your email.  Its likely a smart business decision, but I doubt its going to win them friends among small businesses where the free option will always be tried before the paid option.  If there’s a perception of ‘let them eat cake’, I doubt they’ll be selling many premier subscriptions.  At $50 a year per user, there is an expectation that the service will work.  Even if you have phone access to the almighty Google, it still costs less to go somewhere else than to pay all that money to sit on the phone for a CSR to reset your bandwidth counter.  Ridiculous.

Its causing Google to lose revenue from at least one small business.  Luckily for us (and terrible for Google), we didn’t even get to the point of wasting $50 per year per user.  If what the large number of detractors are saying is true, then actually being in touch may not do much good for the situation anyway, as escalations to an engineer can result in a wait period of 2 days before you hear back from them.  Frankly, for less overall cost, I’ve seen better reviews out of more traditional hosts like Register.com and NetworkSolutions. We’re currently in discussion about where to go [and are open to suggestions], but the only certainty for now is that our days with Google are numbered.