HP brought the service down on April 17, the day after some customers of Google's popular Gmail service couldn't access their e-mail for about an hour. The two incidents demonstrate that, while the demand for subscription-based online software and technology services is booming, such services aren't 100% fail proof.
HP's Upline, launched April 7, comes at a time of high demand for online storage services. Online storage was ranked the most popular software-as-a-service (SaaS) application by IT and business managers, according to a new research report by McKinsey & Co. and the Sand Hill Group, to be released next week. Trailing storage was online backup, security services, system and network management, customer-relationship management, and collaboration software, respectively.
HP bills Upline as a service to back up, access, share, and store digital content over the Internet, starting at $59 per year for home offices and rising to $299 per year for small businesses with up to 100 PCs. The success of small online storage services has attracted other big tech companies to the market, too. EMC acquired the popular Mozy service for $76 million in September, and in February launched MozyEnterprise for large businesses, which runs about $20 per PC per month. Dell in February acquired MessageOne, a service for managing, storing, and recovering e-mail, for $155 million.
But HP apparently hadn't worked out the kinks before launching Upline, based on technology from a San Jose startup it acquired called Opelin.
Ridzuan Ashim, a software programmer and college student in Singapore, recently signed up for the home office version. Ashim said he uploaded 7 GB of data to his account, but when he later signed on to his account the service reported no uploads. Ashim said he soon discovered that was because the automatic sign-on had logged him into someone else's account. "If I could access someone else's account, that means someone could have been accessing mine," he said.
In addition to suspending the service, HP has closed the accounts of all subscribers outside of the United States, including Ashim's. HP e-mailed letters of apology to subscribers, informing U.S. residents that their subscriptions would remain in effect when the service is restored. "If you are not a resident of the United States, we regretfully must inform you that the initial launch of the HP Upline Service was intended for United States residents only. Unfortunately, our filtering tools did not adequately screen for subscribers residing outside of the United States," the letter said. It added that non-U.S. customers will have a limited time period during which time they can remove whatever they've stored on Upline.
Some users of Google's Gmail service had difficulty retrieving their e-mail and using the chat feature for less than an hour on April 16. Google, which claims 99.9% uptime for Gmail, has not publicly disclosed a reason for the service blip. Research In Motion's BlackBerry e-mail service has experienced several outages within the past year.