If you’re a Gmail user, you may have noticed that there was a major Gmail outage earlier today. This outage affected both Gmail per se as well as Google Apps Mail. Attempts to access Gmail directly (using the web interface) resulted in a server error, effectively stopping millions from accessing their e-mail.
When I went to check mail with my iPhone, however, it worked fine. The difference? I use the built-in mail client to access my Google Apps account via IMAP. Intrigued, I fired up Mail.app on my MacBook Pro and used it to access my Gmail via IMAP. Sure enough, I was able to check and send mail without any problems.
The lesson here is that you might be able to work around future Gmail outages using an IMAP* client. Obviously, there are a lot ways that Gmail (or any webmail service, for that matter) can fail, so this won’t always work. It’s worth a shot, though.
*Note: POP access was also unaffected, but this isn’t 1997.