Google Apps for Domains not working


If your emails, online docs etc. are hosted using Google Apps for Domains and you have been unable to access them using the friendly CNAME redirects, you are not alone.

I have converted a number of my clients to start using Google Apps for their email needs and many of them now exclusively use the webmail interface by typing http://mail.mydomain.com/. To their nasty surprise, this has not been working since yesterday.

We initially dismissed it as Google Apps downtime and waited for the service to be restored but when it didn’t, I had to dig deeper.

A look at Google’s Official Apps Status page reveals that their service is working as expected. See: http://www.google.com/appsstatus#hl=en

A traceroute to my docs shortcut reveals:

Tracing route to ghs.l.google.com [72.14.203.121]
over a maximum of 30 hops:

 1    <1 ms    <1 ms    <1 ms  192.168.0.254
 2     1 ms     1 ms     1 ms  183.82.192.1
 3     1 ms     1 ms     1 ms  125.16.18.17
 4     1 ms     1 ms     1 ms  125.16.18.166
 5     2 ms     1 ms     1 ms  115.113.205.29.static-hyderabad.vsnl.net.in [115
.113.205.29]
 6    14 ms    13 ms    13 ms  59.163.16.5.static.vsnl.net.in [59.163.16.5]
 7     *        *        *     Request timed out.
 ...

A ping to the IP results in

Pinging 72.14.203.121 with 32 bytes of data:

Reply from 59.163.25.10: TTL expired in transit.

Clearly the issue is with my ISP or the Google’s Router Settings. Since people across a spectrum of ISPs are complaining, this is more likely to be a Google Issue.

Here are two workaround solutions that may save your day:

Solution 1: Use the regular URL method

Google Apps for Domains service are available using a working Google.com URL. For ex:

For email, try http://mail.google.com/a/mydomain/

For docs, try http://docs.google.com/a/mydomain/

Unfortunately, this does not seem to work for Calendar. It takes you to a Google page which likes a gmail.com ID

Solution 2: Modify your HOSTS file

A quick check of OpenDNS Cache reveals that ghs.google.com is available at different IPs across the world. The IPs used in Asia among others seem to be unreachable. However the IP  used in Chicago & Dallas (74.125.95.121) seems to be working fine.

Now you can modify the hosts file on your computer to statically point to the working IP. See: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/923947

Add the following entries to your hosts file:

74.125.95.121    ghs.google.com
74.125.95.121    ghs.l.google.com
74.125.95.121    mail.mydomain.com
74.125.95.121    docs.mydomain.com
74.125.95.121    calendar.mydomain.com

This hack seems to make even the calendar service work as expected.

Word of Caution:

I am assuming that you will make the appropriate corrections to the URLs mentioned. For ex: my CNAME settings for email is mail. You may have configured it as email or webmail. You will also have to replace mydomain.com with your domain.

These solutions (particularly Solution No. 2) are temporary hacks and should be discontinued once Google’s Services become available normally. If Google were to change the IPs used for their servers and you still continue to use Solution No. 2, you could find yourself locked out of Google’s services and it may become difficult to diagnose.


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