Do you need email reminders before important events? Google Calendar may not be the service for you.
Google's calendar service for home users and businesses has been plagued with missed email reminders for years, and Google is still struggling the fix the problem, according to support forums.
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One support forum on Google.com titled "Google Calendar Email Notification Not Working" was started in September 2010, and is still going strong with dozens of posts this week alone. Another support thread on Calendar email reminders begun in January 2009 is still active, while an older thread shows the problems date back to at least 2008.
Of course, Google Calendar likely works just fine for the majority of users. I tested it out myself and verified that my account does receive email reminders.
But that is scant consolation for users who chose to rely on Google Calendar and missed important event reminders. Technology industry analyst Michael Gartenberg of Gartner wrote this week on Twitter, "Once again GOOG Cal invite that was accepted did not make it on my calendar. No rule. I simply cannot rely on Google for anything important."
Because Google doesn't offer universal phone support, customers often must rely on community forums. Google employees do monitor the forums and occasionally update customers on the status of fixes.
On Monday, Google employee "Alice PB&J" told support forum readers, "Your reports have helped us pinpoint additional areas of focus and we're rolling out a new fix over today and tomorrow that will fix reminders for newly created events. For events that were created in the past couple of weeks, we're scheduling an additional cleanup to make sure the reminders are set correctly for those events. The cleanup will take up to a week to complete for all users, but about 1/7 of all users will be fixed each day."
On Wednesday, Alice told users, "We hope to have this resolved for everyone soon," but users were still complaining about missed email reminders this morning.
On Thursday, one user reported: "Did not get the daily reminder today that I have had ever since I first set up a Google calendar ... yesterday's 'fix' didn't last through today." Another said: "I only use the daily agenda notification, and it has not worked since early April. I have tried all of the simple fixes described in this thread and others multiple times."
Text message reminders have also been problematic. "I prefer SMS notifications (which never arrive these days)," one user wrote.
Another wrote, bluntly, "It's important for Google to understand, it doesn't matter if they fix this now. We no longer trust you."
One user claimed to have written a letter to CEO Larry Page and other executives, saying, "I use the Calendar for both personal and professional reasons, and to be without my notifications is wreaking havoc with my business."
"I have a calendar filled with nothing but annually recurring all-day events," another user wrote. "Since March, I've stopped receiving email alerts for this calendar. Can this be fixed?"
Still, some reported success. "My Calendar Reminders are working for the first time in over a week. THANKS!!!!"
Google Calendar went live in 2006 and exited beta in 2009. While it can be used for free, it is also a key piece of the Google Apps suite of business applications, which also includes Gmail and Google Docs.
While most complaints seem to be coming from users of the free version, some Google Apps users also reported problems, with one reporting missed Calendar notifications and errors logging into the Apps administrator control panel.
The Calendar problems have made others wonder if the $50 per user per year Google Apps fee is worth it. Late last year, Google Calendar was also displaying appointments on the wrong days, a problem that took more than a week to resolve.
If Google doesn't meet its service-level agreement, which defines downtime as "more than a five percent user error rate," Google will add days of service to the end of the contract term.
"I'm considering the upgrade to Google Apps for Business, hoping to have support for this problem, since I'm paying for the service," one user wrote. "Can anybody tell me if this problem occurs also for customers using Google Apps for Business?"
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