This is a story about how I lost access to my GMail account and never got it back, losing all the data. Hope it serves as a warning prompting you to backup your emails.
It started early this month when I noticed I stopped receiving email at firstname.lastname@example.org (my free Google Apps account that I use for all the stuff related to Reaktor Warsaw, the startup mansion I founded and work at). When I tried logging in online it said:
Your account has been blocked.
Obviously I understood I forgot my password so I re-sent it and tried again. Same thing.
I googled a bit and it turned out I was in trouble. Blocked accounts are hard to restore and support needed to be called.
Good thing I have friends at Google—they will help me work it out quick—I thought. I asked on Facebook and Wiktor Gworek (thanks again for your help!) from Google Krakow filled out some report form that I could not easily find myself.
Next day a nice guy from Google Ireland called. He told me that… my account has been blocked beacuse… I used Google+. And it has a bug that when you first try to use it, it asks you for your birthday. The thing is most people choose the default which is today’s date (or similar) and what Google does when this happens is… block all Google Apps access, because it’s against the policy for the underage to use Google Apps.
“No worries, though”—I heard on the phone—”It happens all the time! It’s a standard recovery procedure. I’ll send you a link, you click on it and the account will be restored.”
I was angry but relieved that the problem will be resolved soon.
Not so fast!
The link didn’t work. And the nice guy told me there is nothing he can do and that he’s escalating the issue.
I haven’t heard from Google for 2 days and then I got an e-mail from Antonis. It reads:
Hello,Thank you for your message. I understand that your account was disabled after inserting by mistake wrong age in Google+. Initially, I’d like to say that you are requesting support for a Google Apps domain in Standard edition which is not entitled to support, but I’ll be glad to respond to this case out of courtesy. The account was disabled over one month ago (12 of October) and as per this Help Center article, http://support.google.com/accounts/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=1333913 it is not possible anymore to recover it. This is why the described process does not work. Unfortunately, at this point there is nothing we can do to restore this account. Sincerely, Antonis
Google Enterprise Support
First of all, the guy is kind enough to remind me that I don’t pay for Google Apps so he could as well just ignore me as I don’t matter enough for them to react.
Secondly, he claims my account was disabled a month ago and there is no way to restore it (WTF??).
How could I have known it was disabled? I didn’t get any e-mail about it! Or perhaps in landed in Spam as lots of emails from @google.com domain do—figure that!
Antonis,I have never been informed about the fact that my account is blocked. I simply stopped receiving e-mail (I used email forwarding from this account to another google account that I pay for) and that’s how I learned about the account being blocked. The blocking of the account is clearly a result of a bug in your system. I have never had the intention of using Google+ on this account neither was I aware of a connection between Google+ and GMail regarding age verification. I haven’t even entered my birthday at Google+. Perhaps, if it’s true that I accessed it, I might have chosen the defaults simply to return to my email. The account (email@example.com) is the only admin account of my reaktorwarsaw.com domain (it’s a domain of a major Polish startup hub). There is now way I can manually manage the domain now so if nothing can be done on your site to fix the problem bugs in your system caused, I will need to move out from Google for e-mail hosting. I’m sure this will not be necessary and you will find the way to fix this issue. Regards, Borys
I was pissed at that point already but I knew there is no reason to say it. It wouldn’t help the casue. Also, it’s not Antonis’s fault I guess that his company’s policy is to tell their users they are unimportant and that they should be happy anyone is actually taking any action instead of ignorning them completely. He answered:
Hello Borys,Thank you for your message. I did a more in depth investigation, and I found that you were suspended for providing the wrong age in Youtube Service and not in Google+. My apologies for the initial mistake. Providing wrong age in that service has caused your account to be suspended as per our policy, http://support.google.com/accounts/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=1350409. We realize that this issue might happen by mistake and this is why we give a 30 day window for users to recover their accounts. Unfortunately, after this 30 day window passes, it is not anymore feasible for us to recover this account. Now I understand that you are not able to access your Google Apps account and hence I will check with a Control Panel specialist to see if it is possible to regain access to your control panel. However, I can’t guarantee a resolution since the domain that you have is not entitled to support. I’ll try to assist you out of courtesy, but I need to be transparent with you and set the appropriate expectations. I’ll be able to respond on this the following Monday.
Google Enterprise Support
So now it’s YouTube, not Google+. Why on earth would I use Google+ anyway??
Now I had no other option but wait. In the worst case, I’d lose not just my account but the whole Google Apps instance of reaktorwarsaw.com as my account was the only admin account there.
I got another mail on Monday, after Wiktor called Antonis to resolve the issue, eventually.
Hello Borys,Thank you for your patience. Unfortunately, we are not able to recover the account borys@ anymore as described in this Help Center article,http://support.google.com/accounts/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=1333913. This is a policy issue and I can’t do something on this from my end. However, what we can do now is to give you access to the control panel by making another user in your domain admin. So you will be able to access your control panel via the other user and then recreate user borys@. However, before doing this, we need you to prove ownership of your domain reaktorwarsaw.com for security purposes. Please go ahead and create a CNAME record as follows: Prefix: xxxxxxx
Destination: google.com In order to create a CNAME record please follow the details below: http://support.google.com/a/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=47283&topic=1687211&ctx=topic I’ll be looking forward for your response.Sincerely, Antonis
Google Enterprise Support
OK I lied a bit. I never actually logged in to that Reaktor account. I used auto-forwarded all my email to my other Google Apps account, firstname.lastname@example.org, that I use as an aggregator for all emails. This saved my life as I did not lose all the historical emails that I received at email@example.com—they were backed up on my other GMail account.
What if I had lost access to firstname.lastname@example.org same way? I don’t even want to think about it. I’d lose access to thousands of threads essential to my personal and business life.
I have just backed up all my emails locally using Thunderbird and now I’m researching methods to automatically backup GMail data into another cloud to be double-protected.
And you should do the same thing.
Eventually I got access to my Google Apps admin account, too (another user was made an admin by Google support). I “only” lost my email@example.com account with its email history. No one could have prevented that at Google, it seems.
- Google Apps (free edition) support is shit and doesn’t give a damn about their users.
- Google internal corporate procedures are absurd to the degree that they cannot even manually rollback bugs caused by their software.
- It’s good to have friends at Google, otherwise I’m not sure I would succeed in getting back my Google Apps admin.
- Google Apps is still (unfortunately) the best cloud e-mail solution (I did a lot of research… how on Earth isn’t there any sensible competition??).
Backup your email both locally and in the cloud so that you don’t end up moaning on a blog as I do.
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