A "significant" portion of Gmail users experienced long inbound and outbound delivery delays for several hours on Tuesday, and the affected included organizations that use the email service for workplace communications through the hosted Google Apps suite.

Google acknowledged the problem shortly after 4 p.m. US Eastern Time in its Apps Status Dashboard. It was solved by around 8:30 p.m. The issue proved very disruptive to the workflow and client communications at The Swift Collective, a digital marketing agency. It had problems with inbound and outbound mail for most of its business day.

"We rely very heavily on email, especially because a lot of our clients are out of town and out of state," said Paul Wille, partner and strategy vice president at the company. "As an agency, we have very tight deadlines and we pride ourselves on delivering on them."

Of particular concern to Wille was that it first heard about his company's email problems from upset clients that were waiting for messages and files that didn't arrive at the expected time. Google didn't acknowledge the problem until hours later, he said. Google needs to be quicker to detect and acknowledge this type of problem so that Gmail users can make adjustments and arrangements while the issue lasts, he said.

This is the second major email malfunction that The Swift Collective experiences since adopting the free Standard version of Google Apps about two years ago for its about 25 end users. Yesterday's fallout has shaken the company's confidence in the product, he said.

Although happy overall with Google Apps, the company will consider switching to a different email provider if Gmail problems become more common, Wille said.