Google Inc's Web-based email service on Thursday suffered its second technical problem in a month as users reported difficulty accessing their contacts.

The disruption, which took 2-1/2 hours to resolve, followed a two-hour outage of Google's news website this week. Earlier this month, a majority of its email users were unable to access the service for more than an hour after routers got overloaded during a routine server upgrade.

The series of disruptions comes as Google tries to compete with Microsoft Corp and International Business Machines Corp by extending its services to business users -- who are likely to be less tolerant of long outages.

Reports of the latest glitch flooded the Twitter microblogging site, with users posting comments highlighting and griping about the situation.

A problem with Google Contacts caused many Gmail users to experience slowness and degraded service for about an hour today, Google said in a statement.

Mail was back to full speed for everyone around 8 am Pacific and the issue affecting Contacts was resolved shortly after. We're sorry for the inconvenience.

Gmail already competes with Microsoft's Hotmail and Yahoo Inc's Web-based e-mail. Google offers its email service for free but also sells a version to businesses with extra features and technical support for $50 per user per year.

Fear of outages, in addition to security concerns, has been a reason many businesses are wary of adopting cloud computing technologies offered by Google as well as and, which help deliver data and services over the Internet.

(Reporting by Alexei Oreskovic; Editing by Leslie Gevirtz and Richard Chang)