Spam May Be Killing Legitimate E-mail

Today I had a real problem.  One of the servers I manage for a customer was having problems.  It wasn’t sending e-mails.  This isn’t your typical problem of not sending e-mail this is one of the bad problems.

So, as always with e-mail problems the first thing you always do is check it out for yourself.  So I went onto the server, played around for a while and sent myself an e-mail.  Ahh, simple success.  Everything was working correctly and a scan through the server event logs showed that everything had always been working perfectly.

Nuts, that’s not good.  My customers aren’t technological savages, they don’t report a tech problem like not receiving e-mails unless  they do some checking for themselves.  Actually oftentimes problems are quite well established before I hear about them.  This means that except for very, very rare instances the problem is absolutely true.  So while all this was heading through my mind and the check of the logs, a couple of minutes had passed and it was time to check my e-mail account for my delicious test e-mail.

It wasn’t there.  Everything had worked properly and yet the e-mail hadn’t arrived at its destination.  It was a single hop and I knew my e-mail was working because this issue had only been reported moments prior by e-mail.  After confirming a few more things and waiting on my hands for even more time I eventually gave up and decided that e-mail wasn’t working after all even though it was working as evidenced by this customer sending e-mails to me.

So my in depth research has shown some very interesting results.  Essentially the server that was sending e-mails is not the typical e-mail server.  Now due to the proliferation of Spam e-mail servers have started getting “smarter” and taking the spam verification process much more seriously.  There are many ways of checking for spam and most of those options are potentially error prone and thus we all have spam folders that need to be gone through on occasion.

There is one newish way of checking for spam though.  And this way is “fool proof”.  Basically each server that is suppose to send mail is actually registered at a very low level on the internet.  This information can be searched for and the sending domain (like @hotmail.com) can be pulled out and tested.  If this information doesn’t match or doesn’t exist, then the message can and often is marked as spam.  The e-mail provider for my client took this an extra step (one that I suspect will become far more common) they just deleted the messages without delivering them at all.

So, I fixed this issue by making changes to how the server was sending e-mails.  What does this mean to you?

Basically this means that you need your IT people to make sure that e-mail is only sent through the official channels.  Normally if you are using Exchange that is taken care of for you, but if you are using e-mail programs for newsletters or specialized programs that directly send e-mail you could be in a tight bind.  It is getting to be close to impossible to send e-mails without using the properly setup servers.  If your e-mails are being caught often as spam, you need to have IT take a look and ensure that your e-mail servers are properly registered otherwise you may find your e-mails go missing more often than not.

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