8th April 2010

One of our mail servers has again been added to a spam blacklist, meaning that we are banned from sending e-mail, undoubtedly due to one of our hosting customers who has been sending bulk e-mail.

Technically, we can still send, but the users at Yahoo, MSN, and dozens of other providers will temporarily not accept mail from that mail servers IP address.

With several mail servers, only a portion of our users are affected, but it still stinks, and to that, all I can say is that I’m sorry – again.  We’ve “fixed” it by proving to the blacklists that we are a web host,  and by taking appropriate steps against the offender for our removal from the list. We now just have to wait, and for some domains, it may take up to 48 hours to clear up. Ugh.

As the battle against spammers wages on, you have to understand that bulk email can be defined by nearly ANYONE, and in some cases, no matter how unjustified, spam fascists are taking over the entire internet in an effort to “protect” us.

I hate spam as much as the next guy, but I HAVE to be able to send out emails. Unfortunately, people complaining to their ISPs and web hosts ABOUT spam they receive, are exactly what’s driving things to get more and more difficult for the business that needs to be able to SEND mail and have the reply come back to our own domain!

Remember, if you are a business that sends bulk email to friends, subscribers, or clients, then you should be using a third party service or you run the risk of losing your hosting account not only with us, but with anyone.

Just like the first time this happened, once we get things squared away, the offending user had their hosting account permanently suspended and removed from our system.

But that’s VERY small consolation to the dozens or perhaps hundreds of people that are affected today, and likely part of tomorrow, and are unable to send e-mails to many domains.

Business NEEDS reliable email, and anything less is simply unacceptable, but what can you do?

Change Hosts
If you’re on a shared webhosting plan, then you not only share your Web server with other domains, but you share your mail server as well.

This means that when the mail server gets banned, everybody on the server is unable to send e-mail to certain domains until the web host gets the IP address cleared.

Worse, even when the web host reacts quickly, fully resolving all the issues immediately, the larger providers like MSN and Yahoo can take up to 48 hours to allow your mail to come through again.

Although it happens infrequently, not being able to send e-mail is an intolerable situation, but you need a solution. Changing web hosts is one answer, but it’s only a temporary fix.

Get a Dedicated Server
If you change hosts into another shared environment, I practically guarantee that you ARE going to face the same situation, and there’s just no way around it. By upgrading to a dedicated server, YOU become the only one using it, and if your IP gets banned, you can look internally at the cause. However, for most websites this is overkill, and for the small business, the $100 per month or more can be excessive.

Get Your Own Server
Far more common is to bring your email in-house and own your own mail server. While your web visitors need instant access and high bandwidth, mail servers don’t, and it’s a simple matter of buying some hardware and making some DNS changes to your domain.

The computers can easily be run in your office environment, delivering it to users desktops and cell phones through Microsoft Exchange Server, or many other options.

Besides email, having your own server can lead to shared files, calendars, storage, backups, and a whole world of computing you may never have thought you needed, but it’s probably worth a conversation with your own computer support people for plenty of alternatives.

Use The Big Boys
Another option is to *not* send from your own domain, but instead send mail only from your ISP. That’s really what they prefer anyway, and why your home outgoing emails are getting blocked by Comcast and Qwest when people try to send mail from their own domains. They want to stop spam, so their users will stop complaining to them.

But those addresses look unprofessional. Most consumers simply won’t trust email that comes from mycompany@myisp.com or Hotmail, Gmail or Yahoo, but hey, at least your mail will probably get there.

Don’t forget though, that as people reply, then YOU may be on the receiving end of this “spam protection” but it’s for your own good, really!

Use the Google Cloud
For the small business owner that cannot afford their own dedicated server, we are now strongly recommending that they move e-mail entirely off of our hosting platform, and into the Google mail environment.

It’s a big step, but we understand that email is the lifeblood of many operations, and there’s simply nothing that can be done to prevent idiots ruining it for the rest of us.

for families, groups, non-profits, schools etc. Google offers a free service, and for businesses, they charge $50 per year per user. Since it’s probably the best and most affordable alternative for nearly anyone, I decided to change a domain over and see how it went. I used Google Apps Standard, and I could upgrade to the Premium business plan at any time.

By going here for Standard edition, or here for Premium, you can begin their trial, and test it out.

There are a TON of reasons that Google docs can be beneficial, and I use them all the time, but I was still a little nervous about making the switch. This was the first time I had to “put all of my eggs in Google’s basket” unless you count my day to day existence which seems to revolve around their search rankings ;)

Here’s an 8 minute video outlining the process, including changing the settings inside your Hsphere hosting account for our Portland hosting…

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    6 Responses to Google Apps Alternative Mail

    1. Jason says:

      What a nightmare. I don’t understand why people don’t use something like constant contact (or any other third party) to send out mass emails. Its so cheap and saves major headaches.

    2. Just a quick addition -

      The primary reason that most ISPs combat SPAM is not just user complaints, but actually the excessive amount of bandwidth, server and network resources it uses.

      Excessive amounts of SPAM either being sent from or to their networks hinders network traffic and also costs the providers quite a bit of money in bandwidth charges.

      It is estimated that more than 85% of messages sent via email are now messages that are seen by most as unsolicited messages or have some SPAM characteristics.

    3. S says:

      Generally speaking, how many emails would one have to send before it became bulk email, and thus, spam-ish?

    4. S says:

      Is that per hour, per day, per week…?

      What does that mean for those who send newsletters?

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