Are you receiving all your e-mails?


With so much of our lives being on-line everyone needs to be vigilant. But internet security is a money making machine and not all the advice is in our best interests. Sometimes companies get swept up in the frenzy. Maybe because its not felt politically correct only to do the right thing but bow to the need to be doing something more. However when that company is an ISP or a email service provider, the impact of overzealously ‘protecting’ their clients can be more harmful than the original issue.

In our case we’ve been contacted by partners to let us know emails from them have been rejected. We use Easyspace who have recently moved us to a new email platform which now performs a specific check called Forward confirmed reverse DNS that may (has in our case) reject legitimate emails. Apparently this check is used by other email service providers but I can only talk about our experience.

The real problem is that, as a business, we don’t get to know the emails have been rejected so we don’t know how many potential clients may have tried, unsuccessfully, to contact us. The full article describes the scenario we find ourselves in. If you are a user of the Easyspace email service, it may be worth taking the time to call them and ask if emails from your prospective customers might have been rejected.

We’ve been a user of Easyspace (www.easyspace.com) for a long time and have been very satified with their DNS services. Easyspace was one of the first companies to provide domain name servers that can be managed over the web. We have also taken advantage of their email services which have been simple but reliable and met our needs.

In November we were ‘upgraded’ to their new email platform. Since then we have had reports from some partners that legitimate emails have been rejected. I’ve been informed by their technical support this is because the new service implements some additional checks to validate the IP address of the sender.

The rationale for this check is sound: try to reduce spam. A laudable goal. The check uses DNS records to validate the IP address of the sender corresponds to the domain name of the email sender. For example, to ensure that IP address aaa.bbb.ccc.ddd used to send an email from me@mydomain.com goes back to the mydomain.com domain. If the sending IP address cannot be traced back to mydomain.com the email is rejected.

Sounds reasonable. But, at least from our perspective there’s a problem. This check probably works for, lets call it, a retail scenario: you and me sending email from home. The big email providers such as BT, Virgin Media, Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail, etc. will have their DNS records setup correctly so this check will work reliably.

However businesses may, or may not. The check assumes two things that may not be true: 1) that all DNS records for company (business domains) will have correct PTR (reverse lookup) records; 2) that the domain of the me@mydomain.com is a top level domain in my business.

These conditions may or may not be true for companies. Yes, it would be ideal if all DNS configuration is perfect but in the real world that’s not the case. If either of these conditions are not met, email from an ‘offending’ domain will be rejected by Easyspace and we will never know an email was sent.

For businesses like ours dealing with other businesses this is a potential disaster. We’ve been lucky that three partners have taken the time to contact us and let us know they were unable to contact us. But we don’t know if users who have tried, in response to marketing campaigns, to contact us have been been unable to do so.

The essence of the problem from our point of view is that the check judges, based on some missing or invalid DNS record entry, that an email is spam. I can’t imagine a business that would want their third party email supplier making such judgements automatically without even confirming the content is invalid.

The silver lining in our case is that we’ve been on the new platform for just a few weeks (the old platform did not implement this check).

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