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E-mail woe - would you stay?

mssystems
Rising Star
Posts: 269
Thanks: 33
Fixes: 1
Registered: 10-08-2007

E-mail woe - would you stay?

I feel like I need a bit of community support because I am not getting it from plus.net Cry

Our e-mail system has very little to do with plus.net because I simply do not trust them to run their mail reliably (and I think they have proven such beyond doubt in recent months).

Mail to our domain initially goes to a spam/anti-virus filtering server run by a 3rd party. Once they have done their bit the mail is relayed to our SMTP gateway where it gets a more aggressive scan. Finally it is relayed to our Exchange server and delivered to user mailboxes. Should our servers be offline there are distributed secondary and tertiary servers that will store and forward. This all costs money but it results in a highly reliable and secure e-mail system which requires virtually zero intervention and which has NEVER lost a legitimate e-mail. We get the odd false positive caught in the spam traps but we know where to find them.

Around the start of July I noticed that the odd e-mail sent to our domain was randomly going missing. As a company that provides computer networking expertise this is not merely inconvenient but damages our reputation. July has been extremely busy for us so I ended up calling in one of our contract engineers to look at it because I lacked the time. £300 later we find out where the missing mail is going.

I am kicking myself. I should have guessed the problem would end up being of PNs making despite the fact that all we ask them to do is serve up a couple MX records as we configured them about two years ago. Alas it appears they can not be trusted to do even that simple job right :x

This is what our DNS looked like on Friday morning (obviously I am using my-domain.invalid in place of a real domain name)
Non-authorative answer
MX preference = 10, mail exchanger = mx.core.plus.net
MX preference = 10, mail exchanger = mx1.mydomain.invalid
MX preference = 20, mail exchanger = mx.last.plus.net
MX preference = 20, mail exchanger = mx2.mydomain.invalid
MX preference = 90, mail exchanger = mx3.mydomain.invalid

So I fire off a ticket to support and we get a response fairly quickly informing us that the account has been set to POP3 pickup. Bit odd because I have not been into the domain name portal for months. While waiting for the response from PN CSC I had the bright idea of having a look in the PN webmail system. I would not normally have any reason to look in webmail.

I find around 8000 messages in our unused mailbox. So many in fact that Squirrel mail struggles to process it. Most are spam but a search reveals that sure enough important messages from clients have ended up in there. Skipping to the bottom I find a couple messages from PN, sent between June and July 3rd informing us that the mailbox we never use is about to be archived...because we have not used it apparently. Immediately after the archive the volume of mail increases dramatically as PN start intercepting mail to our domain name and delivering it to the mailbox we never use.

It is clear to me that when PN archived the mailbox they managed to switch our account to POP3. It is highly annoying that this has already cost £300 but I can live with it providing PN do their part to help sort it out. Switch it back to SMTP and send the mail to our spam filters. Shouldn't be too difficult....you might think...and you would be wrong.

I updated the ticket telling what I have found and get a helpful response indicating that the fault has been escalated and that we might not be the only people who have suffered. All still looks good...Until Monday morning when I get a response informing me that relaying the mail to our spam filters is "not possible" I beg to differ. It is perfectly possible if you take the time to find out how to do it.

The PN response very helpfully (not) mentioned a couple things we might try, Fetchmail and a Pop-Pickup agent for Exchange. Two things: Firstly both of those suggestions end up with mail bypassing the spam filter we pay for so are far from ideal. Secondly why I would wish to spend time and money fiddling with additional software on a server that works perfectly is a little beyond me.

Anyhow. That is the saga. I can paraphrase the PN response in a sentence; 'heads we win, tails you lose!'

Now I don't expect anyone to be perfect, least of all ISPs. However, every other supplier I deal with takes ownership of the problems they cause. My own company does the same. It is the 'right' thing to do. I am currently faced with having to fiddle with mail applications I have no need of and little experience with. Then someone is going to have to put their minds to the problem of trawling through 8000 messages for the couple dozen that are highly important. Personally I do not think this is acceptable.

So back to the original question. It is fair to say that I am less than pleased with PN at the moment. They claim to offer a business service and charge a premium for it. They do not however appear to want to provide the service to go along with that premium. It appears to me PN are happy to push costs back to their customers when they themselves have inflicted those costs.

So before I respond to the latest ticket I would appreciate some opinion. Am I being unreasonable with my expectation? Would you put up with this sort of treatment? Would you refer your customers so they too can experience it?

Thanks for the indulgence.
2 REPLIES
Community Gaffer
Community Gaffer
Posts: 12,810
Thanks: 639
Fixes: 62
Registered: 04-04-2007

Re: E-mail woe - would you stay?

Hi there,

Quote
I feel like I need a bit of community support because I am not getting it from plus.net Cry

I'm sorry to hear that, but will do my best to address some of the points you've raised.

Quote
Our e-mail system has very little to do with plus.net because I simply do not trust them to run their mail reliably (and I think they have proven such beyond doubt in recent months).

Mail to our domain initially goes to a spam/anti-virus filtering server run by a 3rd party. Once they have done their bit the mail is relayed to our SMTP gateway where it gets a more aggressive scan. Finally it is relayed to our Exchange server and delivered to user mailboxes. Should our servers be offline there are distributed secondary and tertiary servers that will store and forward. This all costs money but it results in a highly reliable and secure e-mail system which requires virtually zero intervention and which has NEVER lost a legitimate e-mail. We get the odd false positive caught in the spam traps but we know where to find them.

I can see you have 3 custom records. I'm guessing the spam filtering and relaying to your gateway is done 'behind the scenes' so to speak, given that all three records point to subdomains of the same domain.

Quote
Around the start of July I noticed that the odd e-mail sent to our domain was randomly going missing. As a company that provides computer networking expertise this is not merely inconvenient but damages our reputation. July has been extremely busy for us so I ended up calling in one of our contract engineers to look at it because I lacked the time. £300 later we find out where the missing mail is going.

Did you contact us before calling the engineers out? I'd be interested to know what happened if you did. I am sorry you were inconvenienced to this extent but would have liked to think that we could have helped diagnose the problem.

Quote
I am kicking myself. I should have guessed the problem would end up being of PNs making despite the fact that all we ask them to do is serve up a couple MX records as we configured them about two years ago. Alas it appears they can not be trusted to do even that simple job right :x

This is what our DNS looked like on Friday morning (obviously I am using my-domain.invalid in place of a real domain name)
Non-authorative answer
MX preference = 10, mail exchanger = mx.core.plus.net
MX preference = 10, mail exchanger = mx1.mydomain.invalid
MX preference = 20, mail exchanger = mx.last.plus.net
MX preference = 20, mail exchanger = mx2.mydomain.invalid
MX preference = 90, mail exchanger = mx3.mydomain.invalid

So I fire off a ticket to support and we get a response fairly quickly informing us that the account has been set to POP3 pickup. Bit odd because I have not been into the domain name portal for months. While waiting for the response from PN CSC I had the bright idea of having a look in the PN webmail system. I would not normally have any reason to look in webmail.

I find around 8000 messages in our unused mailbox. So many in fact that Squirrel mail struggles to process it. Most are spam but a search reveals that sure enough important messages from clients have ended up in there. Skipping to the bottom I find a couple messages from PN, sent between June and July 3rd informing us that the mailbox we never use is about to be archived...because we have not used it apparently. Immediately after the archive the volume of mail increases dramatically as PN start intercepting mail to our domain name and delivering it to the mailbox we never use.

It is clear to me that when PN archived the mailbox they managed to switch our account to POP3.

Yep, this is unfortunately exactly what happened. Our domain control system has three settings that govern the delivery of your email.

POP3
Delivers email for your domain locally. Automatically creates the following records:
MX 10 mx.core.plus.net.
MX 20 mx.last.plus.net.

SMTP
Relays email to a designated IP. Automatically creates the following records:
MX 5 mail.yourdomain.tld.
MX 10 autoturn.plus.net.
MX 20 mx.last.plus.net.

SEMI-AUTO
Removes all automated records with the exception of:
MX 20 mx.last.plus.net.
(This can now be removed though as announced here )

Due to a problem that would appear to have been triggered by the archiving of your POP3 mailbox the flag in our DCS system reverted back to POP3. This created a (duplicate) entry at priority level 10 and 20. Depending on the records returned by the sending MTA some email was then going to your original PRI 10/20 records whilst the rest was going to the duplicates.

If I'm being honest I cannot tell you exactly why this happened. What I do know though is that we have recently resolved a similar problem causing our mx.last servers to deliver locally as opposed to relay mail. This problem was published to our portal here. Part of this problem was to query the database for any discrepancies and fix them accordingly. This should hopefully mean that there are no more instances of this problem.

I've just checked your records and there was still a duplicate entry for mx.last at PRI 20. This will always have been there even before the problem occurred (we didn't offer the functionality to remove it until yesterday). What this means is that the 2nd record you added would never have worked 100% of the time and the third record is unlikely to have worked at all. There is a record at PRI 101 aswell that the system has generated. We should be able to remove this tomorrow.

Keep tabs on your mail exchanger records using an online DIG like this one and let me know if you're still seeing oddities in 48 hours or so.

Quote
It is highly annoying that this has already cost £300 but I can live with it providing PN do their part to help sort it out. Switch it back to SMTP and send the mail to our spam filters. Shouldn't be too difficult....you might think...and you would be wrong.

I updated the ticket telling what I have found and get a helpful response indicating that the fault has been escalated and that we might not be the only people who have suffered. All still looks good...Until Monday morning when I get a response informing me that relaying the mail to our spam filters is "not possible" I beg to differ. It is perfectly possible if you take the time to find out how to do it.

There isn't really an easy solution to this. The email is stored in your local mail directory on the attached storage used for our POP3/IMAP email. Without manually forwarding the 8000 messages or so there's not an awful lot we can do Sad

Quote
The PN response very helpfully (not) mentioned a couple things we might try, Fetchmail and a Pop-Pickup agent for Exchange. Two things: Firstly both of those suggestions end up with mail bypassing the spam filter we pay for so are far from ideal. Secondly why I would wish to spend time and money fiddling with additional software on a server that works perfectly is a little beyond me.

Mail server software I have used in the past has allowed me to set up a forwarding address for mail retrieved using POP3. Is it possible to configure a new mailbox under your domain, have the POP3 email pulled down to this and set up a forward to redeliver it to your address? Would this sort of arrangement work?

Quote
Anyhow. That is the saga. I can paraphrase the PN response in a sentence; 'heads we win, tails you lose!'

Now I don't expect anyone to be perfect, least of all ISPs. However, every other supplier I deal with takes ownership of the problems they cause. My own company does the same. It is the 'right' thing to do. I am currently faced with having to fiddle with mail applications I have no need of and little experience with. Then someone is going to have to put their minds to the problem of trawling through 8000 messages for the couple dozen that are highly important. Personally I do not think this is acceptable.

So back to the original question. It is fair to say that I am less than pleased with PN at the moment. They claim to offer a business service and charge a premium for it. They do not however appear to want to provide the service to go along with that premium. It appears to me PN are happy to push costs back to their customers when they themselves have inflicted those costs.

I'm sorry you feel this way. Unfortunately mistakes can and do happen from time to time and that sadly seems to be the case here. We've since investigated a problem with our Domain Control System since that we hope to have fixed this. I have sent a ticket to your on your account and refunded your last subscription payment.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any further questions or find that your domain is behaving unexpectedly in a day or two.

Kind Rgds,

Bob Pullen
Plusnet Products Team
If I've been helpful then please give thanks ⤵

N/A

E-mail woe - would you stay?

If you have your domain registered with a 3rd party so the you have control of the nameservers then I suggest that you have your DNS records hosted elsewhere. That what I do, I use http://www.dnsmadeeasy.com for both DNS and MX backup.