Why Didn’t I Get That Email?

by Stephen Cole on December 15, 2014

Dealing with email problems is a daily constant as a computer consultant. Typical complaints include “Why are my emails bouncing?’ or “Why didn’t I receive that email from XYZ?” It’s important to understand that while email on the surface seems simple and straight-forward, it’s actually a very complex system with a lot of moving parts. Every message that’s sent has to pass through multiple servers, routers and spam filters before it reaches its destination, so there are many opportunities for things to go wrong. One of the prime examples of this is when a client complains that they never received an important email from someone, and they only found out about it after the person called them and asked “Why are my emails to you bouncing?” After ruling out the obvious culprits like a misspelled email address, my first step is to check out the bounce message the sender received to determine at what point the email was rejected and why. Often times the issue is that the recipient’s spam filter flagged the email as containing spam or malware, or the sender’s domain is on a spam blacklist. In both cases the recipient’s spam filter rejected the email and notified the sender without informing the recipient. The first case is easy to rectify by adding the sender’s email address to the spam filter’s whitelist. The second case is more serious and harder to fix. The reason a company’s domain gets on a spam blacklist is due to a mail server which sends their email having a history of sending spam, or an IP address that the server uses having done the same. This requires that the sender’s company take the necessary steps to have their domain removed from the blacklist, or find another email service that doesn’t let its servers get used by spammers.

Having a business-class email system makes the process of troubleshooting these issues much easier. Microsoft Office 365 and most Exchange hosting vendors offer robust spam configuration and reporting tools that allow me to view the status of all incoming mail and determine if and why a message was rejected. These tools are not available for businesses using free email, such as Gmail or Yahoo, or ones that do not allow their customers easy access to their spam server controls. In addition, Office 365 and Exchange hosting services have strong spam/malware filters that screen out the bad stuff before it hits your inbox, which prevents you from being possibly blacklisted.

If your company is having any of these problems, it’s important to deal with them before they damage your domain, business reputation and bottom line. Removing your company from blacklists can be very expensive and time consuming. The cost of a business-class email system starts as low as $5 per month per user. At that price, you really can’t afford not to make the switch.

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