On Email Spooling, MX records, and hosting

Posted on 2006-04-19
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2010-03-19
Hi.  Our company has our own domino email server.  We also have our website hosted externally.
Currently, I have an MX record setup on our hosting provider that points to our mail server.
This works fine, but on occasion i think we are losing email as we have no spooling.
Our hosting provider will not spool email for us either.
Here is what I would like to have:

1. our website hosted externally
2. incoming email cleaned of spam
3. all email for our domain sent directly to our mail server (not POP'ped)
4. when our mail server does not respond, the email will spool

Is it common for hosting providers to offer services that match what I am requesting, and who would you recommend?
Question by:bctek
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LVL 11

Accepted Solution

rvthost earned 1000 total points
ID: 16490249
We have virtually an identical setup.  Until recently, we hosted our own filtering solution but have now outsourced which is working GREAT!  With our particular service, we have just as much control over the filters and it is extremely reliable.  We personally use Berbee Mail Protection Services (www.berbee.com), but I'm sure there are many many out there.  

You get all this information from the provider, but basically just change your MX records to use the provider.  The provider cleans the mail, sends it directly to your mail server.  If your mail server goes down, the provider holds it until you're back up.  With Berbee, it is several days at least.
LVL 10

Expert Comment

ID: 16490382
there are several providers who offer website and email hosting. they offer different type of plans. so depened on your needs and how many emails you want and the size needed. for example fatcow.com offer plans for $100 a year with 100 emails and hosting a website in addition to some ftp and other service. many others offer similar plans with different prices.

But I would recommand that since you have a server with static ip, then leave it on all the time. that way you won't have problems with space as it is the number 1 problem if you are using third party provider. you can also have another mail server for when the other server is down.

hope this helps!
LVL 12

Expert Comment

ID: 16498471
You DON'T want spooling.  Let the sender's server queue the mail and retry later.  That way, when your server comes back online, the sender's server connects to yours and gives you the mail.  The key is if any of it is addressed to a non-existant address, it gets rejected.

If you spool, the spooling server ends up accepting all of that mail, and then has to deal with the bounceograms (which are often useless anyway).  Worse, spammers will send to your spooling server even when your primary server is reachable, bogging it down further.
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Author Comment

ID: 16499350
"The key is if any of it is addressed to a non-existant address, it gets rejected."

Would not this be the case in spooling as well?  Spooling (correct me if I'm wrong) is simply a second MX record of lesser priority, where another company hosts the server that MX record points to.  It simply colllects mail and tries to "push it".  If an address doesn't exist on our server, it gets bounced, spool or no spool.
LVL 12

Expert Comment

ID: 16499591
If the address doesn't exist on your server, it gets bounced.

A spooling server is (as you said) a second MX of lesser priority, configured to RELAY mail to your domain(s) BUT NOT ACCEPT THE MAIL LOCALLY (it doesn't have the mailboxes available to it).

If an email to a non-existant address arrives on the spooling server, it must accept it, since it doesn't know the list of legitimate addresses, then send it to your primary server, at which point it gets bounced, and the spooling server has to try to send the bounceogram back to the sender.  Your spooling server is now doing the work that the spammer's server had to do before.  That's bad.
LVL 11

Expert Comment

ID: 16499849
I respectfully disagree with pjtemplin :)   I understand what he's saying, but you're not eliminating any work for your server since it still has to send the delivery failure.  Yes, the spooling server has added load, but who cares?  You're paying for the spooler/spam filtering service, plus they know what they're getting into and have the infrastructure to support it.  Not all incoming email is spam, almost but not quite ;-)  Without a lesser priority MX record there to hold your mail, you could potentially bounce back valid messages to valid senders.  Now they're wondering why your company is rejecting mail and I don't think that looks real good for your company.  With a spooler, you can have down time and no one is the wiser.  You're not racing the clock so you get back up before delivery failures get sent back to valid senders.  Highly recommended!
LVL 12

Assisted Solution

pjtemplin earned 1000 total points
ID: 16501129
The objective was not to lighten the load on the main server, or if it was it was not clear.  Regardless, the main server doesn't have to SEND a delivery failure today; it merely REJECTS the mail before the content is ever sent.

If the spooling server accepts the mail, when it attempts to send the message to the primary, the primary rejects the mail before the content is sent.  Now the spooling server has to attempt to send a delivery failure.  That's the extra load.  Add in the fact that spammers will send to the spooling server without trying the primary, and you've added significantly more load.

How long is your server not accepting mail?  More than a day straight?  More than five days straight?  Why isn't it accepting mail?  If it can't handle the load, the spooler might help but might hurt.  If you're losing connectivity for less than a day, the sender's server will queue the mail and retry for typically 3-5 days, and you're fine.

Learn the intricacies of an actual SMTP conversation, and you'll see what I mean.

Author Comment

ID: 16502087
thank you both for your very informative posts.  Having the point-counterpoint really helps me have all the tools I need to make an informed decision.  I have to assign an "accepted answer" so I will default to the first answer.

thanks again.

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