troubleshooting #5.7.1 smtp;554 5.7.1: Relay access denied>

I maintain a dozen or so SBS 2003 boxes.  Very rarely, one of the users (from various servers) will forward me an NDR that looks like this:

<our_exchange_server_name> #5.7.1 smtp;554 5.7.1 <external_email_address>: Relay access denied>

In every case, the recipient's email address (external) is someone we have emailed before.  These emails will go through most of the time, but sometimes not.  Since they go through most of the time, you'd think it's not an issue on our end or their end, but some kind of temporary issue.

I've been reading through MS KBs and answers here on EE, but no resolution yet.

I have verified that my FQDN is correct in the SMTP virtual server.

I'm not sure where exactly to look to see exactly what is going wrong with these individual emails that are having trouble.  Today, I have had a user at one organization that has been unable to email the external recipient all day, but she was able to email the external recipient yesterday.  

Where do I start in the troubleshooting process on this one?

Thank you
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dmessmanAsked:
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MesthaCommented:
It very much depends on how email is delivered.
The key thing with NDRs is to know how to read them. On this NDR, the fact that the Exchange server is listed means that the email was rejected by the next hop. If email is being delivered to a smart host then the smart host rejected it. If the email is delivered directly by DNS, then it is the remote server that is rejecting it.

I usually see this when the email is going to a host who has multiple servers for their inbound email. One of the servers may not be configured correctly and believes it is not responsible for email for the domain.

-M
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Michael WorshamInfrastructure / Solutions ArchitectCommented:
Some ISPs are transitioning over to using SPF records to match up sending and receiving of e-mails from domain locations. Make sure that the Reverse DNS (rDNS) address resolves as the same IP address as the domain name.
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SurajCommented:
Do you have a smarthost configured ? on the default smtp virtual server or the smtp connector??
How is your external mail flow ..

exchange --> spambox--> firewall-> internet ???

-x
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dmessmanAuthor Commented:
in my case, there is no smarthost.

My SBS box delivers directly via DNS.  

As per mestha's explanation:
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If the email is delivered directly by DNS, then it is the remote server that is rejecting it.

I usually see this when the email is going to a host who has multiple servers for their inbound email. One of the servers may not be configured correctly and believes it is not responsible for email for the domain.

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I guess that makes sense.  In this particular case, I do think it's the recipient, so I'll call this the solution.

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