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Processing of SharePoint alerts

Posted on 2011-09-08
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Last Modified: 2016-02-10
I am confused as to how alerts are processed in SharePoint Foundation 2010.  

I have 3 virtual machines currently running in my test environment, plus a laptop with Win7 on it.

One virtual machine has Server 2008 R2 with SharePoint Foundation 2010 and SQL Express installed.  Another virtual machine has Server 2008 R2 and is a domain controller and my DNS server.  The third virtual machine is a dedicated mail server running FreeBSD and postfix.  No Exchange server running.

My Win7 laptop has Outlook 2010 installed and fetches mail from the FreeBSD server.

I've been doing some work with email enabled lists and alerts from lists, all using Outlook on the Win7 machine to test.  At one point, my alerts stopped working.  That issue has since been fixed, but now I am curious, based on a little further testing, how my alerts are getting through.

SharePoint is configured to use the SMTP server on the box where it is installed for outgoing email.  However, during some investigative work, I disabled the SMTP virtual server from the IIS 6.0 management interface and I disabled the SMTP service running on that machine.  With both these disabled, the alerts are still being processed and arriving at my Win7 Outlook inbox.

Checking the SharePoint logs, I don't see the alert job running as I did when troubleshooting the inital problem of alerts not being processed (turned out to be a corrupted entry in the ImmedSubscription table in the site's content database where the alert was created).

Any ideas of how SharePoint is sending out the alerts with (as far as I can tell) SMTP services disabled on the box?

I've created a test message RFC-882 format and put it into the Pickup folder, and it's still sitting there.  Plus trying to telnet to port 25 of the server also isn't working.  Both those tell me that SMTP on the box is down right now - again, as I intended.

Thanks in advance.
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Question by:AgeOfEmpires
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by:zephyr_hex (Megan)
ID: 36512918
sharepoint should be using SMTP.  you could enable logging on your SMTP to verify whether or not it's processing.  or send a test email to SMTP using the command line.

some info on testing SMTP here:
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/153119

info on smtp logs here:
http://www.winservermart.com/HowTo/SMTP_Logs.aspx

and, MS article that says sharepoint uses SMTP for alerts:
http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc262844.aspx
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by:AgeOfEmpires
ID: 36513102
Thanks for the comments.  Your info points out exactly why I'm "scratching my head".

All this started because I had (what seems to be) a common problem of when I created an alert on a list, the initial notification of alert subscription email was received, but no actual alerts were being processed.  Based upon my reading, the initial notification email bypasses SMTP, but the alerts are sent through SMTP.  Therefore, I embarked on testing SMTP.  My SMTP server was working fine, and the initial problem was associated with a bad record in the ImmedSubscriptions table in the web app content database.  Once that was cleaned up, everything was flowing.

However (with that background out of the way, back to the real issue I've posted about ) -----

As I was thinking through some of my problem resolution steps to fix the first problem, I decided to continue to play around with various items and do a little more digging (I am in a test environment).  For some reason, I decided to disable SMTP on the SharePoint server (the one configured for outgoing email in SharePoint), just to see what the log files would show.  Much to my surprise, even with the SMTP process was stopped, alerts left SharePoint and arrived at my Win7 Outlook via the FreeBSD mail server.

If I look at the header on one of the emails received while the SMTP service on the SharePoint box was disabled, it shows that the email was received from the IP address of the SharePoint box.

Thus my question.  My understanding was that SharePoint does use SMTP (but again, apparently not for the initial alert subscription email).  My current testing either shows this isn't always the case or I am just missing something (more likely).

Of course, SMTP logging won't be active with the service disabled, which is precisely the scenario I'm asking about.

This is 100% reproducible.

I am logging in SharePoint for the Alerts function.  When SMTP is enabled, the Alerts job will log and show the number of messages processed.  When SMTP is disabled, there is no entry in the log for Alerts, but (as I repeat myself again), the alerts do get sent.

???

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by:AgeOfEmpires
ID: 36513140
I didn't address your point about testing SMTP.  

I went through a thorough test of SMTP while trying to fix my first problem (not what my question above is about).  I do mention this however, as as reminder of a point in my initial question - I've used telnet and putting an RFC-882 format message in the Pickup folder to verify that my SMTP service is down when the alerts are processed.  The telnet fails to connect, as expected, and the pickup folder message just sits there until the SMTP service is restarted.

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zephyr_hex (Megan) earned 500 total points
ID: 36513608
the first email is a confirmation email.  the way sharepoint processes it is different than how it processes the actual alerts.  however, the confirmation and alert emails still use SMTP.  you can verify this by disabling the outgoing email configuration in sharepoint (so that sharepoint doesn't have the SMTP server listed, or a false SMTP address is entered), and then sign up for an alert.

see here:
http://sharepointalert.info/2009/11/troubleshooting-sharepoint-email-primer/

that article is part of this guide:
http://sharepointalert.info/troubleshooting-sharepoint-alerts/

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Author Comment

by:AgeOfEmpires
ID: 36526615
I appreciate your assistance.  There must be a "rogue" SMTP server somehow on my SharePoint box or something messed up in the configuration somewhere (although I don't know how, SMTP is a pretty simple config from SharePoint's standpoint).  The SMTP service is absolutely NOT running and alerts are going anyway.  
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Author Closing Comment

by:AgeOfEmpires
ID: 36538500
Thanks again.  You were spot-on for helping me learn to troubleshoot this problem.  I've yet to absolutely pin it down, but you've got me going on the right path.
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