Email problems

Simple Guide to Domain Registration, Email Services, and Web Hosting

Domain name registration

Domain name registration

Setting up email services – what you need to understand

  1. When you register a domain name you become the registrant. They are registered through various registries depending on the extension (the last bit of the domain after the ‘.’) of the domain, for example, anything that ends in a ‘uk’ is registered through Nominet based here in the UK and ICANN look after domain extensions such as .NET, .COM, .ORG, and .INFO. The domain name registration will need your email address and other contact details
  2. When you register a domain you will need to pick who has the administrative control over it. This is normally done automatically through your domain name provider, for example, if you register your domain through GoDaddy, they will have administrative control of your domain.
  3. The domain administration will often be managed by your web developer
  4. Once you have registered your domain, you can transfer the administrative control to another provider. This can usually be done directly through the current administrator. The most common domains are the NOMINET and ICANN ones and are transferred as follows:
  • Nominet domains – change the TAG
  • ICANN domains – unlock the domain before initiating a transfer from the new administrator
  1. There will usually be a small charge made for transfers
  2. Alternatively, you can simply change the NAMESERVERS which will not change the company providing the domain registration services and renewals but will pass control over all other associated services to a new provider. The NAMESERVERS is a bit of information added to the domain that says where the domain is being administered.
  3. Now you’ve registered a domain and the administrative control is set up name you can split the services i.e. web services and email services. You don’t have to use both of these, you can use one or the other, or you can use both
  4. The most common web service is the standard website which is what happens when you type your domain name into a web browser. Other web services include sub-domains and FTP access.
  5. Web hosting is simply a computer that is connected to the internet and has an IP address (Internet Protocol.) This IP address is the unique location for the connection. When you request a website, such as BBC.CO.UK, your browser looks up the corresponding IP address for your request and downloads the corresponding website to your browser.
  6. Email services are primarily receiving email i.e. if someone sends an email to your domain name, how is it handled and where does it go?
  7. These changes are specified in the DNS registry (Dynamic Name System) that is controlled through your domain administrative provider
  8. Note: Other DNS settings can be, for example, to prove administrative control of a domain (this is a quite common request with Google & Bing)
  9. The only other service you’ll need in relation to email is the SMTP service (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol.) This is the service that takes the email you want to send and relays on the road towards it’s recipient. This is a completely separate service to the web and email services connected with your domain but is often provided alongside these.
  10. An email client is the software used to send and receive emails. This can be a web-based client or can be a locally based client (local email client) such as Outlook. Web based email clients will generally also provide SMTP services but if you want to use a local email client such as Outlook, you’ll need SMTP services. SMTP is sometimes provided as part of a hosting package but sometimes it must be purchased separately

In summary

  1. To register a domain name you’ll need a domain name registrar to register it on your behalf (such as GoDaddy or 123 Reg) or an agency such as Seven Creative
  2. When you register the domain you become the domain name registrant
  3. You need to specify who has administrative control of the domain using the NAMESERVERS
  4. You need to specify where the web services and email services are administered (these don’t have to both be used and can be with separate providers if you wish.) This is done using the DNS via your domain name administrator
  5. If you’re going to have a website, you’ll need website hosting.
  6. Email sending services and webmail are often bundled with website hosting
  7. If you are going to be using email services using a local email client (such as Outlook, Thunderbird, , email on your mobile phone, Apple Mail, etc.) you’ll need an SMTP server which may be bundled with your hosting or may be purchased separately

The ‘Undeliverable Email’ Notifications Problem

It’s a very common problem to, out of the blue, start to get lots and lots of ‘mail delivery failure’ type emails but unfortunately there’s not a lot we can do to stop this.

Short explanation

The ‘Undeliverable Email’ Notifications Problem

The ‘Undeliverable Email’ Notifications Problem

When spammers send out their spam emails they need to pretend these emails are from a legitimate source otherwise they won’t be successfully delivered. Every email has certain information extra attached to it such as a sender address so you know who it’s from. Spammers will fake this information to make sure the emails get through spam filters so if you’re suddenly receiving a lot of ‘mail delivery failure’ messages, there’s a very good chance someone is sending out spam emails pretending to come from your email address.

The good news is it’s probably nothing personal, it’s unlikely to affect your domain adversely in the long-term, and the problem normally tails off after a week or two

Longer explanation

From my experience, the problem usually spikes within the first week and only lasts about 2 or 3 weeks in total.

The best way to understand why this happens, in my opinion, is to think about it like this:

Imagine if Jim didn’t want to receive a letter in the post from Bob but Bob wanted to send a letter to Jim anyway. If, when Bob puts his letter to Jim in the post, he puts the ‘sender’ address on the back of the envelope as someone else other than himself, Jim wouldn’t know the letter was from Bob until he actually received it and opened it.

Just like a letter you receive in the post, emails also have a ‘sender’ address that can be ‘faked’ or ‘spoofed.’

In the example above, Bob is the email spammer – he wants to send emails to Jim (and millions more) about things like fake watches and pharmaceuticals – but his emails would be easily caught by spam filters because Bob is a known spammer. Jim, on the other hand, is just one of millions of random recipients. And the sender address on the back of the ‘envelope’ is yours because you’re not a known spammer so emails from you pass easily through the spam filter… although it could actually be anybody’s address used as the ‘sender’

So, here is why you’re getting so many ‘Undeliverable Email’ Notifications:

  1. Bob sends his millions of emails out to random recipients,
  2. Bob puts the ‘sender’ address as yours,
  3. the spam filters see that these emails are from, they know you’re not a spammer, so they let these emails through the filter,
  4. Jim, on the other hand, opens the email from Bob and sees it’s spam so marks it accordingly
  5. after a while, the spam filters begins to suspect you are a spammer
  6. the spam filters begin to reject emails from you they now think you’re a spammer
  7. you start getting ‘undeliverable email’ notifications as these emails are rejected and sent back to what they believe are the ‘sender’ i.e. you
  8. now his email’s are getting rejected, Bob starts to use a different ‘sender’ address
  9. your ‘undeliverable email’ notifications begin to tail off as Bob is now using someone else’s address as the ‘sender’ address

So, the bad news is that there is no way we can talk to Bob directly to ask him nicely to not use your email address as the ‘sender’ address

The good news is that it’s nothing personal, there shouldn’t be any long-term damage to your domain name, and the problem should naturally stop after a few weeks all by itself