How to remove your mail server from Hotmail black list

I came to office on Monday and the guy from accounts came and told me that he is not able to send any email to his Hotmail account. I shrugged and thought that our mail server may have gotten blacklisted and that could be the reason why he was not able to send his emails. I checked the blacklist status of my website on http://mxtoolbox.com and it came clean. I then sent an email to my Hotmail account and I got a Message Delivery Failure message with the following message.

Hotmail Blacklist Message
Hotmail Blacklist Message

I Googled and found that Hotmail has its own blacklist reporting service. The blacklist meant that we could not send any email to any Hotmail, Outlook and MSN email address and that is a big negative for our business as most people create accounts on these websites and we could lost money if we are unable to send them any email.

I then proceeded to https://postmaster.live.com/snds and logged in with my Hotmail account. I logged in fine but I was not able to view any data for my mail server. It seemed like I had to request access to my mail server so I could then review the data they have against it. I clicked on Request Access link and got the following page:

Request access to view IP address logs
Request access to view IP address logs

Enter the IP address and click Submit and Hotmail will display the email address accounts on which they can provide you access to the logs. This is necessary as Hotmail cannot provide access to thee logs to every one.

Select email address to view logs
Select email address to view logs

Once you select the email address (please note that the chosen address must exist),  you will receive an email from Hotmail requesting you to confirm giving access to the person who has signed in through his Hotmail email account (in this case myself).

Hotmail IP log access request
Hotmail IP log access request

Once you click on the link to give you access Hotmail provides you complete log of the emails sent from your mail server. This is how it looks.

IP log report on Hotmail
IP log report on Hotmail

Once you know the reason why your IP address is blacklisted you can fill out the following form giving complete details about your mailing process, privacy policy, unsubscribe procedure etc.

https://support.live.com/eform.aspx?productKey=edfsmsbl3&ct=eformts&scrx=1

Once you provide the complete details and you click on Submit button a ticket number will be generated like as follows

Ticket number
Ticket number

If all is well you will receive feedback on your ticket in the next 2-4 hours. I received reply after 30 minutes and the blacklist was removed promptly.

Hope the above helped some one.

Doing email marketing the right way

Email marketing is the most direct method of marketing and allows you to target your customers and/or subscribers in the shortest time possible. You are able to advertise your products/services to them and they have the chance to be the first set of people who buy from you. Even then there are some set of rules which you must follow so that you don’t end up spamming your customers and blacklisting your mail server.

1. Newsletter subscribe option

First you need to have a newsletter subscribe option on your website. Please bear in mind that email marketing is ethical and legal only if you are sending email to customers/subscribers who have explicitly expressed their intent of joining your newsletter. If you don’t have a newsletter subscribe option and you really want to send email to your users then you can place a newsletter opt-in option on your registration/sign up forms however you need to mention this on your website so that your customers know what they are getting into.

2. From: address

When sending emails to your subscribers make sure that the From: address in your email is that of your domain and not of any other website or email provider (like GMail, Hotmail, Yahoo etc). It would look highly unprofessional if you use another email address other than the one for your domain to send emails and it could get you blocked by your subscribers. Not only that this would be seen as attempts to spam your subscribers.

3. Contact information

If you are a legitimate business offering information about your products/services then you should mention your complete contact details in your newsletter so that people know who they are dealing with. They can use the contact details of your company to contact you and you may ultimately achieve a sale.

4. Unsubscribe option

The option to unsubscribe must always be available to your subscribers. It should be clearly visible on your email and the link should work i.e. if some one clicks the link then it should unsubscribe the user easily.  It would be preferable to have an unsubscribe option on your website as well. If you don’t have this option on your outgoing email then people can report you for sending out spam and your mail server may be blacklisted.

5. Plain text format

Most companies send out a very fancy and attractive newsletter template to their users. While this may all be good as it helps subscribers to view the offer in one go it may not help those who view their email in plain text. Some subscribers do not want to view graphics in their email and if you don’t send your email in plain text then you will simply lose out on a sizable number of subscribers.

6. Avoid BCC

Never enter and send emails to your subscriber from the BCC of your email. The technique of this method is put your email address in the From and To section and pack the BCC section with all your subscriber emails. Sending emails via this method is very dangerous as mail servers have become very intelligent and you may see some of your emails not being delivered to the recipient.

Last but not least check the USA CAN SPAM law of 2003 for more details on what you should not do when email marketing.

Hope the above helped.

Difference between POP and IMAP and which one should you choose

POP and IMAP are two protocols by which you are able to access/download emails from your mail server.

POP (Post Office Protocol) allows people to download copies of their email messages to their computer (provided the option to leave a copy of the mail message is enabled when setting up the account). If the option is not checked then the email itself is deleted from the mail server when it is downloaded to the computer. Any changes made to the mail message are only present on the computer on which the mail was downloaded and no one can see what changes were made and why.

IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) allows people to read emails as they arrive on the mail server. You are connected at all times to the mail server and any changes are visible to any one who log into that IMAP account. However if you are unable to connect to your mail server then the disadvantage of this protocol is that you are not able to read any emails (even those you downloaded via your email client like Outlook).

So which option should you choose?

You should based your answer based on the following options:

Usage
If you are the only person who is going to access/read all your emails then use POP otherwise use IMAP if multiple users are going to access the emails.

Backup
If you prefer to take backup of your emails yourself then use POP otherwise use IMAP.

Access
If you are going to access your emails from one computer then use POP otherwise use IMAP if you access your emails from multiple computers/devices at multiple locations.

Hope the above helped you in understanding which option to choose and why.

How to bypass the Rackspace no nodes available error?

One of our clients had recently requested that he wished us to develop a script which would allow him to export his website members to an e-newsletter system he uses to send out emails to his members on a regular basis apprising them of new offers and latest updates/improvements on the website. His website has quite high traffic with over 20,000 active members so even though he used to send them email at the end of each month the process is quite time consuming and he wanted to automate it in some way.

After studying the e-newsletter system architecture and determining the tables which would need to be populated I wrote down the script which would perform the necessary exporting of data from one system to the other. Boy was I in for a surprise.

The script was running fine on the staging server and was copying the records correctly I deployed it on the live website to test it. The script had run for barely 15 seconds when the No Nodes Available error came up. I refreshed the page but it gave the same error. A first I thought that the script may be timing out however that premonition was ruled out as the error message did not say that the script had timed out or something to that effect. More over I had already increased the script time out to a sufficient time so the error was bit confusing.

"No suitable nodes available error" on Rackspace

I Googled the problem a bit and found that this problem was being encountered by a lot of people who hosted their websites on Rackspace. Rackspace have some sort of load balancers in place which check whether the page has displayed output with in the cut off time limit. If it has not then it will display the nodes not available error. Seeing this, the cut off time limit seems to be very low as the script had timed out within 15 seconds.

The solution they have provided is that there should be some sort of activity on the page while the script is processing the data. The activity can be anything like displaying an animated gif or displaying some text on the page. I modified the code to display the number of records which have been copied over in real time. I also set the buffer to false so the output of the page is sent to the browser as soon as some processing has been completed. I know it’s not a good idea to set buffer to false however in the circumstances this needed to be checked.

After making the change the script worked fine and copied the records correctly. I encountered no further nodes not available error.

Hope the above helped.

One reason why you should not enable all extensions in PHP

I was going through my php.ini file a few days back and looking at all the extensions there. Out of curiosity I thought of enabling all the extensions (I know not a wise move) and see what happens. So I enabled them all and continued working on my client’s work.

Well, the next day I started to get a strange error on my PHP page

Invalid access to memory location

After a couple of refreshes it gave an application error pop up and closed down my w3wp.exe file and my browser gave me the Service Unavailable message. So for some, out of my mind, reason my web service had gone down.

I first restarted my web service using the iisreset -start command. Then I checked whether there was some problem with my script. My script was fine. I tried to run the script again and this time the script took some time to give me the same Invalid access to memory location error. After refreshing the script my web service went down again.

My next thought was that my computer may have been infected with a virus or malware so I ran my anti virus software and also checked for malware. Both came clean. As this was becoming complicated by the second I Googled my problem.

There were some other people experiencing this problem and most of them were saying that this was due to some sort of conflict between the IIS and PHP version. I narrowed down my search further and came across the following web page

http://bugs.php.net/bug.php?id=42600

This guy had the same problem and the the steps he had mentioned for reproducing the error were same as mine. He mentioned that he stopped getting the error messages after disabling the php_exif.dll extension. Aaaaaaahhh!

I disabled the extension and restarted my web service. Sure enough the problem was resolved and I breathed a sigh of relief.

Hope the above helped some one else as well!

.htaccess file not showing up in FTP client

Our SEO team was working on a website and they had made some changes to the .htaccess file and uploaded it onto that website. The problem was that they did not know that the website already had its own .htaccess file. Hold on! Why did they not know?

That’s because the FTP client did not show the file. This does seem surprising but it’s true. FTP clients do not generally show the .htaccess file and you have to manually make some settings to the FTP client so it shows up.

So, after the file was overwritten the website URLs stopped working and we had to download the SEO module afresh and make the relevant changes and re-upload it.

The moral of the story: Don’t believe your eyes. Use a bit of your head. If the website has SEO friendly URLs enabled and its hosted Linux then there MUST be an .htaccess file there.