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Website Email Issues at CharlestonSW.com

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I’ve been getting a lot of reports from users that are not getting their email notifications when resetting a password. Or they never get their license key email. Or forum notifications. Not everyone has this problem, but enough users that I decided to take a break from coding Store Locator Plus 4.0 and figure out what was going on.

Spamhaus PBL

Turns out Spamhaus PBL was the culprit. While some site administrators may be familiar with spam block lists (or blacklists), the lesser known sibling can be just as much of an issue. Unlike the spam block list (SBL), the policy block list (PBL) lists millions of IP addresses as potential sources of spam. Unless you are a large company with a static IP block that is known to be well controlled there is a good chance your IP address is on the PBL. Especially if you are using shared hosting or virtual hosting.

It turns out the IP address for the charlestonsw.com web server is on the PBL. In fact the ENTIRE set of Microsoft Azure services is on the PBL. The general consensus is that the IP addresses are far too dynamic and cloud hosting is a prime breeding ground for the festering wound of the Internet known as spam houses.

Being on the PBL is not an indication that a site is in any way related to spam or that the server on which it resides may host a spamming company. It simply means that the propensity for spam to originate from some server within the IP block is high, mostly because the IP address may be shared at some future date with other companies that are spam houses.

Many companies have expanded their email black list services beyond the typical “block any site/server on the SBL” to “block any site on ANY block list, or *BL” including the PBL. This is a good policy for strict email controls over spam, but it certainly drops a lot of “good email” originating from cloud hosted sites and services. Like Charleston Software Associates.

User Side Fixes

If you are not getting email from charlestonsw.com you should add the server www.charlestonsw.com and charlestonsw.com to your email whitelist. You can also add info at charlestonsw period com if you have an email-specific whitelist. However there are emails coming from the web system that are not reading the info at charlestonsw period com header and may originate from other sources.

Business Side Fixes

What I am working on from the server side is getting the web server to push email out through a specific Google Apps web mail account. This required setting up a specific email account at Google Apps, enabling the account for relay, configuring the mail server to connect securely to the Google account and push email messages out on that server.

This is required because the Windows Azure cloud hosting does not support static IP addresses. While the IP address is persistent it can change. As such the Charleston Software Associates server cannot be put on the PBL “good neighbors” list. This requires more work, more expense, and more drastic measures. This is one more feather in the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud hosting cap. AWS still proves to be far ahead of the competition when it comes to the cloud hosting space. When it is time for an upgrade the CSA services will be moved to Amazon.

Maybe after the Store Locator Plus 4.0 release is done.