What can you do if all your e-mail gets blocked

Some time ago, I happened to start working in a company in which employees didn't know much about the Internet and its uses. When I got there, one of the common practices was to send a newsletter to a large group of people who were, one way or another, connected with the company. They didn't know this is considered a spam practice.

Just because you know a number of people does not give you the right to send them all the business information you want. To be able to e-mail someone on a regular basis, you need to ask him permission to send them these messages. This is why mailing lists are set up and maintained. Setting up a mailing list on an own server might require some knowledge on server administration and e-mail server configuration; but there are tools and services specially designed for those people who do not know or do not want to carry out those tasks by themselves. Many of these tools are paid, but, if you take some time to search, you will find free alternatives too.

Back to the story, when I started working in this company, one of the employees asked me whether I knew why every single e-mail she tried to send from her company's e-mail account bounced back immediately. It was uncomfortable, she said. She was forced to use her personal e-mail address to carry out her business communications!

I asked her to forward me one of the e-mails she sent and bounced back. I read it and found the notification message. Just what I thought: The e-mail was rejected because the company's e-mail server was punished because of spam practices.

Why did their e-mail get blocked?

The problem started when they, unknowingly, began sending those e-mail newsletters to people who were not interested in receiving them. As I mentioned above, despite the fact they knew every single person they were sending those messages to, they were sending spam.

The receivers, uncomfortable with the unwanted messages, did what we all do when exposed to a similar situation: they flagged those e-mails as spam in their respective mailboxes.

Eventually, those spam reports were forwarded to some international e-mail centres known as blacklist administrators. These centres keep a record of which e-mail addresses and e-mail servers are known for sending spam; and they are free to add new e-mail addresses and servers to their blacklist database if there are enough spam reports and they deem it appropriate.

No surprise, this company I worked for was blacklisted. That's why all the e-mail they sent was being automatically rejected.

I carried out a search to check. Being in one international blacklist is considered serious. The server was in thirteen. I had work to do.

Coming out from international blacklists

If you ever happen to find all your e-mail messages bounce back all of a sudden, follow this procedure:

+ First, carry out a blacklist check to see whether your e-mail address or e-mail server is included in international blacklists. If it is, then there are two possible paths for you: If you are using a hosting plan in your site, contact your hosting provider administrator. If you need to carry out the procedure by yourself, then go visit all those blacklist sites one by one, and continue reading.

+ Depending on the blacklist, you may land into a page with a direct report stating whether your IP address is blocked or not, or into a short form requesting you to include your e-mail server domain name or IP address. In either case, you need to end up reading the report they present you.

+ If you are listed, blacklist administrators will usually offer you a way to request being removed from the list. If you find one there, use it. Some of these request are carried out over the Internet, others require you to either call or send an e-mail. Mind, some blacklist administrators will charge you for the removal process.

+ In case you can't find a removal process, then the removal will be automatic. You will just need to wait until the penalty expires, usually between a couple of days or a month, according to the severity of your infraction.

+ Repeat this procedure with all the e-mail blacklist administrators until you get your server free from all international blacklists. Once you achieve that, you are free to send e-mails again.

My experience removing a server from international blacklists

As a reference, I got the company's e-mail server out of all the blacklist centres in about five weeks. I took this long because the server was not in one blacklist but thirteen, but, on the bright side, I did not pay a cent. I exchanged e-mails with about five blacklist centres administrators, and —most importantly— I sent an e-mail to all the staff stating it was absolutely forbidden to send any e-mail from the company's server until all the punishments were lifted.

Five weeks after, the e-mail server was cleared, and everybody was able to use their business e-mail again. They still do today. Mission accomplished.

Computers + Online