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Beware the E-mail Blacklist
Posted By Minda Zetlin On December 1, 2008 @ 12:00 am In E-Commerce | 8 Comments
You’ve sent an important business e-mail to a contact, but it never arrives. The person on the other end complains. Eventually, your message is found, trapped in the recipient’s spam filter. If this scenario sounds familiar, there’s a good chance your email server has been blacklisted.
E-mail software routinely uses blacklists as a first line of defense against the relentless onslaught of spam. Blacklists work by keeping track of the Internet protocol (IP) numbers of servers that have sent spam. Once your e-mail server’s IP number is on a list, any spam filter using that list will automatically block message from your server.
Server owners generally are not notified that they’ve been added to a blacklist. In fact, most small businesses only find out they’ve been blacklisted when they hear from their contacts that an expected e-mail either vanished or was stopped as spam, according to Peter Firstbrook, research director at Gartner . By that time, you’ve already got a serious problem.
An anti-blacklist strategy
You don’t have to wait until messages go missing before dealing with blacklist issues. What follows is a six-part strategy for staying off e-mail blacklists. Please note that this strategy assumes you host your own e-mail. If you use hosted e-mail, and the server gets blacklisted, there’s little you can do but complain to your provider and immediately start looking for a replacement. Assuming you do host your own e-mail, though, these steps should help you stay in the clear:
If you get blacklisted
What do you do if you find out you’re already on one or more blacklists? “If you are, it’s bad news,” Firstbrook says. “It’s not an easy problem to solve.” Each blacklist has a different procedure for requesting removal, so you’ll have to follow a different set of instructions for each list you’re on.
Or, you could just wait. “They usually expire after five days or so,” Morris says. “On the other hand, you can’t send anyone e-mail during those days.
Whatever you do, make sure you’ve actually identified and solved the problem that caused you to be blacklisted in the first place before you ask to be taken off the list. “You’d be surprised how many people skip this step,” Morris says. “When someone tells you you’re sending spam, the common reaction is ‘No, I’m not,’ instead of trying to find out if there’s a bot or other problem.”
That kind of thing can sour your relationship with the blacklist providers, and make it harder to get off the list in case of any future incidents, Firstbrook says. “Don’t say that you’ve cleaned things up and then let something happen that will put you back on the blacklist,” he says. “You don’t want to try their patience.”
SIDEBAR: Blacklist Testing Sites
Want to find out if you’re on any blacklists? These sites can tell you.
MXToolbox  checks your IP address against 147 blacklists, and offers the option of sending a ping e-mail to its server — a super-easy way to lean whether you’re on a blacklist or not.
Blacklistedip  not only lets people know when they’re blacklisted, but helps track the issue that caused the blacklisting and assists with getting off the blacklist.
Repcheck  constantly monitors some 200 blacklists and alerts you if you get blacklisted.
Need to get off blacklists? Here are three of the most popular, but there are many more.
MAPS , now part of Trend Micro, offers both information on whether you’re blacklisted, and also threat analysis.
SpamCop  provides anti-spam software as well as its blacklist of spamming server IP addresses.
The Spamhaus Project  is an international, non-profit effort to combat spam.
Article printed from Inc. Technology: http://technology.inc.com
URL to article: http://technology.inc.com/2008/12/01/beware-the-e-mail-blacklist/
URLs in this post:
 Gartner: http://www.gartner.com/
 MXToolbox: http://www.mxtoolbox.com/blacklists.aspx
 this IncTechnology article: http://technology.inc.com/internet/articles/200806/e-mail.html
 Untangle: http://www.untangle.com/
 Blacklistedip: http://www.blacklistedip.com/
 Repcheck: http://www.towerdata.com/services/email/deliverability/repcheck.html
 MAPS: http://www.mail-abuse.com/
 SpamCop: http://www.spamcop.net/
 The Spamhaus Project: http://www.spamhaus.org/
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