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Set Up Guides - How to avoid mail relay restrictions


You have your hosting and your email account with us, but you use a dial-up account (such as Freeserve) or broadband to access the Internet from another supplier.


(Open relay)

You may receive an error or report with a similar message to "Mail relay has refused to relay this domain" or have problems sending email.

Most mail servers are protected from being used (spammed) to send large volumes of junk mail or being bombarded with requests designed to crash the server (denial of service attack). With the advent of ADSL and permanent connections this problem has become more widespread. If you put as your outgoing mail server and they did not restrict access you could send thousands of emails through their server, using their machines processing power and their bandwidth. Back bone suppliers (including ours) monitor and can receive abuse reports and if they discover a mailserver running on our network with open relay they can disconnect the connection with immediate effect (relay is very important!).

The simple way of protecting a mail server and which most ISPs use is to restrict the people that can send mail through their server to the IP addresses you allocate them to dial up with. I.e. unless you use BeTe to dial up to the Internet you are unable to send through The company that you dial up with is also the only company that can tell which user was allocated a certain IP address at a specific time if there are illegal or abusive mails sent. So this makes sense when you think about it.


It is very easy to solve this. When you set up the outgoing mail servers in your software enter the incoming mailserver as (swap mail.mydomain for your own domain name) and the outgoing mailserver to the company you use to access the net. This way your mail will be sent via the same company you use for for web access.

Eg, if you use Freeserve you will need to change the outgoing mail server to

[BT CONNECT USERS - With some of the packages they offer, you will also have to let them know your domain name so they can add it to the list they allow through. Once they have the domain all email addresses for that domain will be allowed through. It checks the 'from' field. You may also have to supply this in writing to them if BT connects primary account name (or the company name) the dial up is registered to is different to the owner shown for the domain. i.e. if your btconnects primary account name is either 'acme ltd' or 'John smith' unless your domain name is registered in the same name you may have to confirm the instruction in writing. If they mention MX record change, this is not correct (It relates to moving the domain not allowing a domain to pass through).]

ONLY YOUR ISP WILL BE ABLE TO GIVE YOU THIS INFORMATION (The company that you use to dial up/connect to the Internet). If you have an existing email account with them you should also find the mail server settings in the properties for this mail account in you email software.

Here is an example using outlook express:

Open outlook express and select [Tools] and then [Accounts]


Click on the email account you wish to change (or look at the mail server setting for)
and then select [Properties]


Select the [Servers] tab and change the 'Outgoing Mail Server' to the same one as your dial up/access provider.
Click [OK]

Check it works.

Additional reasons why it is done this way (optional information)

1. TRACING - Most email problems or abuse/spam complaints are tracked by the IP address it originated from (ie the header information of the email), and only your local ISP will be able to link the end users IP address to a user as they operate the radius server which allocates the IP address when they connect to the internet. Although the mail server that sent the email is also included this information is not always forwarded and can be disguised/spoofed.

2. DEPLOYMENT - The easiest and most reliable way to limit which users can send email from your servers is to add to your outgoing mail server the complete IP ranges that you own. This means that only your own users (which you can control) and not spammers can send email and you do not need to set up each and every account manually (ie using smtp auth which is a user/password for each user instead). Once set up new users can come and go and no further work is needed each time.

3. PERFORMANCE/RELIABILITY/SCALING - Very small providers sometimes have the same users domain for sending and receiving as they use something called 'SMTP after pop3' which means that if you can collect you can also send however this is a very bad way of doing it for a number of reasons.

'Firstly' it can be harder to tell who is abusing a mail server if this happens and 'Secondly' only very small operators would consider using the same mail server for sending as receiving partly as separating the processes increases reliability and partly due to the sheer volume as larger operators (such as ourselves) not only use separate servers but also multiple servers for each operation (for example the servers you connect to for webmail/IMAP are not the same ones as the pop3 collection servers) and 'Thirdly' with clever spoofing you can spoof the pop3 command and then still send mail/spam via the mail server (not good!).

4. EFFICIENCY (This is an important one)
When looking at sending data for efficiency and also reliability it is much better to take the shortest route possible.

When you send via your ISP:
Your mail goes from our own machine to the ISPs gateway and SMTP server and straight from there to the recipient.

When you send via your hosting company:
The email still goes to your own ISP's gateway, then into the hosting companies gateway, then into the smtp mail server then back out of the mail server then back out though the hosting companies SMTP gateway then out through the hosting companies main gateway and then onto the end user.

Which when you think about it is a crazy way of sending email (a bit like traveling from London to Bristol via Manchester!).

5. Exceptions
There are however exceptions. For example roaming users that connect via laptop and do not send large volumes of email may prefer to pay a company to offer a single mail gateway that they can authenticate to via a user/password (smtp auth).

Some users may also wish to pay a premium to be able to use their own dedicated IP address (ie they can only be black listed by their own use) and also be able to create sub accounts for individual users that can report or cap usage based on messages and/or bandwidth. We offer a corporate account that can do this. However normally we would recommend that you always send via your ISP.

Current prices are as follows;

User plans:
1 – SMTP Lite Gateway account (ie roaming laptop user)
500 messages per month and 2GB of data transfer. £2.50 per month + vat.

2 – SMTP Standard Gateway account (ie broadband or office based user)
2000 messages per month and 4GB of data transfer. £4.5 per month + vat.

Corporate plans:
1 – SMTP Corporate Gateway account
6000 messages per month 10GB of data transfer. £10 per month + vat.

A pack that includes an additional 1000 messages and 2GB of data transfer can be added to any of the above plans for £2 per month + vat.

Final Words

Finally please respect your ISP's bandwidth (ours or others). Although you may have unlimited access, EVERY ISP has to pay for Bandwidth and if it is abused all prices will have to rise.

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