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Best Practices

How Web Hosting Providers Can Make Email Safe and Reliable

By MailChannels | 7 minute read

Throughout 2020, people sent over 300 billion emails every day.

Despite countless supposed email-killer apps coming and going, email has only become more important and will likely continue to do so. While email is a reliable, venerable tool, you can’t risk taking it for granted.

Without taking adequate security measures, businesses may find themselves unable to send emails properly.

Email Risks and Challenges Web Hosts Face 

There are a handful of significant risk factors that can put email networks at risk. With the rise of anti-spam measures, malicious actors have resorted to hijacking networks where possible.

Network Hijacking 

Spam emails containing malware and other harmful information are something that every internet user has seen. However, the days of malicious actors being able to send infinite numbers of fraudulent emails with impunity are long gone. IP blocks that prevent certain addresses and networks from sending emails to the rest of the world have made it harder to get away with these practices. However, they’ve also made legitimate networks a target.

If an actor that’s looking to send spam emails can hijack a network, they’ll be able to send fraudulent addresses from its IP. This can have severe consequences for the clients and partners of an organization, not to mention the organization itself.

Reputation Damage and IP Blocks 

A business email that begins sending out vast numbers of false emails will, at the best of times, be seen as a nuisance. If people end up installing malware or falling for a phishing scam as a result of these emails, then even greater reputation damage occurs.

Furthermore, the network becomes a casualty of the same mechanisms that the internet uses to punish spammers. Since the internet sees the IP as a low-reputation source of spam, it may lose the ability to send outbound emails.

Outbound Emails Not Sending 

After a network suffers an IP block, it will lose most or all of the ability to communicate with the wider internet. This means that customers are going without responses to their inquiries and that customers and clients appear to be ignored. To make matters worse, all of this can happen without the operator of the network realizing it. Without a figurative alarm system to detect outbound spam or verify that sent emails are arriving, the damage done may multiply.

Who Should Protect Themselves and How 

Any business that provides web hosting services and email must be vigilant against spammers using their network. If one such actor begins using their network for malicious purposes, the consequences filter up to the core provider. Major industry players, as well as smaller businesses that offer email services, need to be aware of the risks and take measures to mitigate them. While their resources vary, many of their key solutions are the same.

Outbound Spam Filtering 

Maintaining control of the emails that originate from your network is absolutely vital. It’s possible to do so with your own internal departments or partnering with a company that offers specialized outbound spam filtering services.

What is Outbound Spam Filtering? 

Outbound spam filtering is the first and often the most important line of defense against malicious actors. In short, it works by creating a barrier between the traffic on your network that it must cross before reaching the wider internet. The filter can track the activity of all users and automatically detect behavior that resembles spam. Then, it prevents users from sending these emails.

Why Outbound Spam Filters Are Indispensable 

By identifying and preventing spam from leaving a network, the network owner immediately enjoys a degree of security they wouldn’t enjoy otherwise. Furthermore, the owner can evaluate the behavior of the user on their own. This enables email providers to tell if customers have suffered a security breach or if they’re willfully engaging in malicious behavior. From there, the network owner can act accordingly and help users protect themselves as well.

A web hosting service also gains value from offering outbound spam filters to clients. It’s impossible to ensure that accounts will never be hacked, as hacking typically occurs as a result of human error by webmasters and employees. However, robust protections against outbound spam serve to reduce the damage that instances of hacking cause.

Characteristics of a Good Outbound Spam Filter 

An overzealous spam filter that makes mistakes and flags benign content will end up hurting your clients. While this is a lesser evil as compared to letting spam proliferate across the internet, it’s still undesirable. One important mark of a quality outbound spam filter is that it can track and recognize long-term trends to help avoid punishing clients who’ve done nothing wrong.

It’s also important for an outbound spam filter to suit your architecture, whether you use VPS, Cloud, dedicated servers, or any other model. Scalability is vital as well, even for small networks. Outbound spam can result in massive spikes in traffic far beyond most or any other phenomenon. If this overwhelms the outbound spam filter, then you may as well not have a filter at all.

These are fairly basic requirements for an outbound spam filter. Top-quality outbound spam filters will have value-adding features that set them apart from the competition. If you’re looking into a filter service, then make sure to ask about the following considerations:

  • Customization features 
  • IP Reputation systems 
  • Responsive vendor-client support networks 
  • Central management and control 
  • Accessible, intuitive analytics features 

SMTP Relay 

If an outbound spam filter is the first line of defense against outbound spam, then SMTP relays are the second. In the event that the filter fails, this service provides a second layer of security as well as an early alert of any potential IP bans.

What is an SMTP Relay?

If you’re familiar with the acronym SMTP, then this type of service is fairly self-explanatory. It stands for Simple Mail Transfer Protocol, which is the standard mechanism by which emails deliver. The relay element comes from the way that it transfers information back to the sender. On the most basic level, it verifies that emails have sent successfully or generates a non-delivery report that explains the failure.

Benefits of an SMTP Relay Service 

The integrity of online communications is vital to any modern business. In particular, SMTP relays give immediate, tangible reports to web hosting and email providers. This means that if your IP ends up on a blocklist, you’ll know and be able to take measures to resolve the situation right away. These services also clue in network operators to other, comparatively subtle problems. For instance, a declining IP reputation may result in successfully delivered emails heading straight to the junk or spam folders.

Benefits of External OSF and SMTP Services 

It’s possible to build out your own protective measures against outbound spam. However, you should always pause when you find yourself planning to reinvent the wheel. Email security is a high-stakes field where any error can have catastrophic consequences for your network, clients, and customers. Developing your own outbound spam filtration and SMTP relay solutions will necessarily be a time-consuming pursuit that will necessarily leave vulnerabilities in the meantime.

By looking into existing solutions, you’ll have proven resources at your fingertips. While it’s impossible to predict the time to develop new measures, rollout time for established services can be accurate to the day. While new security measures will take time to develop basic mechanisms, dedicated email security comes with many value-added features. Here at MailChannels, we pride ourselves on our excellent services as well as our role as a source of guidance and information on web security.

Learn More with MailChannels 

MailChannels is active in the world of web hosting and never goes unrepresented at a major event. If you’re interested in learning more about outbound spam filtering, SMTP relays, and other information that’s relevant to web hosting, you’re in the right place. If you’re wondering what you can do to avoid becoming a victim of outbound spam, contact us and we’ll answer your questions.

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