The problem of receiving only some of your email and missing important messages
Have you run into problems receiving some of your email lately? Are some clients telling you they sent emails you didn’t receive, but others get through just fine? Was it all working great until recently, when it stopped? Do you forward your domain email () to another email address, such as a gmail one, to deal with it there?
The internet is a constantly changing place, and spammers and hackers are constantly finding ways to exploit it to runs scams or organize crime. One such scam is to convincingly ‘spoof’ a message that appears to be coming from your business email to someone they think is one of your clients. If the client or contact believes the message is coming from your company, they may be drawn into the scam and could lose money as a result. Such scams usually try to get people’s password or credit card information, or to get them to click on a link that could infect their computer with a virus or ransomware.
To help prevent this, email server administrators use a tool called SPF
What is SPF in email?
SPF stands for “Sender Policy Framework” (No it’s not sunscreen when it is applied to email). SPF is a tool for proving that only someone from your company sent the email that says it is coming from your domain. The way it works is that the sender’s email server registers the DNS of a list of servers that are allowed to send email for a specific domain. If the email doesn’t come from that domain, it doesn’t get through.
How can SPF cause issues in receiving email?
Where SPF can cause issues is if a email sent by someone whose address has been locked down in this way gets sent to your address eg: which has been set to automatically forward it to another email, particularly one on a different domain. The way this normally works is:
Email gets sent to , it arrives there and the forward you set up wants to send it on to so you can check it using your preferred email tools. However, the server sends a message back to the sender’s server, who says, nope, you can’t send on our messages, our messages can only be sent directly to the end recipient from our server and no other. The sender gets a message that the email could not be received, and you receive no notice that it was even sent.
Why do only some emails fail to arrive when others come through fine?
The reason you only get this problem with some messages and not others is because SPF is not set up on all sender’s email. It is more common with larger companies, government or companies that need the security or who have had issues in the past. Because setting up SPF gives the sender additional credibility, it also helps improve deliverability of e-newsletter messages, so a lot of companies set it up for that purpose.
What do I do about some emails not getting through?
The simplest way to solve this problem is to stop using forwards. You can check multiple email addresses directly, either by setting them up in a email client program like Thunderbird or Outlook or by having your webmail log in to your company email and receive those messages directly. In the above gmail example, a common one, all you need are your company email’s setup information: the pop server address, the smtp server address, the username and the password. A system administrator like me can get that information for you if you can’t put your finger on it, and reset the password if needed. A second way is to log in to your company email directly using the in-house webmail. For the typical website hosted on a shared hosting account, the address to use to log in to your webmail will be either www.webmail.mywebsiteaddress.com or www.mywebsiteaddress.com/webmail (change ‘mywebsiteaddress.com’ to your own website’s address or email domain (the second half of your email address after the @ symbol) of course.).
Why can’t I just fix the forwards so they work?
We can’t control the security features that the people who send us email put on their own servers, and if they are using SPF it will prevent forwarded messages from coming through. There is nothing we can do on your end which can help. If you are only having issues with emails sent by another domain which you also own, their SPF settings can be changed to allow forwards from your domain to get through, but this isn’t a very common solution.
What if the email that is missing was not forwarded
If your client is sending the email directly to the address you are checking and it is not getting forwarded along the way, missing an email message or two is usually due to one of three other causes: misspelled email addresses, words or content that trigger the recipients spam filter (which often puts the message in your spam folder), or a file attachment on the message that is bigger than your email server can permit or theirs can send out. You can rule this out by carefully confirming the address they are sending you is spelled correctly. The second test is to have the client with the missing email reply to a message you sent them that includes only a short subject line and one sentence of text with no images or attachments. If they can recieve and reply to that message and you receive it, then it’s likely the missing message was either marked as spam (check your spam folder) or had a large attachment on it. You can verify whether there was an attachment by asking the client directly. Anything larger than 2 or 3 MB is likely to be an issue, although some email servers can handle up to 10 MB. It’s possible also that your email box is close to full, and an attachment tips it over the edge, which would mean some email messages might not be recieved. This can happen on a weekend, when accumulated email messages over the weekend has overfilled the mailbox but has not been cleared yet till you log in Monday morning.
The above solutions should solve 90% of your missing email problems. If you need personalized help with email setup, SPF setup and maintenance or other issues, please give us a call at 604-813-7674 or email to