Thursday, August 25, 2005

ISP's blocking too much email as spam

Fred Langa publishes an excellent newsletter about a variety of computer issues. Recently, he mentioned that personal emails he sent to some subscribers were rejected by spam filters.

I consider these false positives a serious problem - they have effected my own personal email as well as my business email. I wanted to talk about my experience with two different web and email hosting services.

I had been using one service (let's call them for web and email hosting for several years. They had good prices, good features, good support - what more could you ask for? But over the last year or so, I started getting more and more reports of bounced emails. I would get notes from newsletters I had subscribed to saying that I was being dropped because emails to my address were bouncing. When I was lucky, these termination emails, coming from a different source, would get through, so I could re-subscribe from a different address. When I talked to Gomommy tech support, they always blamed the sender, and referred me to Spamhaus as the source of much of their blocking lists. I also had individual emails from some of my small business's customers rejected - and this is pretty much the kiss of death for customer relations. In these cases, Gomommy said "the servers sending the email must have a virus."

I finally determined I had to find a better solution. Unfortunately, most service providers include the "service" of blocking spam, and many use Spamhaus as well. I finally found one that let's ME decide what spam blocking features I want to use, and let's me disable all of them if I want. The service I am now using is Powweb. It is a little more expensive than Gomommy, but I am now receiving some newsletters I have not seen in months! I have disabled their use of Spamhaus's lists for my accounts. I do use a spam-blocking feature they offer called grey-listing - this rejects email from a new source with a "try again later" message - and most spam senders don't bother. I can see lots of spam blocked using this feature, on the Powweb control panel.

The Powweb setup is a little more complicated than Gomommy - you need to be a little more technical - but it is very flexible.

Powweb also actually TELLS me about occasional outages - something Gomommy never did. (Gomommy would not even ADMIT problems when I called.) And Powweb has an active customer community that provides help and support. I should say that some customers have published complaints about support, billing, and availability in these forums - but I have had good experience in the few months I have been on Powweb. Most of the complaints seem to be 6 to 12 months old, or more, so they may have had some service problems that have gotten fixed.

I do use a free spam blocker on my own PC, called K9 from I find it does an excellent job of blocking spam - altho I am not getting any more via Powweb than I was via Gomommy. I think grey-listing is doing most of the work.


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