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How to Avoid The Tech Blame Game

Bulletin - Friday, January 27, 2012
by Zachary Frederick

In today’s business environment, communicating via email is no longer an option – it is a necessity. What happens when some of you never receive the email we say we sent you? What happens in those cases when we never receive a failure notice? This can lead to the ‘Tech Blame Game.’

The Tech Blame game is simple. It involves one person saying, ‘We aren’t having problems receiving emails from anyone else so the problem must be on your end.’ This is followed by the other replying, ‘We can send emails to everyone else and they don’t have any problem receiving our emails, so it must be on your end.” This is a great way to pass the buck and waste time, but it’s a lousy way to actually solve the problem.

Before we go any further, let me start by saying that I love to solve problems. It’s actually my job to solve problems, find solutions, and think of creative ways to get things done. There is nothing better than a day when I’ve been able use my knowledge and imagination to help make someone’s life a little easier. That being said, I take it quite personally when a customer has problems receiving or sending email to Tuscano. Solving an email problem between servers requires cooperation and communication from both sides.

When I research our log files I can see anything and everything that was done with the email up until the point that it reaches the recipient's mail server. When one mail server sends the email to another server, this is called relaying. A simple analogy is how a baton is passed from one runner to another in a relay race. If, after I passed the baton to my partner, he decided to throw it into the woods and take a lunch break, I would have no way of knowing. I only know that I did my part. This is very similar to how it works with mail servers. When I look through our server logs, I am only able to see that the email was successfully passed, or relayed. I am not able to tell what the receiving server did with the email.

Several things can happen to the email. The one we all hope for is that the email will be successfully delivered to the recipient’s inbox. Other less desirable alternatives are the email will be rejected altogether or the email will end up in a spam filter queue. Email rejections occur for countless reasons. Some more common reasons are; an invalid recipient email address, the recipient’s inbox is over quota, the server on the receiving end is down, and so on. The good thing about a rejection is that most of the time the sender is notified that their email failed and the failure messages are usually specific enough to troubleshoot the problem.

Spam filters can be much more frustrating. Usually when an email ends up in a spam filter, it is more or less a Black Hole. The sender does not receive a failure, and the recipient does not receive the email. It is a lose-lose situation. It’s also important to note that the folder called ‘Junk Mail’ in Outlook, or other desktop mail programs is not the same thing as a spam filter. The spam filter implemented by most Internet providers is a middle layer that intercepts spam emails before they reach your mail account. The problem we face working in insurance is many of our email conversations will appear to spam filters as spam.

The best solution for us would be for our customers to add the domain Tuscano.com to a ‘white-list’ that would ensure all future emails would pass through with no chance of being stopped by a spam filter. If you use an email service, as a customer, you should be able to ask your provider to do so. If not, then be sure you regularly access your spam filter using the web interface.

I appreciate you taking the time to read this. I hope you found this information useful, and if I can be of any assistance, or if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call or email me.

Zachary Frederick
Systems Manager,
W.N. Tuscano Agency, Inc.
zfrederick@tuscano.com
866-442-8063 ext. 720




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