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Mailchannels: Hosting Your Own Email Might Be A Good Idea 2017-10-06


While randomly surfing (probably looking for some postfix related help) I came across an article at mailchannels.com explaining that "Hosting Your Own Email Might Not Be A Good Idea". It goes on to say that "a number of recent articles have encouraged ordinary users to take the plunge and... blah blah blah" but only links to one article. They say that "even highly experienced and educated system administrators run into problems with email hosting" but frankly I have to question how experienced and how educated an admin has to be to fail at running a mail server. There is a plethora of bullshit in this article, let's see if we can suss out most of it.

mfdc0030 Durrr.
I’ve seen articles that encourage users to host email using their residential internet connection and a home server. As noted security pundits have loudly proclaimed, that’s a bad idea and it almost certainly won’t work anyway.

The link is to twitter, so I can't see it, because I block twitter on my network. Sorry, I just don't need to know what celebrities are up to all day. If anyone feels motivated, please feel free to let me know who this "security pundit" is and exactly why/how they chose to slag residential Internet servers. Ultimately, I have been running a mail server for multiple domains, used by multiple people, accessing mail with a range of email clients for more than a decade and a half on a residential Internet connection... without any significant issue at all.

Firstly, most residential ISPs block the ports used by email. They didn’t always block these ports, but because so many home-hosted email servers were compromised and became massive sources of spam, ISPs acted to protect their networks and their reputations. This difficulty will stop you sending email.

First, it should be pointed out that many ISP's block port 25... NOT ports 143, 993, 110, 995, 465, or 587 (the other ports typically associated with email). Second, This will NOT stop you from sending mail... a smarthost is a very common setup for mail servers and is supported by any mail server software worth using. Setting up your ISP as a smarthost will easily allow you to deliver outbound mail, and will also have the advantage of using the reputation of your ISP's existing email infrastructure.

Secondly, even if you could send email from a residential internet connection, the likelihood is that no one would receive it. Most residential IPs are already on spam blacklists for the reason we’ve discussed. Email providers subscribe to spam blacklists and they’ll simply reject any mail sent from an IP on those lists.

Bullshit. Blacklists are much more sophisticated than that, and almost none of them (other than APEWS) list addresses just because they are residential connections. The IP address of my (residentially connected) mail server has never had problems with mail delivery because of listing on a blacklist. It HAS had delivery problems with Microsoft because their SmartScreen spam filtering system is among the worst spam detection filters known to digital communications. They have all kinds of hoops you have to jump through to get your mail delivered, but it has fuck all to do with being on a residential connection.

But, let’s say you do get email up and running. You give your family email addresses on your server. One of them uses the same password on a forum somewhere. The forum is hacked and your email account is compromised. The attackers use the email account to send spam. Your IP ends up on a blacklist and every email account on the server is now useless.

Here's an idea: Don't let people recycle passwords. This isn't a problem with home mail servers, this is a problem with lazy people being completely unwilling to think about password security. The fact that nobody should be recycling passwords has little to do with hosting your own email.

Blacklisting is not an unusual story - it happens all the time. It even happens to the most experienced email providers, which is why they use our cloud email relay service to stop outbound spam and make sure legitimate email is delivered.
...
If you choose to manage your own email hosting, it will be time consuming, have a steep learning curve, and - unless you use a service like MailChannels — is quite likely to be fruitless because spam blacklist providers will happily add your IP to their lists with the smallest provocation.

There it is... the real reason mailchannels doesn't think you should host your own email. Because if you DO host your own email, you won't need to buy their service! Frankly I'd have an easier time swallowing this article if it wasn't disguised as public service announcement designed to keep you from wasting your time, losing mail, or [heaven forbid] learning something. The bottom line is that it is entirely possible to host your own email, on a residential Internet connection, using free software... the only caveat is that you have to want to do it, and you have to be willing to work at learning how email works. While it is true that most people do not want to make the effort require to run a sucessful mail server, it is douchebaggery to suggest that it is a lost cause for everyone. I'm sure the folks at mailchannels think I am a fucking moron... so if I can run a successful mail server on a home connection, then so can you.


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