Hands down, the most common reason for my team and I to get cursed out or to see tempers flare is over hosting email accounts for businesses.
Obviously, being able to send and receive email is a very important part of any hosting package, especially those that use it to conduct business.
In the late nineties, this was a service I offered many of my clients. Back then, it was just becoming popular to have your email @YourBusinessName.com and customers flocked to find the perfect provider.
Here Comes The Spammers
Unfortunately, as these businesses were flocking to providers, so were the Spammers, Scammers, and other Evil-Doers. Most likely you've deleted hundreds of these, but if you want to see what they're doing, simply look in your Junk mail folder (everything from fake pharma, lottery scams, etc.).
Just as the Spammers were coming out of the woodwork to get started tearing down, web hosting started to become a common term for many businesses as they were anxious to get their emails hosted.
To stay competitive and to drive the most business, many of the larger companies started offering web hosting packages for pennies on the dollar, sometimes even free, that included email hosting.
This was very good news for the "bad guys" a/k/a Spammers. With very little risk, some hosting companies even offer 1 month @ $0.01, those interested in sending out Spam or unsolicited emails, could quickly do so using multiple accounts like this.
It only takes a couple Visa gift cards (that can handle the initial $0.01 charge), a VPN to mask the IP, and a couple hours time to get this setup.
As the industry became flooded with these "bad guys" - the good guys started fighting back with stricter mail policies, better fraud checks, and severely limiting the number of outbound emails can be sent per account on shared hosting.
To get around this, many of the "bad guys" started exploiting WordPress.
All it takes is ONE outdated plugin, theme, or WordPress install for a website to be exploited and give the "bad guys" the access they need to send out their Spam emails.
IPs And Black Listing
When the "bad emails" start getting sent out, the IP address of the server begins to get placed on blacklists by Internet Service Providers sometimes referred to as RBLs (Real-time Blackhole List). Some blacklists are made public (so hosting companies can ensure the IP is clean) but others for large companies such as Microsoft, AT&T, etc. are not.
Therefore, a lot of times, you won't know if there is a problem with an IP until there is a problem.
In Layman's terms, any email that comes from a server using a "bad" IP - will be bounced back from whatever company has it on the blacklist (or RBL).
For example, if Microsoft has an IP on their RBL, any email sent to @live.com, @hotmail.com, or @outlook.com will bounce back with the error the sender has a poor reputation.
To rectify the problem, the web host must scan the server, find if anyone is sending Spam, and submit a de-listing request.
Unfortunately, some large companies such as AT&T don't give these issues priority, meaning it could take up to a week to get it sorted.
Benefit Of Ordering A Dedicated IP Address
Knowing all of this, one of the best solutions to ensuring the highest rate of deliverability is to purchase a dedicated IP address with your hosting package.
That way, only your business will use that IP, so if there is any abuse, it's coming directly from your account. This makes it easy to track and much easier to clean-up.
The only downside to this, since IPs are assigned randomly, it's highly likely the IP was previously used by another server. As I stated above, if the IP is on a RBL that's not public, you won't know you have a problem until your emails start bouncing.
While this does rectify the problem for most, it's not always prefect.
Third Party Email Providers
One of the best ways to eliminating the problem all together is by going with a third-party email provider.
If your business relies solely on your emails, it's a VERY smart decision to have a third-party solution such as Google Apps.
Since Google is such a major player in the industry, ISPs aren't going to place their IPs on a blacklist (or RBL). If there is any abuse coming, they're quick to detect and shut it down.
Integrating with Google Apps is the same as using Gmail except you get to use your own @DomainName.com.
For the first five years or so of Google Apps, they offered this service 100% free of charge. Old accounts are grandfathered in, but new accounts must pay $5/a month per user.
Coming later this month, NameHero is going to be integrating directly with Google Apps to offer this service to our customers. We're still working on the pricing, but will post an update once we have it.
Another "good" third party provider is Zoho Mail which has a free package for beginner users.
What I Use
If your email is important to your business I hope to see you take one of my suggestions. This is a very frustrating part of the hosting industry and I doubt it will change anytime soon.
I do hope by posting this information and getting it out there, it will give our customers (current and future) some insight as to how this works and how sometimes these situations are completely out of our control.
Personally, three of my companies use Google Apps and NameHero uses it's own mail server with private IPs. I like Google for the simplicity especially how easy it is to setup everything across multiple devices.
Stay tuned for the announcement when we offer this directly in our control panel and feel free to ask any questions in the comments below.
Also, please have some patience when calling/emailing in on these issues. We're here to help :).