MxToolbox Use Cases: Setting up a Mail Server

Setting up a Mail Server

Setting up a new mailserver can be a time-consuming and error-prone process, especially if it involves setting up a server for a new domain.  An administrator needs to balance new email security configurations with DNS setup, redundancy and firewalls.  While these can greatly improve security and email deliverability, they can complicate setup.

Here are a few suggestions for using MxToolbox to ease your mail server setup:

Pre-Check

  1. Run a blacklist check on the IP addresses that you plan to use for your server.  A blacklisted IP address should not be used for mail servers.

Verifying your Setup

We’ll start after you have assigned the IP addresses, and installed the OS and email server software.  From there you will want to verify that your server is up and running and accepting email:

  1. Run an SMTP test on each IP that will accept email.  This will perform several tests against your server and give you results on your SMTP configuration.
  2. Check that the appropriate Email TCP ports are available and responding through your firewalls to these servers.
    1. SMTP on port 25
    2. POP on 110 and 995
    3. IMAP on 143 and 993
    4. Outbound SMTP on 587
    5. OWA on 443
  3. Run a Port scan to make sure other ports are shutdown

Verify your DNS Setup

  1. Check your MX records to ensure they are pointing to the new server.
  2. Check that you have properly configured A records for the server.
  3. Check the servers PTR records to ensure they point back to the domain.
  4. Check your SPF records on the domain.

Final Setup

  1. Send us a test message.  Our Email Deliverability report will give you an in-depth report on email headers, hops and more.
  2. Setup your user lists.  We have an Email Extraction tool that can help you assemble simple lists of email users for addition to your server.

Advanced Testing

You might decide to adopt additional standards to address email delivery and spam issues.  MxToolbox is excited to offer tools that can analyze the setup of both DKIM and DMARC standards.

  1. Check your DKIM setup.  This can be useful for email deliverability as signing emails with a DKIM key can reduce bouncebacks.
  2. Check your DMARC setup.  DMARC can improve email delivery as a fully configured record gives recipients the means to communicate issues with your email.  If you monitor your abuse post, you can uncover and remove issues that might cause blacklisting.

On-Going Server Maintenance

We encourage our customers to setup a regular maintenance plan for their email servers.  Realistically, load issues arise, as do DNS and firewall complications.  The best way to prevent these is to know about them before they take out your email.  Here are a few recommendations to keep your servers up and running:

  1. Setup a Blacklist monitor for each IP address.  Blacklisting can cause lingering email delivery issues.  You want to know when your servers have been blacklisted.
  2. Setup monitors for your email systems MX and A records for this email server.  Typically, these shouldn’t change, but a monitor will ensure you know immediately if something does change.
  3. Setup SMTP monitors for IP address of each server.  SMTP monitors will constantly check your servers to ensure they are up to send and receive email.
  4. Setup a Mailflow monitor for each server.  Our premium Mailflow monitor constantly checks the end-to-end health of your mailservers by measuring traffic flow through the server.  

Monitors give you peace of mind.  You’ll know immediately when there is a service slowdown or outage and be free to concentrate on other issues.