Email is a tricky business. Picking out the real messages from the deluge of spam is an on-going battle. But your messages aren’t spam – so how can you help to ensure that they get through? This post (intended for Lamplight system administrators) explains what you can do to improve your Lamplight email deliverability.
Over the years, various add-ons have been developed that try and make the basic business of delivering legitimate email more reliable. One of these is ‘Sender Policy Framework’ (SPF). If emails were letters, it would work a bit like this.
On every letter you write you put your own address on the back of the envelope. When your letter reaches the post office, the postman would get the phone directory out, and find your phone number. They’d give you a call and ask “did you really send this letter?” If you say yes, then they’ll go ahead and deliver it. But if someone was trying to impersonate you by putting your address on the back, you’d realise this and say no – and the letter goes in the bin before it reaches the intended recipient.
Fortunately, the economics of the postal system mean we don’t need to do this. But email is different, and SPF is the process by which your email server checks whether the email it’s received really came from where it claims to be from.
Now, in our postal analogy, there’s a problem if you’re ex-directory. The postwoman won’t be able to find your number to check. In this case, she might deliver your letter; or she may bin it, because she can’t verify it’s authenticity.
In the same way, you need a directory listing for your email domain (the domain is the bit after the @ in your email address). You need a way to publicly say: “email from me and originating from <this server> is legit: you can bin the rest” so that other email servers can look you up. That’s what an SPF record is.
On the internet, DNS (Domain Name System) is this directory, that we all use all the time. So to improve the likelihood that your email will get through, you need to add a listing saying “please accept email from me that’s sent from Lamplight’s servers”. We can’t do this for you (it would rather undermine the whole system if we could): you will need to add this for your domain.
Important Disclaimer: people may not be able to reach your website, or send you email, if you get your DNS settings wrong. Please proceed with caution and if in doubt ask whoever set up your website/email originally.
You will need to access your DNS settings. If you already have an SPF record, you should amend it (don’t create a second one); if not, you need to add one. It needs to be a TXT record, for your domain, and for email to be accepted from Lamplight the value should be:
"v=spf1 include:lamplight3.info ~all"
This means: “I’m an SPF record, use the SPF records from lamplight3.info for this domain too, reject mail from anywhere else”
However, if you are also sending email from your own ‘normal’ email system, you’ll need to include that too. For example, if you use GMail as your main email service, you would want:
"v=spf1 include:_spf.google.com include:lamplight3.info ~all"
This means: “I’m an SPF record, use the SPF records for GMail or lamplight3.info for this domain too, reject mail from anywhere else“
or. more generally:
"v=spf1 mx include:lamplight3.info ~all"
This means: “I’m an SPF record, accept our usual email server (MailboX) or the SPF records for lamplight3.info, reject mail from anywhere else“
(If you already have a SPF record, just add in the
include:lamplight3.info bit, just before the
~all at the end).
You can find Google’s instructions for setting it up, although the exact way to do it depends on who manages your DNS for your domain.
Once you’ve added this (and it can take a day or two for the DNS directory to get updated) email servers receiving your email should be happier accepting email that says it’s from you that you’ve sent via Lamplight.