The importance of monitoring your mail server
Nobody can deny the impact that email has had on our personal and business lives. Modern business is fuelled by email, and without it communication between teams and with customers would grind to a halt. Your email server is a vital part of your business and infrastructure, and ensuring it is healthy and working at its best should be a priority for IT teams.
The Radicati Groupâ€™s email statistics report identified that the average business person received 88 emails every day in 2015 (76 legitimate and 12 spam) and it forecasts an increase to almost 100 per day by 2019.
So the question that needs to be asked is; is your email server online and operating at its optimum? Unfortunately this is a question that is not asked enough. You need to monitor and test your email server constantly; by doing this you will ensure that the service stays available and email is not delayed or lost. Remember that a failure to respond to an important contact, supplier or customer could affect the reputation of your business.
Monitoring your email
There are many aspects of your server that can be monitored to ensure that they are working correctly. As a minimum, a monitoring product such as Mutiny should be in place to ensure that your server hardware is up, running and operating correctly. More general monitoring solutions can tell you the overall condition of your hardware and applications, such as memory usage, CPU load and disk space for example, and warn you before these escalate.
More advanced, email specific products can be used to interrogate email functionality, ensuring these are running correctly and at their best. Below is a quick overview of the technology used in your email server, what it does and why it should be monitored:
Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP): The internet protocol for electronic mail delivery. Most email servers use SMTP for sending and receiving. Each time an email is sent the email client interacts with the SMTP server. Your SMTP server â€˜handshakesâ€ with the server at the receiving end to synchronise everything before the email is sent. If this handshake is not successful, you need to know why.
IMAP â€“ Internet Message Access Protocol: This is an internet standard protocol for storing email messages on your server and allowing your client, whatever it may be, to open and edit them. Monitoring software can verify that your IMAP server is working correctly and enable you to retrieve and edit these emails.
POP3: This is a standard mail protocol which is used to receive emails from a remote server. POP3 allows you to download email from a server to your local device. Though regarded as an older technology, it is still used by a significant number of devices. POP3 servers can be monitored for uptime, response times and permissions. Monitoring ensures your server is there, available and working at an acceptable speed.
Activesync: Used by many modern mail servers to interact with mobile clients. Is it available and responding in a timely way?
Queues: Internal to Exchange server are queues used to process incoming and outgoing email. Occasionally inbound connectors or external servers are not functioning or available for the transfer of mail and queues can build up quickly. This is an early indication of a pending problem.
Latency: Microsoft recommends measuring the latency value of an Exchange server is a good indicator of its overall health taking into account all of the other components. Grabbing this value will help you to understand if your server can cope with those peak email periods.
DNS checking: Forgetting to renew your domain name is seen as a schoolboy error, but it happens all too often. By testing for your MX records against public DNS servers you will soon pick up if there are problems. It may not be immediately evident that mail is failing because it can take days before records have expired.
Blacklist Monitoring: Email blacklists are a common way of reducing spam but unfortunately legitimate businesses can also end up on these lists. Email focussed monitoring can check your domain name against the hundreds of blacklists around the internet and ensure that you are not on them.
But what if we have a hosted email or webmail?
While itâ€™s true that businesses are outsourcing their IT more than ever, itâ€™s still important for IT professionals to understand the performance of their email systems. When choosing a provider, instead of entrusting everything to them, see what facility is available to connect your monitoring to their systems. Understand how their servers are functioning and interacting with your network. Ensure that your teams and customers are able to connect to their email 24/7 and that the performance meets their needs.
If you would like to talk to us about your monitoring and options then get in touch here.