Email has become an integral part of
communication for businesses and individuals alike. However, with the
increasing threat of cyberattacks and data breaches, ensuring the security and
privacy of email communication has become more crucial than ever. To address
these concerns, we are proud to introduce our own SMTP mail server - which we call WMA. Before highlighting the benefits
of our customised solution, maybe I should explain a bit about SMTP servers!
What is an SMTP mail server?
SMTP stands for Simple Mail Transfer Protocol, which is the standard protocol used for sending emails over the internet. An SMTP mail server acts as a relay agent that facilitates the secure and efficient delivery of outgoing emails from your websites and clients to their intended recipients. It works behind the scenes, handling the technical aspects of email transmission, such as routing, authentication, and message delivery.
Up to now, we have used an off-the-shelf product to handle our clients' outgoing emails - but we were starting to find issues and limitations, and when we started to look for a suitable replacement, we couldn't find one product that did everything we wanted.
So, being the creative IT folk that we are, we decided to build our own! Initially, we wanted to just build a security layer that sat between our apps and the mail server, to control who could send what to where (hence the app's name, the Webnetism Mail Authenticator or WMA). Eventually, we had added so much functionality that it became a fully-blow SMTP emailing service. From now on, this new system will be handling all the outgoing mail from our customers' websites, including things like order confirmations, enquiry form notifications and reports.
So what are the benefits?
1. Enhanced Security
One of the primary advantages of WMA is the improved security it offers. By hosting our own server, we have greater control over the entire email sending process. This control allows us to implement robust security measures, such as certificated encryption protocols, spam filters, and intrusion detection systems, to protect your sensitive information from unauthorized access and interception.
2. Enhanced Access Control
Our custom SMTP mail server allows us to enforce strict access control policies. By blocking external users from accessing the server, while allowing connections from specific addresses, we significantly reduce the risk of unauthorised access and potential security breaches. This ensures that only trusted individuals within our organization can manage and operate the server, further safeguarding the integrity of our email infrastructure.
3. Flexible User Management
With our custom mail server, we have the ability to set up and manage individual smtp user accounts. This granular control allows us to define specific "from" addresses that can be used by our websites and clients, ensuring a consistent and professional email experience, and preventing spoofing. Additionally, we can implement features such as pausing specific users temporarily, so their emails are queued but not sent, allowing us to address any issues or concerns before proceeding with transmission.
4. DKIM Record Management
Our mail server enables us to manage DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) records effectively. DKIM is an email authentication method that helps verify the authenticity and integrity of emails. By configuring DKIM records, we can add a digital signature to outgoing emails, making it easier for recipients to identify legitimate messages from our domains (and our customers') and reducing the chances of emails being incorrectly flagged as spam or phishing attempts.
5. Controlled Send Rates
Another notable feature of our SMTP mail server is the ability to control the send rates. We can limit, on a user-by-user basis, how many emails are sent in a given time period - letting us control load on our servers and prevent large batches being seen as incoming spam on the receiving servers.
6. Logging and Monitoring
Our SMTP mail server incorporates a logging system that captures and records various events and actions taking place within the system. We log crucial information such as email delivery status, errors encountered, successful transmissions, and any suspicious or unusual activities. By maintaining a detailed log, we provide valuable insights into the operations of your email infrastructure, facilitating troubleshooting, analysis, and audits when necessary.
We have developed a user-friendly monitoring dashboard that presents real-time statistics, metrics, and activity logs related to your email system. This dashboard offers a centralized view of the server's performance, including factors like send rates, queue lengths, and response times. By monitoring these key indicators, we can identify patterns, detect problems, and make informed decisions to optimise our email operations.
We also have an API that allows our monitoring and reporting tools to directly query these stats and the status of the email server, so that our engineers are able to respond in a timely manner to any developing problems.
The email services run on multiple servers, managed by a load-balancer, that gives us scalability (we can easily add more servers to handle increased demand, ore remove them to save resources) and redundancy (the system can continue to work even if one or more servers fail)
We've already started connecting all our own systems to WMA, but will gradually be adding our clients' outgoing email to it over the next few months. When we switch over, it should be transparent to most of our web hosting customers - we 'll do the necessary configuration changes for you. And if we need you to make any changes, we'll be in touch. Don't worry, the old system will continue to work until everyone is switched over.
Watch this space!