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How to find a web host that doesn't get blacklisted?
March 28, 2007 7:47 AM   Subscribe

Our webhost keeps getting blacklisted. What can we do?

I run our church's website, and have it hosted with a shared web host- midphase.com. We've been very, very happy with midphase in most respects (reliabilty, performance, tech support, price), but recently we've been finding that large ISPs (comcast, Cox, Verizon, etc...) have been blocking their netblock as a source of spam (not our specific server). This is a huge issue because we make heavy use of mailman-based mailing lists to communicate with our members, and many of them have accounts with these ISPs.

Has anyone else found a way to deal with this problem? The only solutions I can think of are:

1. Switch to a web host that is better at controlling spam. Unfortunately, there aren't any indpendent sources for judging this that I can find... any suggestions?

2. Run our own mail server on our own fixed IP. This is highly undesirable because of the challenge of maintaining something like this over the long term, given the shortage of technically-competant volunteers.

3. Find some sort of relay service that we can send our e-mail through. I assume these exist... but would any (a) allow us to send the volume of mailing list traffic that we do (several lists have over a hundred subscribers) and (b) not be blocked themselves. Any suggestions?
posted by reborndata to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Recently, someone suggested Constant Contact to me to use for a mailing list. I can't speak to them as a user, but I'm on a few lists that use it, and it seems pretty groovy. It's got an easy "unsubscribe" feature, which is great for keeping off the spam lists, and it's only $15 a month for up to 500 email users.

That seems like it's an easier method than switching hosts. :)
posted by dejah420 at 7:59 AM on March 28, 2007


Why would you want to continue doing business with a company that knowingly sells it's services to spammers?
posted by sluglicker at 9:02 AM on March 28, 2007


You could try using MailHop instead.

The reason the host keeps getting blacklisted is the instant setup. Pretty much every spammer case isn't because the company's knowingly spamming, it's because they have someone buy an account on Friday night and get the domain name pointed right away, and as soon as they can they start bombing the rest of the world with spam... which hits a honeypot and then gets the whole server and all the customers on it blacklisted. This can happen in a matter of minutes, before the web host's staff can respond to it, and then it takes days/weeks for you to get it removed. I don't know of a host except for a very tiny, non-instant-setup host like patriot.net that will get around that problem.

Your other option would be to go to something more like a managed VPS (Virtual Private Server) instead. Budget about $35/mo for the same 'service' you're getting now, but you get your own mail server and IP address hosted up on the VPS. I use futurehost.biz and am very satisfied.
posted by SpecialK at 9:14 AM on March 28, 2007


I don't know of a host except for a very tiny, non-instant-setup host like patriot.net that will get around that problem.

Over the past 8 years or so, I've had numerous sites up and almost as many hosts. I've never run into this problem. Time to switch hosts.
posted by sluglicker at 9:39 AM on March 28, 2007


From their site, only$7.95/mth!

25,000 MB Disk Space
Free Domain for Life
1,500,000 MB Bandwidth
E-commerce Enabled
Free Setup Fee! Save $29.95!

And don't forget their SECRETLINK! But remember rule #1: Don't give it out -- let people find it on their own. That pretty much explains it, doesn't it?
posted by sluglicker at 9:51 AM on March 28, 2007


dejah40: I'm familiar with Constant Contact. We use our lists primarily for discussion groups, rather than pure announcements (which Constant Contact does a nice job with)

specialK: Mailhop is something I was thinking about, but they have a pricing model that would rapidly run our costs up... $10 / month for 150 message deliveries / day, and you have to choose your plan in advance. We get bursts of traffic that go way above 150 / day (I know of one day which would have had at least 1200 deliveries).

As for a VPS... it wouldn't help our current situation, because our specific server isn't being blacklisted... rather these ISPs seem to be getting draconian and blocking whole netblocks. What's to keep that from happening elsewhere?

Sluglicker... As SpecialK points out, this is a general problem with shared hosts. I had been through quite a few hosts before going with Midphase, and I've been with them for about 3 happy years. They actually have real, competant support, and seem to be managing their growth well. They're also the only cpanel host I've found that has mailman working properly.

Sigh.
posted by reborndata at 11:46 AM on March 28, 2007


You're not entirely correct, sluglicker. Many folks at the small web host I have used for years like to auto-forward mail from their account[s] on the web host to their account on [BIG ISP]. The unthinking user will sometimes mark some of this mail as spam through BIG ISP's webmail interface which results in web host's IP addy being plonked. Other BIG ISPs will filter the incoming forwarded mail on their own initiative and start plonking IP addys based on spam being auto-forwarded. This is in addition to the problem described by SpecialK.

The latter used to be a huge problem until the web host owner started preemptively filtering outgoing mail directed to certain ISPs. The former still presents itself occasionally.

As for the OP's question: either go really big with your hosting company (will have reciprocal agreements, etc) or go really small (personalized control over who has what access to which server). The only sure thing is to host your own or possibly go with a mail list service.

Finally, the way I have been combating this is through education. When someone complains about not receiving mail or I notice the mail was blocked I'll call the person to let them know that their choice of ISP is playing fast and loose with their communications and that they might want to consider moving to a host who isn't quite so zealous in applying zero tolerance blacklists based on unreliable data.
posted by Fezboy! at 11:56 AM on March 28, 2007


I host with a company called 24hostingnow. I don't get blacklisting issues, but the SMTP server does go down occasionally (every couple weeks or so), apparently due to spammers getting access. However, this host has 24-hour online support, and usually the problem is corrected within minutes of my notifying them. The servers are in New Jersey. The support staff seem mainly in India.
posted by Goofyy at 1:53 AM on March 29, 2007


What about using a Yahoo group or some such for your discussions?
posted by advicepig at 11:13 AM on March 29, 2007


Update- I'm not sure I should have discounted SpecialK's VPS recommendation so quickly. It's true that our specific host isn't being blacklisted, but the specific host he mentioned - futurehost.biz - doesn't do small-account shared hosting at all and thus is less likely to be subject to the constant stream of small spam outbreaks that even a competant host leaks. They also have really good pricing- there's a $10 / month unmanaged Linux server which I could set up as a listserver for a lot less than most VPS offerings (it helps that I'm a former UNIX sysadmin).

We don't use Yahoo groups because (a) we have a lot of different little discussion lists and (b) we don't feel it's appropriate to have 3rd party advertising in our church-affiliated mailing lists. We're in the process of moving to a Drupal-based site and will probably change over from mailman to organic groups + og2list, but that will still face the relaying / blocking issues we have now.

-R

Anyway, thanks for all of the ideas.
posted by reborndata at 8:09 AM on April 3, 2007


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