How to ask client's IT team for SMTP access
July 7, 2012 10:54 PM   Subscribe

I'm running software on a client's server that needs to send email reports. It typically uses sendmail, but we switched the DNS over to the client's own special MX records instead of the local mail exchanger. My software can use SMTP--what do I need to know in order to ask the client's IT guy for access without looking like a complete idiot?

Does the IT guy need to set up some sort of special account for me, or just hand over the SMTP credentials? Will he be willing to do so? (The software is completely above-board and needs to send email)

I've only ever used sendmail and not this SMTP stuff through a client's IT services before. Of course, I've used my own SMTP before, but this is a relatively large institution. I don't want to commit any gaffes...thanks!

(And of course, I hope this is just stupid simple and is done every day)
posted by circular to Computers & Internet (7 answers total)
sendmail should continue to work just fine. The machine you're sending mail from can see the MX records?
posted by sbutler at 11:07 PM on July 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

The MX record change could affect inbound mail and prevent it from reaching the server your code is on now--is that what you mean? For inbound mail, either some of the mail still needs to reach your server or else your software needs to connect to a mailbox somewhere to pick it up.

For outbound mail, the MX record change shouldn't be a problem, but I wonder if at the same time their IT guys are going to switch to not allowing some kinds of outbound traffic, e.g. unauthenticated SMTP connections to other local servers or outbound SMTP in general crossing their border.

If they're going to require authenticated SMTP, they probably have the option of whitelisting the server you're on, so that its MTA can still drop off mail on other local servers without authenticating. They also have the option of setting up user/pass credentials your software could use to make SMTP connections to their primary mail server. If they're not allowing outbound SMTP to cross their border, you may just need to ask that the server you're on send all mail through their gateway, but it's likely that whitelisting would be required in that case as well.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 11:20 PM on July 7, 2012

Ask your client whether he would prefer that the reports are sent out from his own email address. If not then you should ask the mail system admin to create an account specially for this.
posted by rongorongo at 11:40 PM on July 7, 2012

what do I need to know in order to ask the client's IT guy for access without looking like a complete idiot?

You need to know that the best way to avoid look like a complete idiot is to avoid asking for things you only half-understand. Stick to asking for things you completely understand, let the client's IT guy fill in the blanks for you, and deal with any issues as they arise.

Everybody is deeply ignorant about most things. Ignorance is not idiocy, and competent IT people know this. But we do tend toward impatience when dealing with people who seem to prize their ignorance.

So just tell the IT guy what your software has to achieve, and tell him what capabilities it has to let it achieve those things, and let him show you how best to fit it into his infrastructure.
posted by flabdablet at 12:05 AM on July 8, 2012 [6 favorites]

Yeah, what flabdablet said. I'd say to the IT guy, "Hey, the $PROGRAM on $MACHINE needs to be able to send email; should I configure it to submit the mail to one of your SMTP servers, or run a local sendmail daemon, or what?". The relevant facts being: there's a program on that machine that needs to send mail, and you have at least heard of SMTP and mail daemons.

It might make a small difference whether the recipients are internal to the organization or not.
posted by hattifattener at 12:29 AM on July 8, 2012

SMTP is a protocol for handling mail from clients to other mail servers. For most small LANS, a mail server on the same LAN as clients considers them 'friendly' clients and accepts mail for the local IP range. That's not a given, but it's not an unusual thing to do. You only need the IP # or DNS name of the local mail server and bing-badda-boom, send the mail.
Your SMTP mail server could be one provided by the ISP for your locale. As part of their subnet, your locale may well be considered friendly and allow outbound mail.
In a security conscious world, SMTP nowadays is often secured with various forms of password authentication. If you have a working email address with the mail server, the same configuration for the email client would work for your program.
It's not clear what the MX records would do this in the scenario you describe. You only need an MX record for a mail server. The MX record would point to the IP address for the record as saying, here's a mail server. If you have an SMTP server sending mail outbound, it could send email direct to other mail servers or hand off mail to a trusted relay. So, my question as an IT person to you would be, do you really have an SMTP server there and why is that necessary for sending a few email reports when the infrastructure for sending messages already exists, aka the company mail server.
posted by diode at 4:17 AM on July 8, 2012

OK, it turns out I thought it wouldn't work with sendmail because of an unrelated bug. After getting the bug fixed, the email actually works fine. So, wasted question except that now I understand the needs of IT admins a bit better. ;-) Thanks for all the responses.
posted by circular at 10:48 AM on July 9, 2012

« Older There is No Scent of Strawberries at Silverstone   |   Help me come up with some unorthodox ideas to help... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.