I am a terrible IT person
April 18, 2014 9:46 AM   Subscribe

Will switching home ISPs solve my spam problems? I have my own consulting business, and work from home in the East Bay. I have one employee who also works from home, but she lives in SF. I have an issue with my outgoing email when sent from my house (but not my phone when it isn't connected to my home wifi or from my laptop when i am elsewhere): it often bounces back as having "spam content", goes into my clients' junkmail folders, or just disappears. This used to only happen with one client, so I just assumed it was the fault of their IT folks, but now it's happening a lot.

I have a domain for my business with hosted exchange service through GoDaddy. Their customer service has been responsive, and after walking through a million tests/changes/etc they offered up the conclusion that the problem is being caused by my home ISP, which is Comcast (I hate Comcast). The only alternative for us, and we have searched extensively, is ATT (I hate ATT).

Basically, GoDaddy says that they can tell that someone on my "node" is sending high volumes of actual spam and frequently getting reported/shut down. They claim that this gets everyone in my actual geographic area on blacklists frequently and is a known problem. Since I also have this problem (though less often) with gmail and with a test email address I set up with another web host, I am inclined to at least believe that the problem isn't on GoDaddy's end.

When I spoke with Comcast they were evasive and every call I did with them ended with me being terminated while on hold waiting for a supervisor. GoDaddy claims that I can ask to be assigned to another node, but ATT won't ever let me get to that level.

MY QUESTION: Would switching to another ISP (ATT) at home get me on a different "node?" Is there a particular outcome I can realistically expect?

Some points for clarification:
-When I say email, I mean person-to-person messages sent from Outlook or gmail. I do not have a list or send group emails or anything like that at all. Just regular 1-on-1 business interactions with people I have existing relationships with. Zero "email marketing."
-I don't really understand the underlying technology here, but I have been self-employed often/long enough to know how an email setup like this ought to work.
-I can sometimes get around this by not having an email signature, editing out links or removing attachments.
-I am confident that I don't have any sort of malware or the like actually sending from my machine or another machine in my house.
-This is driving me insane. I will take any reasonable steps to fix it.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly to Technology (11 answers total)
Oh - I mention my employee in the question simply because she does NOT have this problem at all, despite using the same email setup as me.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 9:47 AM on April 18, 2014

Not sure about your particular problem, but I'm in the east bay and I use Sonic.net as my ISP and I know that they're just on the same lines as AT&T (an AT&T tech came out to hook it up). So I'm not sure what your options are if AT&T owns all the lines in your hood.
posted by bradbane at 10:13 AM on April 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Just buy mail services for your domain from someone reputable (ie: not GoDaddy). Plenty of companies will sell mail relaying and hosting separately, from Google Apps for Domains (or whatever sub-product it is, basically GMail for your domain, used to be free for < 50 accounts, now it's a much smaller number), to Sonic.net's email hosting options (even if you can't get a Fusion line).

If you need MS Exchange capabilities, I know there are vendors who give you that, too.

Basically, either GoDaddy or Comcast is being lazy, but there's no reason you have to use the provider of the physical link as your email server provider.
posted by straw at 10:19 AM on April 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Changing ISPs is a little bit extreme for a problem like this. I would probably first look into using a VPN service which will cause your email to appear as if it is coming from someplace else. hotspotshield has an ad-supported trial if you'd like to give that a whirl, and for a home based business $30/year is definitely affordable. (I am not a hotspotshield customer, so YMMV/feel free to shop around)
posted by kaytwo at 10:20 AM on April 18, 2014

There are quite a number of different things that can cause your email to be flagged as spam:

Actually sending spam (obviously)
Sharing an ISP/connection with someone who is sending spam.
Sending from an IP address/domain thats been associated with sending spam.
Sending messages that look like they could be spam.

That last one is the easiest to fall into, using certain keywords, linked images or corrupt/invalid HTML can all trigger it. If a simple message with no signature or images gets through, try adding them back one at a time to see where the trigger is.
posted by Lanark at 10:46 AM on April 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Since you're running a business my recommendation is to have your email handled by a mail provider OTHER than your ISP. Office 360 or Intermedia are great places to start. Yes, you'll have to pay a few bucks per month, but the spam filtering alone is worth the price of admission.
posted by tgrundke at 11:04 AM on April 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Your ISP does not necessarily affect whether your mail is classified as junk or not; it has a lot more to do with whether you have your email set up with your email provider correctly. You say you use godaddy for your email? Do you use their email provider services or do you just have Godaddy forward mail to a different address? If it's the latter, then depending on what email provider you actually use, and the way you have your email set up (e.g. do you try to send email that purports to be from your domain using this other provider's SMTP servers?), it could get flagged as spam.

That said, I suspect that your best bet would be to pay to move your email to a service in the business of providing email services like Office365 or Google Apps or whatever. Looking at the GoDaddy site, it looks like they provide Office365 integration at a discount, so that might be your best bet.
posted by Aleyn at 11:33 AM on April 18, 2014

I use hosted MS exchange email, purchased through GoDaddy, not something from my ISP. Since this problem only presents in a specific physical location, I thought it seemed unlikely that they were the problem. Also, I do have this problem with gmail (just a regular, web-based gmail account) using an account that has nothing to do with GoDaddy. Nonetheless, that seems to be the bulk of the advice here, so it can't hurt to try a different provider.

Lanark: I can definitely reduce the frequency of this problem by omitting links and attachments, but I don't want to do that. I have a had a zillion jobs with email addresses, and I have always been able to send clients links and attach files as needed.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 7:37 PM on April 18, 2014

Stupid question: how is your client configured to send mail out? That is to say, is it sending out through godaddy's servers, or are you attempting to send mail out via gmail and/or your ISP's mail servers, but with a return address of the godaddy based account? Beacuse that will cause these sorts of problems these days (one of the things that increases your "spamminess" score is mail with a return address that doens't match the sender location)
posted by jaymzjulian at 7:47 PM on April 18, 2014

There's a separate MS Exchange account for each email address (mine and my employee's), for which we each use Outlook and sometimes MS Exchange webmail. The gmail account I reference is a separate, person account (xxxx@gmail.com VS xxxx@mycompany.com).
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 7:58 PM on April 18, 2014

Do you have SPF and DomainKeys/DKIM set up for your domain?
posted by Good Brain at 9:18 AM on April 19, 2014

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