Mail delays/failures and uncooperative admins
We've been getting some reports of email failures where someone would try to send to us, and a few hours later it bounces with a failure. It happens with people at different organizations, but all those organizations happen to use the same hosted email service, onechoice.net.
What's actually happening is that onechoice.net is trying to send to us, getting a transient/temporary failure to connect, and retrying a single time after two hours. This is in violation of RFC 2821, which says ""Retries continue until the message is transmitted or the sender gives up; the give-up time generally needs to be at least 4-5 days." It's also insane...I've never seen a SMTP send queue that gives up after less than 3 days.
I'm not concerned about the connection failures; we get hammered by spam DoS attacks and there's not much I can do about it. We have a project for a new mail server that will be more robust, waiting for funding that's definitely going to come in but we don't know when.
So, I figured I'd call onechoice.net and ask them why their SMTP server gives up after two hours. I did a whois to get their technical contact number. When I called it, I got a scam (described at http://edumacation.com/TelSeven ). Finally I gave up and called the customer support number on their website. Of course, since we're not a customer, they can't put in a ticket for us, but the guy was nice and tried asking the networking people about it.
They said that it was "by design" and that they couldn't change it. Well, the RFC has something to say about that, too: "The parameters to the retry algorithm MUST be configurable."
It's causing difficulty for the users, it's making me look bad, and it's a crazy way to setup a server. What can I do?
Here's a portion of what the failure looks like, in case you don't know what I mean. Look at the time the DSN was sent, and look at the time the original message was sent...
Date: January 31, 2008 11:54:00 AM EST
Subject: failure notice
Hi. This is the qmail-send program at roc-smtp4-sun.choiceone.net.
I'm afraid I wasn't able to deliver your message to the following addresses.
This is a permanent error; I've given up. Sorry it didn't work out.
Sorry, I wasn't able to establish an SMTP connection. (#4.4.1)
I'm not going to try again; this message has been in the queue too long.
--- Below this line is a copy of the message.
[snipped: Received lines and some other stuff]
From: "email@example.com" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Dennis O'Hara Talks
Date: Thu, 31 Jan 2008 10:07:14 -0500