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Gmail to the rescue

When trying to solve some mail server problems, one of the most useful troubleshooting tools that I use (aside from good old telnet) has to be free email service providers. Whether it is Hotmail, Yahoo or Gmail, having a free email account set up with them can greatly help when it comes to figuring out where the problem lies.

Quite often if somebody says to me ‘hey, is our email down’, one of the first things I will do is send an email from my corporate account to a personal account. This will tell me right away if our server is accepting connections internally, it will let me know that our DNS is working properly (it would have to in order to resolve the recipients domain MX) and it will let me know that it is sending mail to external recipients.

I usually follow this up with a reply to the test message to let me know that our DNS records are up and running correctly and that our mail server is accepting incoming connections from outside the network.

Of course there could be a slew of other problems in between (whether it be spam/content filters, storage issues, firewall issues, etc), but having an accessible external email address sure helps narrow down where the potential problem is.

Even if the message doesn’t get through to the external account, at least now you have a known message that you can trace through the log files.

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