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E-mail Outages - Causes and Prevention

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Posted on August 13th, 2010 by Victoria Pal in Tech

E-mail outageSince you are reading this blog I can safely assume that you already know how e-mail works. The main problem occurs when it doesn’t. And it doesn’t matter whether you are running a business or running an errand – if your e-mail is not working, you are losing information. The truth is that most businesses experience at least one e-mail outage every year and this downtime, combined with the recovery costs can add up to hundreds and even thousands of dollars.

But what causes the e-mail outages?

There are many reasons why an e-mail system can stop functioning, but at a first glance the e-mail outages can be planned and unplanned.

Planned outages are these times when your e-mail system is down for maintenance or for an upgrade. Patch management, moving the servers to a different datacenter, or simply bringing the system down for tests can also be listed into this category.
 
Unlike planned e-mail downtime, unplanned outages can catch you unprepared. They are also much harder to pinpoint. When such an issue occurs the causes can range from hardware or software problems, direct attack or a human error which causes system overload. Natural events and human accidents are not to be disregarded as well.
 
A survey conducted recently shows that about 70% of the unplanned outages are caused by hardware or software problems such as server failures, connectivity loss and database corruption.
Email outage causes
This is why it is crucial to know the status of your e-mail system 24/7. The best way to do it is to consistently monitor your e-mail with a sample email round-trip 2-step session which makes sure that both your incoming and outgoing email services are working properly from an end-to-end perspective. The checks for this type of monitoring normally follow this scenario:
The email monitoring agent will connect to the outgoing (SMTP) mail server, send a test message, and then will connect and login into your incoming (POP3 or IMAP) server and try to retrieve the message. If the message is retrieved, the test is successful and the message will be deleted from your email system. If the message cannot be retrieved, the test will be considered as failed and alerts will be sent to the designated contacts. Of course, there are other possibles scenarios, but we will take a closer look at them in our next posts.

Having your e-mail system monitored constantly reduces the downtime of your e-mail systems by up to 80% (compared to downtime without monitoring and error notification services). It also significantly reduces the time to troubleshoot the failed e-mail applications and consequently minimizes the expenses on recovery. Last but not least, being in the loop about the status of your system, eliminates the risk of lost or delayed valuable email communications and improves communication experience with your valued customers and associates.

Victoria Pal

Doesn't like queuing (particularly at Wimbledon). Likes travelling, tennis and reading. Loves working as a Project Manager at WebSitePulse.

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