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Odd SBS 2011 Receiving Email Issue

 

Recently deployed an SBS 2011 server for a client down in the New Forest. Shortly after going live with this server, we experienced one of the oddest issues I have experienced. The fix was very simple, but the symptoms left us scratching our head. 

The server was intermittently receiving email. I could send it messages, but other accounts could not. Sometimes email from Google Mail would come through, other times they wouldn't. Same for Hotmail and other services. 

As it was intermittent, I was confidently ruling out the Exchange part as I said I could send it email. It was responding to telnet commands quite happily. 

Therefore we started to consider issues such as the router (it was something odd), the ISP as it was one that I hadn't used before and wasn't quite the same as others in the UK. Things were changed around and still the problem continued. 

The major symptom was the "Service Unavailable" was received by the clients, but it was on a 4.x.x error code, so email wasn't failing immediately. That error message usually means the anti-spam filtering it blocking the email. As the anti-spam agents are installed by default on SBS 2011, they were removed, no change. We had also installed AV on to the server, so that was checked and removed to ensure it wasn't affecting anything. 

This went on for a few days.

Then clutching at straws I started to go through the entire setup comparing it to my reference SBS 2011 server here in my home office. This reference server is basically an SBS 2011 installation that has had the wizards run, is kept patched, but isn't used or touched in any other way. It is an out of the box install. No third party software installed, and it isn't exposed to the internet. I have them for all three versions of SBS (2003, 2007 and 2011) that I work with. 

When I got to the Receive Connectors, I immediately noticed something was wrong, and I had overlooked something. 

This is a screenshot of the Receive Connector as I saw:

 
The key bit is at the bottom. 
It appears that the SBS setup wizards configure the receive connector to not receive email from the internal subnet. However for some reason the third line to allow IP addresses above 192.168.x.x had not been written. 
 
This is a screenshot of the correctly configured connector:

 

What this meant was that any email server with an IP address of below 192.168 was able to send email to the server, but anything above that couldn't. It would appear that some of the major email providers like Google Mail are routing their email out through high number IP addresses!

Furthermore, this wasn't being corrected by the fix my network wizard, which I had run a number of times to ensure that I hadn't missed something. 

As soon as I corrected the setting and restarted the Microsoft Exchange Transport Service for good measure, the email started to flood in. 

 

Relocation

 

The blog has been very quiet for a few months, and even my forum posting level has dropped, and that is because I have moved house. 

I am now located in the Thames Valley, midway between Newbury (home of Vodafone) and Reading (home of Microsoft UK). It took me a little while to settle in, as I moved from a very small one bedroom flat (apartment) in to a three bedroom detached house. Although oddly my stuff appears to have grown to fill the space!

I now have a real office instead of the corner of the lounge, a real kitchen instead of the corner of the lounge and a lounge without a kitchen and my office in it. I also have a garden, which is somewhat of a shock as I am so not green fingered. 

Anyway all good fun and I am now back up to speed with client work.