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What if I've reached my server's SMTP limit?

There is a daily limit of 1,000 outbound emails from your dedicated/Virtual Private Server (VPS). There are several other reasons besides "standard email" that can cause you to reach this daily restriction. The following are a few things you can check:

Verify That Your Domain Name is Not Sending Out Bouncebacks

The default Parallels Plesk Panel setting is to bounce email sent to non-existent users. This means that if your domain is coolexample.com, and someone sends an email to a non-existent user (ex: johndoe@coolexample.com), it is defaulted to send a message back saying "This user does not exist". If your domain receives a lot of incoming mail to non-existent users, the daily limit can be hit in no time.

The solution is to modify your mail preferences to reject mail sent to non-existent users.

To Reject Mail Sent to Non-existent Users in Parallels Plesk Panel

  1. From the Parallels Plesk Panel control panel click Domains.
  2. Click Select Domain, then click Mail.
  3. Click Preferences and then click the Reject radio button, and click OK.

You will need to do this for all domains on the server.

Test Your Server for an Open Relay

An open mail relay is a SMTP server that is configured in such a way that it allows anyone on the Internet to send email through it. You can use the tool at http://www.abuse.net/relay.html to test for an open relay. To close an open relay:

  • Plesk:
    On a Linux server with Plesk, you will want to log in to Plesk as the admin account and click Server > Mail. Make sure that you have either chosen Closedor Authentication Required next to the Relay option.
  • cPanel:
    Servers with cPanel are configured as closed relays by default. If you suspect there is an open relay configured, you can run the following commands using SSH:
    /scripts/fixrelayd
    /etc/rc.d/init.d/antirelayd restart
    service exim restart

Consult the Email Logs & Mail Utilities on Your Server

For Plesk (Linux), cPanel, & Simple Control Panel, you will want to use SSH as your main means of troubleshooting. If you do not have an SSH client, you can download Putty free here. For Plesk (Windows), you will want to log in to the server using Remote Desktop. For more information on accessing your server with Remote Desktop see Accessing Your Windows Dedicated Server using Remote Desktop Connection

  • Plesk/Linux Servers:
    /usr/local/psa/var/log/maillog (Qmail log)
    /var/qmail/bin/qmail-qstat (View the amount of messages currently in your outbound queue)
    /var/qmail/bin/qmail-qread (List out all messages in your outbound queue)
    find /var/qmail/queue -name NNNN| xargs cat | less (Read the entire contents of an email, including headers, where NNNN is the ~8 digit ID specified on the /var/qmail/bin/qmail-qread command)
  • cPanel:
    /var/log/exim_mainlog
    /var/log/exim_paniclog
    /var/log/exim_rejectlog
    /var/log/maillog exim -bpr | grep "<" | wc -l (View the amount of messages currently in your outbound queue)
    exim -bp (List out all messages in your outbound queue)
    cPanel also has a graphical mail queue layout that you can view inside WebHost Manager by going to Email > Mail Queue Manager.
  • Simple Control Panel:
    /var/log/maillog (Postfix Log)
    mailq (List out all messages in your outbound queue)
    postcat -q $mailq_message_number | more (Read the contents of an email in your outbound queue)
  • Plesk Windows Servers:
    All mail related messages are stored in text files on the server. To view messages in the outbound queue, browse to:
    C:%Plesk Directory%PleskMail ServersMail EnableQueuesSMTPOutgoing
    C:%Plesk Directory%PleskMail ServersMail EnableQueuesSMTPInbound (for incoming)
    Right click on any of these files and open in Notepad.

Your mail logs may also detail vulnerabilities in any scripts that you have installed that send mail. Injection attacks are common against scripts that do not check header data. A trend that indicates an injection attack is a large number of addresses in the BCC field of emails in your queue.

Check Exim Mail Settings in cPanel

On cPanel servers, make sure you have :fail: instead of :blackhole: for your Exim mail settings. An article at http://www.configserver.com/free/fail.html details the differences between the two settings.

To set the default mail behavior to :fail:, you will want to execute the following command through SSH:

echo "defaultmailaction=fail" >> /var/cpanel/cpanel.config

If your domains are set to :fail:, and your logs still show suspicious traffic that leads to continuous relay usage, then you most likely have problems with the Exim Callout system.

By default, exim.conf is set to use callouts to verify the existence of email senders. This means that every time an email is sent to your server from a new address, Exim connects to the relay server during the RCPT callout command. This places an entry into the Exim "mainlog" and uses a SMTP relay.

You can disable this feature by following these steps:

  1. Log in to WebHost Manager
  2. Click on Exim Configuration Editor under the Service Configuration area of the left-hand toolbar.
  3. In the second gray area titled Options you will see 4 checkboxes.
  4. Uncheck the third checkbox Use callouts to verify the existence of email senders
  5. Click Save

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