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Missing newsletters and email? Major NZ ISP confesses

by Sail-World.com/nz 26 Nov 17:01 NZDT 26 November 2018
Spam and email filtering is an ongoing issue for NZ ISP's has been an ongoing issue for years © NYT

Another instance of an over-zealous Internet Services Provider (ISP) blocking legitimate emails has emerged in New Zealand and has been around for a couple of months at least..

This time it is New Zealand's largest ISP which has been caught out with an issue that is widely known in the online media industry, but usually denied by the ISP's.

In nutshell what happens is that an ISP has an attack from spam email - a hazard of life for anyone who has an internet account.

The ISP's reaction is usually to over-react and increase the sensitivity of their spam filters.

While this resolves the spam issue, it is like using a fishing net with undersize mesh - a lot of by-catch is caught. In this case the by-catch is a lot of legitimate email which never reaches the intended reader.

Sometimes this can be corrected by using a webmail application supplied by the ISP and then looking in various "Trash" and "Junk file" folders - only to find that they have many genuine emails that have not made it to your favorite email application.

In theory, these can be rectified by going through the Trash and Junk and Spam folders and checking the users as legitimate. However in our experience this is at best a temporary fix, as the ISP's ISP will often just increase "security" filters, or change their settings without announcement - and you are back to where you started.

The permanent solution is to run separate ISP's for your work and your personal email.

Do not use corporate email addresses for sending personal mail - unless you are quite happy for everything you write to pass through a corporate email server and being able to be read by administrators and anyone who manages to get access.

However as is noted in the stories below the issue is not confined to personal email - business emails - particularly those for small companies is also hard hit. In short, if you have an email address that ends in ".nz" then you probably have a problem.

The solution is to run your personal mail account with Google (gmail.com) or Apple (icloud.com) or Microsoft (hotmail.com or outlook.com) or similar. Mostly these accounts are free (you may have to pay for excess storage - but these costs will still be lower than a NZ ISP.

Running private email domains (eg john@smith.co.nz) hosted by a New Zealand ISP is not a solution, in our experience, and you are still vulnerable to extreme email filtering by an ISP.

An email account with one of the international ISP's will also allow automated setup on other devices such as phones.

You will still need an ISP to provide your internet connection - but unless you want ongoing email frustrations do not use their email hosting service.

At Sail-World we use a mix of accounts - gmail.com and icloud.com and have no issues with blocked email or unwanted spam.

The story below was first published in the New Zealand Herald:

Emails being sent to and from accounts using Spark's email service provider Xtra Mail are still being blocked with small organisations facing financial loss.

More than 50 people have contacted the Herald about issues dealing with Xtra Mail email accounts following an article published in September.

"I decided to document my issues and send it to this person. She told me she passed my email and attachment to a team leader but I have had no acknowledgement," she said.

"It's as if it's fallen into a black hole."

The woman's claims of poor support from Spark echo others'.

Hello Club co-founder Adam Reis said his software company first noticed its general emails were bouncing back around a month ago. It was at the beginning of the month when the company sent out its monthly invoices that he realised "something more serious was going on".

Issues with Xtra had hit the business financially and disrupted daily operations.

"Not only do we have to spend extra time working out who we need to re-send invoices to, we have to call up customers to tell them we can't send them any invoices anymore ... it's a lot of time that is going to waste," Reis said.

He said this issue was particularly challenging when it came to customers who opted to communicate exclusively through email.

"There's no other way to reach them or tell them they have an invoice to pay," he said.

"We've called their support team to notify them about this issue but they haven't been very helpful.

"They are pushing us around and saying recipients should add us to their 'safe senders' list but obviously that's not practical if half the country is suddenly no longer able to receive invoices or emails."

Reis did not know how much money Hello Club had lost because of the issue.

"The hassle of having to deal with it and the lost time is the bigger problem for us right now," he said.

"Why doesn't Spark just reverse their last change, fix it and then release it again when it's actually fixed instead of letting this roll on for months."

In a statement to the Herald, Spark spokeswoman Ellie Cross said the nature of the issue meant there was no quick or "permanent fix" to resolve issues with Xtra Mail.

"This is a constant balancing act that all mail service providers have to navigate, stopping "spam email while still allowing for legitimate emails to pass through the system", Cross said.

"We're working with our vendor SMX on an ongoing basis to improve the spam filter and ensure legitimate emails are not blocked."

Spark has 720,000 Xtra Mail customers.

For the rest of this story click here and for a similar issue in September click here

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