DreamCompute - Setting up email / server


#1

Greetings,

I’m trying to learn how to set up a test email address on DreamCompute. So far, I’ve used the Dreamhost > Mail panel to set up the email address and mailbox on Dreamhost’s mail servers: https://panel.dreamhost.com/index.cgi?tree=mail.addresses , and it works great with phpmailer - emails are being sent from my website. I noticed Dreamhost also automatically added some mail-related DNS records to my domain, as expected.

Question 1:
What else needs to be done? I noticed that on some of my other Dreamhost VPS hosted sites, there is a “_domainkey” TXT record added to my DNS list, which I’m assuming is for DKIM? Do I have to configure this myself on a DreamCompute domain name? Do I also have to configure SPF, anti-spam, or any other stuff as well, or is this all set? What else do I need to do to get it set up correctly just like my emails on VPS?

Question 2:
On my VPS sites, I have a mailbox set up where emails get forwarded to my Gmail account. On my Gmail account, I have it set up using the “Send mail through your SMTP server” config - where I can reply to the message from Gmail and it will be sent back to the receiver from my domain’s email address (looks more professional). How would I do this now? Apparently Gmail is trying to set up a connection to port 587 using TLS, but there is an error.

Edit: I solved question 2 by using mail.example.com instead of vade-in2.mail.dreamhost.com (which is what Gmail detected automatically).

Question 3:
Let’s say instead I wanted to learn how to build my own mail server completely from scratch (in case I get a job someday), does Dreamhost have a DreamCompute guide for this, or are there any highly recommend guides out there?

Thanks
Kind regards


#2

Let’s clarify some terms. DreamCompute is the VPS provisioning service.

DreamHost also runs email servers.

DreamHost also runs a DNS service.

These are distinct products, so I am going to ask about what you a referring to in some of these questions.

Quick note: your Question 1 has five question marks. :stuck_out_tongue:

What is it you are trying to do? I know “set up a test email address on DreamCompute”, but I don’t know what that means. Maybe you can give an example of an email interaction. Like, “when a person signs up on a website, it sends an email”. But specific to how it interacts with DreamCompute for you.

How is it set up on your VPS?

Running an email server sucks. I will stand in front of that as my opinion, sure, but check around, and you will see I am far from alone. There isn’t anything particularly special about using DreamCompute for running a mail server (or whichever configuration of the mail server stack you choose to host), but I doubt many folks have done so. Any tutorial for a given mail stack will work fine for a DC instance. :slight_smile:


#3

Thanks for the reply. Basically what I’ll be doing is setting up a "no-reply@example.com" email address, to send out automated notifications such as email verification link upon registration, let members know when another member is contacting them, notification to sellers when they have a sale, etc. This email address is supposed to be “send-only”.

I will also be setting up a "contact@example.com" email where members can contact me for customer support. That email gets forwarded to my main Gmail account and I reply to them from Gmail, and Gmail sends it back to the SMTP server to make it look like the reply comes from "contact@example.com".

Both email addresses were set up in the Dreamhost Email Panel, so they should be using Dreamhost’s email servers and the DNS was automatically updated when I set up a mailbox there. I was able to get these email addresses working properly. However, I’m very noobish with email servers and I know DreamCompute hosting is a little different than VPS hosting, so I don’t know if anything else is required or recommended to be set up, although I did read a little bit about it.

On my email addresses for domains hosted on DreamCompute: Let’s say my "no-reply@example.com" email address ends up on some spam blacklist, does Dreamhost still handle this, or do I? Does Dreamhost have the email server security and anti-spam stuff already set up in the background?

The reason I ask is because I noticed that the two “_domainkey” TXT DNS records are missing for my DreamCompute-hosted domain name, but they appear for on my VPS-hosted domain names. I’m assuming this is the “DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM)” for helping to keep the email address out of spam lists, not sure if this is required or recommended to have for a production email address, or if I even have to set this up. That brings up the other question, are there any other things that I need to configure in the background, or has Dreamhost already taken care of it?

Thanks
Kind regards


#4

To clarify, your domains are separate from where they point at. I suspect this has less to do with which server you are using for a given domain, but rather when a domain is set up, what extra steps are done on your behalf. This is true if you register your domains with DH or somewhere else (DH-hosted domains get extra records created to take advantage of DH services, like email for instance.

You can poke around the help docs, specifically the one about DKIM records. And there aren’t any checklists specific to DreamCompute (it is a fairly generic server hosting service), so you’ll be able to take the steps needed for your specific setup.

I say that because while it is important to ensure one’s email is not marked as spam, that isn’t important for every case, mainly only when a human really needs to receive those messages.

At any rate, you will be able to search for docs about setting up email, and then apply what you learn to DreamCompute, and then any issues you run into then, you can ask about. :slight_smile:

Also, there are sites that will check and verify your MX and other mail records, so if you are curious about a given domain, you can use one of those, and they will have suggestions for you too.


#5

Thanks for the link above, I must have missed this the other day. I will review this and continue studying a bit more.

Kind regards


#6

Just thought I’d weigh in, as I’m one of the mad skulls using DreamCompute to host my own e-mail server.

First thing to note is that _domainkey DNS records are for DKIM support; you should get these automatically for any domain configured to use Dreamhost as its e-mail provider, as Dreamhost’s mail servers will be running a DKIM tool (probably OpenDKIM) which will sign all of your outgoing mail such that anyone can verify the signature using your _domainkey DNS records.

If you want the same thing for a mail server hosted on DreamCompute, then you will want to install and configure OpenDKIM, there are various guides out there on how to do this, and it’s fairly easily; you just need to generate keys for every domain the server will host, and put the public parts in your _domainkey DNS record(s). Unless Dreamhost has a DNS API I’m unaware of then unfortunately there’s no easier way to automate this but copy/pasting isn’t too bad for a handful of domains.

If you’re NOT currently hosting a mail server on DreamCompute, and are in fact using Dreamhost as a mail provider, but for some reason don’t have automatic _domainkey records then that could very well be a bug, as it shouldn’t matter whether your domain(s) are pointing to a DreamCompute instance or not for web-hosting etc., as the automatic records shouldn’t be editable. You may run into issues though if you had/have DNS records for a mail or webmail subdomain.

I don’t agree with maiki that running an e-mail server sucks, but it’s not for the faint of heart, and definitely not a simple thing to setup in a headless Linux environment as it involves a lot of moving parts; I’ve got postfix for SMTP, dovecot for IMAP, a mariadb database for authentication, postfixadmin for management, roundcube for web-mail, so that means nginx and PHP too, then we’ve got opendkim for DKIM signing, spamassassin for anti-spam, postgrey for grey-listing (more anti-spam), sieve for mail filtering, and probably another half dozen more anti-spam packages I can’t think of off the top of my head. So yeah, it’s not a trivial amount of effort, though a good guide with good defaults makes it a lot easier; unfortunately the one I followed is now quite outdated so I wouldn’t recommend it to someone new.

There are some big advantages to rolling your own mail server, but the main thing is simply total control; with Dreamhost’s e-mail service you get whatever their defaults are, which are fine for the most part, but the addition of grey-listing has made a big difference to my anti-spam efforts (not sure if Dreamhost ever got around to adding that?), server-side mail filtering is a pain to get just right, but it’s so handy if you connect with multiple devices (no need to try to recreate the same set of rules in all your mail clients), plus I can have a catch-all e-mail address and still enable spam filtering, which Dreamhost never used to allow (not sure if that ever changed). It’s up to you though if any of this sounds worth the headache or not; a big part of my setting mine up was because I used to use a VPS, but after root access was suddenly removed I was forced to switch to DreamCompute, which didn’t include e-mail.

That said, it also has headaches, in fact right now I’m suffering through the second time that Dreamhost has broken my PTR records; this is basically DNS in reverse, taking an IP and pointing to a domain, but is important for e-mail because without a valid PTR record many mail servers will not accept your server as valid. I don’t know why Dreamhost’s PTR handling is so unreliable, or why support is being so damned slow to fix it, otherwise I’d be perfectly happy with my own mail server.


#7

I’d say that “sucks” could at the very least describe the time and effort in learning all those. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


#8

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