HotMail ==> DreamHost

There is an infrequent problem with HotMail users sending to a current DreamHost user. I have contacted DH suppport. They are aware of this. Unfortunately, the HotMail delivery failure message does not contain all of the normal header information. Here is a HotMail failure from today with substituted for the actual address hosted at DreamHost.

Reporting-MTA: dns;
Received-From-MTA: dns;
Arrival-Date: Fri, 22 Dec 2006 09:21:51 -0800

Final-Recipient: rfc822;
Action: failed
Status: 5.5.0
Diagnostic-Code: smtp;554 Relay access denied

What I am hoping is that a similar problem is happening to other DH users with some other email service and that the other email services failure message might have more informatioin. If DH support can get enough information from enough users, I am sure they will be able to determine if this is a HotMail problem or a DreamHost problem and, hopefully get the issue resolved.

Same problem here - but I’ve been a user for ages and this is the first time people are complaining that they can’t mail me from Hotmail. Is there a ticket open for this particular issue?

Reporting-MTA: dns;
Received-From-MTA: dns;
Arrival-Date: Fri, 29 Dec 2006 19:20:21 -0800

Final-Recipient: rfc822;
Action: failed
Status: 5.5.0
Diagnostic-Code: smtp;554 Relay access denied

This may be related to the this issue listed in DreamhostStatus:


The current CBL error appears to be for outgoing.

The issue with Hotmail is messages incoming to Dreamhost hosted domains being rejected one moment and accepted the next. It’s not something that can be easily, so far, reproduced.

The error appears to be identical, yet this is so far specifically with just hotmail and not other pure web-based email systems.

This continues to be an ongoing problem for email originating from addresses sent to DH hosted domains. It does not appear to be easily reproduced, however the first message sent to the @dh address bounces with “Subject: Delivery Status Notification (Failure)” while subsequent messages may not bounce, for a time and then they bounce once again.
This started around December 23 - 25 of 2006.

You can keep an eye on for news on this issue as it happens! (Well, when they report about it.)


Haven’t seen anything on the status page, or elsewhere in the forum (that I’ve found) that this problem has been acknowledged. My situation is the same: Hotmail users sending email to my dreamhost email address get sporadic “relay access denied” bounces. It’s getting a bit irritating (to me and my hotmail correspondents).

I’ll open my own ticket and see what happens…

This is the response I got back from my ticket. So… it sounds like we are out of luck until Hotmail changes??

I’m puzzled though, because it appears my hotmail correspondents are only getting this bounce emailing to my domain. (But I’m not certain of that).

It would seem that this issue is actually happening with Hotmail. Usually email is relayed to an MX record but for some unknown reason Hotmail elected to change the way their mail relay system works and they are attempting to deliver email to the A records on domains instead. The problem with this is most hosting companies do not relay mail via the A record and thus the mail is not making its way properly to the server. To complicate matters even further Hotmail prefer to not give descriptive error messages and instead send a general email error stating
"Diagnostic-Code: smtp;554 Relay access denied". We have been in contact with them regarding this and until they make the changes in their system mail will most likely still continue to bounce or have a hard time finding its way correctly to the server. I am very sorry for any issues this may cause you and I assure you we are just as bothered by this as our customers are as well.


We think we have solved this by moving only mail services to another hosting company for our cllents who expect to receive email from HotMail accounts. While it is still early, it looks good so far. All web sites are still hosted at DreamHost.

Just a probably useless observation here but - Based on the message from support I’d expect that moving email off DH while leaving the A records pointed at DH wouldn’t make a bit of difference.


Moving email services isn’t an option for me. Besides my personal accounts, I’m also about to create a website and email setup for a business (who can’t afford other options).

The problem is getting a bit irritating, and soon will be more serious. How can I offer a business website if his hotmail customers might not be able to reach him?

Earlier in this thread, I’d posted Dreamhost’s explanation for the problem. I then asked why this only started in December. (They’re puzzled too). I asked why it appears to be only Hotmail to Dreamhost. The response:

It has been my experience that they do. [bounce going to other hosts] I use a Hotmail account for
testing often and bounces appear to happen on a regular basis. In the
past, it has appeared to be due to their inappropriately tight spam
policy that seemed to block indiscriminately. We’ll be keeping out eye
on it and if we can determine what role our system plays in the problem,
if any, we will try to remedy it as fast as possible.

Don’t know if I buy that. His response sounds like problems emailing TO Hotmail. (they block with their spam settings).

I have set up a hotmail account myself, and test sending to various addresses. The only bounces I’ve received are to my dreamhost accounts.

I’m going to keep going on my ticket. (I also sent a note to Microsoft support, but I’m not holding my breath).

I’ve seen this also (as far back as November). I don’t know if it’s still occurring because that hotmail user hasn’t been sending me email regularly for a while. For me it was intermittent; the hotmail user would resend the message and it would be delivered.

Based on the error message, I’d say that it was entirely hotmail’s fault and that one of their servers was misconfigured. Note that the error is coming from one of hotmail’s servers, before it even reaches DH.

If there was a DH problem, I’d expect see a similar error when sending from other systems, but it’s only hotmail. And between hotmail and DH, I’d put my money on hotmail being at fault.

A few of my friends have been complaining to me that mail sent to me from their hotmail address is getting bounced. But it isn’t every time.


An update on the ticket I opened with DH about this. And in response to lrosenstein’s comments above, I certainly don’t think it’s necessarily DH’s problem. Just that there’s something going on between DH & Hotmail that causes sporadic bounces from HM to DH. I haven’t been able to find any evidence it’s happening from HM to other services (through my unscientific research). And like him/her, my problem also started in November.

I’ve exchanged a couple of emails with DH support (and one to HM, which has been acknowledged but not addressed). No solutions yet, but because of their comments I quoted on Jan. 15 in this thread, I thought I’d look at a lot of my received mail headers to see if I could see something.

Thinking that perhaps all the HM emails go straight to one server (if that’s how it would work if they sent directly to an A record), I compared HM to other senders, and found no difference. Everyone went to both and mx2, before and after November.

I did notice one clear difference between emails from Hotmail and all other emails though. Because my main DH email is set up as a mailbox at DH, and forwards to a gmail account, when I checked the headers of the forwarded mail on gmail, I noticed they also appended an SPF entry.

Every single email I checked that came from Hotmail (and I checked a lot) had
Received-SPF: softfail ( domain of transitioning does not designate 208.97.132.xx as permitted sender) where xx wa variable, but always a DH IP.

Almost every other email had status “neutral” rather than softfail. A couple had “pass”

I have no idea if this could be related. It’s past my understanding of email protocol, but from what little I know of SPF and its purpose, I wonder if it’s connected. I gather “softfail” should never be a fail, but that sometimes hosts DO fail a delivery.

The response I got today from DH when I passed this info on was:

“It actually sounds like this data could be very useful in helping us resolve the issue. I’ll pass this along to team responsible for resolving this issue, and hopefully we’ll have a solution shortly.”

Now I wonder, does the HM --> DH problem occur if the DH email then forwards the email? I have tried testing periodically over the last 24 hours sending to DH addresses that do forward, and one that doesn’t. Unfortunately, I have had NO bounces.

A question for others who get this “relay access denied” bounce on mail coming to them from Hotmail: does your DH email address forward?

Dreamhost doesn’t do SRS forwarding, which is the only way to do “correct” forwarding with SPF, otherwise you will definitely get soft-fail or fails in SPF if you check your end destination (gmail in your case).

Hotmail uses a ~all (soft-fail) with their domain, so you will get higher chances of email being tagged as spam when you forward it. On the other hand, AOL uses ?all (neutral) with their domain, so a lower chance of email forwarded to an AOL account being tagged as spam. So it isn’t really Hotmail’s fault, I’d say more of Dreamhost’s since they haven’t added SRS forwarding.

As for the relay access denied errors, that’s definitely Hotmail’s fault. My domain is pointed to DH, but my MX records have always been pointed elsewhere. After getting some relay access denied errors (my friends forwarded me the bounce emails), I checked with my email provider and he mentioned that his server software is different and would never give out that type of error. So in the end it was decided that Hotmail would sometimes use the A record to send email instead of the MX record (why? they’re idiots).

The only reason I could think of why an email from Hotmail -> DH would cause a bounce (because of A record use) and then literally a 1 second later resend not cause a bounce is because of domain name resolution, e.g. the domain resolution causes a timeout. Why did that I think that? DH’s DNS servers have sporadic slowness, so time-outs are often.

Check it out: (a DHSOTM winner’s site)

Keep refreshing, you’ll notice the different response times. Maybe they only occur during peak times, no idea, but the DH nameservers definitely timeout often. Most of the scores I got were As, but I did get a few Ds and Fs.

So my guess, and I haven’t tested this, switch your domain to another nameserver, thus switching the A record away from DH’s servers, I know ZoneEdit offers free domain name service for 5 domains and they’re pretty reliable (alas I don’t think they offer SRS forwarding either, but at least their nameservers don’t time out, it’s the business they’re in, that’s all they do).

this response you got is a good bit of BS. If you look at your domains DNS there is an A record for mail that points to an IP address so if any server used the a record of it would get the IP address as it should. You will also see two MX records that point to the email server your site is on. the server mail server address will more then likely point do a different ip address then what’s int he A record. I do not know if the A record points to a server in the email cluster, but I believe that the A record is there just in case some server out there used the A record to send mail to you. If that’s the case it’s possible that the first time the server(Hotmail or other) tried to connect it may have gotten refused, and if refused who knows what message it gave back. Also a DNS timeout may have occured. So there are two possibilities DNS timeout and server issues (whichever server the A record uses)

Just to add experiences to the pile, I’ve seen this happen with my exchange server not able to send to a dreamhost hosted address of our own customers. I have also seen DNS timeouts while using nslookup and had to try 3 or more times to get a response other then timeout.

this is a tagline you can’t steal

Agreed. Plain and simple it could be a few things, I have not personally seen any problems with DH and Hotmail…but why use hotmail when there is gmail or DH? :slight_smile:

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I have 3 DH accounts. 2 of them I have not been able to make fail - another seems to fail consistently (Hotmail emails to the account’s domains).

There are 2 differences that I know of for the account that fails:

  1. there is a 2nd forwarding address setup for the address that fails consistently (both addresses bounce from Hotmail),

  2. Network Solutions is the domain registrar (whereas the 2 accounts without problems house domains registered with DreamHost).

This sucks.