Using DH as a 'store & forward' backup mail server

Hi folks

Due to the recent email outages, I have been asked to implement a more reliable system for our mail. I’ve got a plan but I don’t know whether it will be possible on a DH account - all advice would be appreciated!

Basically, we are hoping to set up an Exchange server in-house. This will be permanently connected to the net via our static-IP DSL connection, MX priority 10. However, if the DSL connection is down, we would like the mail to be received by our Dreamhost account (MX priority 20) which would store all email and then forward it onto the Exchange server when the DSL connection comes back up.

So, I guess my first question is: is this even possible? Second, if anyone could give me some pointers or advice, I’d be hugely grateful.

Thanks to all

You’re moving your mail from a professional hosting service to a Microsoft Exchange server on a DSL line, and you’re doing it for reliability reasons? Maybe I’m reading this backward?

If you want useful replies, ask smart questions.

Heh. Point taken, though I think that this will give us more reliability. I’ve looked over the DSL connection logs - we’ve had 2 outages in the past 3 months, both of which lasted less than 15 mins. With our Dreamhost email, we have had 5 email outages in the past 7 weeks - most of which have been less than an hour but one lasted over 4 hours.

Hence the pressure being put on me from above to find a more reliable email solution. They’re taking the view that it’s my fault for recommending that we went with DH, so it’s my responsibility to fix it.

If you can think of a better solution, I’m open to any suggestions. Thanks.

The DSL line may not be stable, but Microsoft Exchange is a pretty stable system. Expecially if it doesn’t have the kind of load a regualr server might. It may be microsoft, but it’s not all bad.


No; that’s not an available feature (unless it’s been added recently). I don’t think it’s high on the list of features to add, either (though it’s not really that difficult).

I personally think that a secondary / backup MX is not advisable in many (or even most) cases. Keep in mind that virtually all mail servers will store the mail and re-attempt delivery later… any exceptions would most likely be from bulk mail senders, and even then, this is pretty rare. So unless you’re planning for your DSL line to be down for > 3-4 days, I wouldn’t worry too much. That’s not to say that I think they’re always a Bad Thing - just that you need to be careful and know what you’re doing.

With a backup MX, you often cannot enforce the same policies or reject mail to unknown users (unless you have direct control of it, or have some way of giving it a list of known addresses or users). This can result in more backscatter, plus more spam for you (especially since spammers, knowing this, often target the least preferred MX). On the flip side, if the organization handling the mail server for you has a more restrictive policy, you might have wanted mail rejected. If you misconfigure it somehow, you can actually decrease reliability.

The best solution is to outsource your email to a provider who is 100% focused on being an email service provider. I’ve done a lot of research about this for myself and the people whose mail I manage and have been collecting my research on my IMAP Service Providers page, which is here:

I just updated this page yesterday so there are now 6 mail service providers that I recommend you try before choosing your mail hosting provider.

Also, you can tell your boss that it used to make sense to use the same provider for mail and web hosting, but this is no longer the case. The problem you are having is happening everywhere – you are not the only one to have made this type of choice.

Good luck finding a good solution for your mail,

Infinite Ink ~
Deflexion & Reflexion ~

I hadn’t considered that most mail servers will reattempt delivery later and so we may not need a backup MX. I’m still investigating solutions so any other advice would be gratefully received. Thanks for all the replies so far!

Nancy, that’s a fantastic response. Thanks so much - will spend some time looking over your suggestions.

Let me know what you decide to go with. I am in the exact same situation. DH’s email reliability has been a disaster for me.

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Microsoft Exchange is a pretty stable system

Until something goes wrong, which it will eventually (this is true for any system), and you find that dealing with a monolithic propietary binary data store is much more difficult than working with a standard mail format.

Also don’t forget that you can’t do regular backups of Exchange data – you need to use special, usually commercial, software (eg, Veritas, or similar).

I speak from experience on this one. My company has two clients with Exchange servers and they’ve been nothing but a giant pain in the ass to deal with, from backups to unexpected behavior when sending mail to artificial limits on mail store size. And the list goes on.

If you want useful replies, ask smart questions.