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  1. #1

    Hosts that allow access to email logs

    Sometimes I need to confirm whether someone has received an email, and it's possible I'll be involved in a lawsuit in which it would help if I could "prove" that a state government agency ignored my emailed freedom of information act request. What webhosts allow access to email logs?

  2. #2
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    Barry,

    The majority of hosts shouldn't have any issue with providing you the logs for your own domains by request: They may not include the feature in their panel by default but asking is the only surefire way of knowing!

    Best of luck with the hunt.
    David
    Web hosting by Fused For businesses with more important things to do than worry about their hosting.

  3. #3
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    I agree, if you ask your hoster to give you the email logs they will supply it without any problem. Remember that logs only proove the emails you sent were correctly processed by the server but does not guarantee that email was successfully received.

    Regards,

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by HBUG - Staff
    I agree, if you ask your hoster to give you the email logs they will supply it without any problem.
    Just because some hosts may provide this doesn't mean all will and you are leading the OP into a false sense of security by telling them that any host will "supply it without any problem".

    Some server use a single mail log across the server rather than per domain, some setups use more than one physical server to send the mail and there are many other reasons that would prevent someone from doing this.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by YetiHost-Wullie
    Just because some hosts may provide this doesn't mean all will and you are leading the OP into a false sense of security by telling them that any host will "supply it without any problem".

    Some server use a single mail log across the server rather than per domain, some setups use more than one physical server to send the mail and there are many other reasons that would prevent someone from doing this.
    Technically it would be possible in any setup to be able to provide logs files, whether or not a host will want to do that is up to them. I both situations you provided, if a email administrator cannot assist a customer with a problem they're having with email not getting...to lets say hotmail? Then how are they to support thier clients?

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by comm
    I both situations you provided, if a email administrator cannot assist a customer with a problem they're having with email not getting...to lets say hotmail? Then how are they to support thier clients?
    Nobody said anything about supporting clients with a problem, the thread is about providing logs that the OP hopes to use as proof in court that someone read the mail. There is no reason to provide a user with a mail log during the course of a normal support problem and just because the host has access to the logs, does not mean the client automatically does as well.

    As was pointed out, it is in no way proof of anyone reading the e-mails. I simply pointed out that it is not always viable for a host to provide a client with the mail logs. I'm not saying that it isn't possible, but just because something is technically possible does not mean the host is going to write a full blown script to parse logs just for something like this.

  7. #7
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    do a FOIA request for the emails -received- by that gov email address (from your domain) on the day you sent it.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by YetiHost-Wullie
    Nobody said anything about supporting clients with a problem, the thread is about providing logs that the OP hopes to use as proof in court that someone read the mail. There is no reason to provide a user with a mail log during the course of a normal support problem and just because the host has access to the logs, does not mean the client automatically does as well.
    Why wouldn't they provide mail logs during regular operation, if a valid reason is given I don't see why it would be a problem? I never said anything about the client automatically having access to the logs.

    I was merely stating that its not that hard to access the logs for a mail server and find out the relevant pieces of information are. If you can support your clients and solve problems with email issues, then you have the time and resources to turn over logs for their account.

    Quote Originally Posted by YetiHost-Wullie
    As was pointed out, it is in no way proof of anyone reading the e-mails. I simply pointed out that it is not always viable for a host to provide a client with the mail logs. I'm not saying that it isn't possible, but just because something is technically possible does not mean the host is going to write a full blown script to parse logs just for something like this.


    A full blown script?

    grep [email protected]' /var/log/mail.log

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by comm
    grep [email protected]' /var/log/mail.log
    And if the customer does not believe the output? By "access to log", I take it the OP wants direct access to the email log, just as what one can have with their HTTP log.
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    Quote Originally Posted by comm
    Why wouldn't they provide mail logs during regular operation, if a valid reason is given I don't see why it would be a problem? I never said anything about the client automatically having access to the logs.
    The OP asked for "access to logs", not for hosts who would provide snippets from the logs.

    Quote Originally Posted by comm
    I was merely stating that its not that hard to access the logs for a mail server and find out the relevant pieces of information are. If you can support your clients and solve problems with email issues, then you have the time and resources to turn over logs for their account.
    Again, it is not always viable to turn over any logs for their mail account. Sure it's possible, but so is providing 100GB space for $1, it doesn't mean any responsible host is going to do so. If the means are there to do it, sure the host can provide it, but as I clearly stated it is not always possible to provide a single domain's mail log without writing a custom script to do it.

    Quote Originally Posted by comm
    A full blown script?

    grep [email protected]' /var/log/mail.log
    Ok, let's assume the impossible and god forbid, imagine that "hosts" also includes Windows hosts. Does your command still work the same?

    Also, forgive me if I am wrong, but does that not only print lines where the e-mail address exists? If so, you just lost half the log you were looking for on most systems.


    Quote Originally Posted by FHDave
    And if the customer does not believe the output? By "access to log", I take it the OP wants direct access to the email log, just as what one can have with their HTTP log.
    Exactly. What host in their right mind is going to get involved in a court dispute such as this? The host provides the logs, the lawyer disputes the validity of them, the host is called to testify. I don't think so.

  11. #11
    Yes, I'd like a way to access the logs through a control panel or command line or something that doesn't require a support ticket. I'd also accept having the logs emailed to me automatically. I'd also accept snippets from the logs so that nobody else's logs are included, assuming it would appear in standard log format.

    I think I was told that the logs say whether mail was accepted by the recipent's mail server. That's all I'm hoping for.

    If I try another FOIA request (It's FOIL in my state -- freedom of information law) for the email logs when I send the email, the recipient have an incentive to forge them or pretend they never recieved my FOI request, and I'd want to confirm it from a more neutral source.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by -Barry-
    Yes, I'd like a way to access the logs through a control panel or command line or something that doesn't require a support ticket. I'd also accept having the logs emailed to me automatically. I'd also accept snippets from the logs so that nobody else's logs are included, assuming it would appear in standard log format.

    I think I was told that the logs say whether mail was accepted by the recipent's mail server. That's all I'm hoping for.

    If I try another FOIA request (It's FOIL in my state -- freedom of information law) for the email logs when I send the email, the recipient have an incentive to forge them or pretend they never recieved my FOI request, and I'd want to confirm it from a more neutral source.
    The point some of us are trying to make though is that even though you confirm that their server accepted the mail, in absolutely no way does that mean the recipient read it or that it even reached their inbox. Basically, this would be totally useless in a court because it would not prove anything other than their server accepted the mail.

    It's like me handling a letter to you at your door, yet claiming in court that meant your wife/husband/whatever read it. All it proves is that I handed the letter to you, it doesn't mean it made it to them and that they read it.

  13. #13
    Ask them to set you up a cron job a little before the logs are rotated to grep the domain from the mail logs and save it to a file in your home directory. Or better yet, mail it out to you. Thats a one minute job.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Yeti-Host - Wullie
    The point some of us are trying to make though is that even though you confirm that their server accepted the mail, in absolutely no way does that mean the recipient read it or that it even reached their inbox. Basically, this would be totally useless in a court because it would not prove anything other than their server accepted the mail.

    It's like me handling a letter to you at your door, yet claiming in court that meant your wife/husband/whatever read it. All it proves is that I handed the letter to you, it doesn't mean it made it to them and that they read it.
    It would mean that at some level it's their fault and not mine or my mail server's. By law, the state agency has five days to respond, and another 10 days to respond to an appeal. If my server might have failed, they're off the hook. If theirs did, my guess is they're not.
    Last edited by Barry; 09-01-2006 at 08:02 PM. Reason: Added quote

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by -Barry-
    It would mean that at some level it's their fault and not mine or my mail server's. By law, the state agancy has five days to respond, and another 10 days to respond to an appeal. If my server might have failed, they're off the hook. If theirs did, my guess is they're not.
    What you are saying is that if I know that their server failed to respond for x seconds, I could say that I replied within that specific time, tough luck that their server was down at that time? I seriously doubt that is the case.

    Also, if their server failed to respond you would get a bounce e-mail in a lot of cases, there is no need to have access to any logs to get that.

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by YetiHost-Wullie
    What you are saying is that if I know that their server failed to respond for x seconds, I could say that I replied within that specific time, tough luck that their server was down at that time? I seriously doubt that is the case.

    Also, if their server failed to respond you would get a bounce e-mail in a lot of cases, there is no need to have access to any logs to get that.
    I wouldn't be willing to resend email indefinitely until their server responds. "All entities shall, provided such entity has reasonable means available, accept requests for records submitted in the form of electronic mail," so I don't think the burden would be on me to mail my request. If the problem was my server, I wouldn't blame them.

    Anyway, if their server does accept the email and I receive no reply, that's more than a server problem. Maybe nobody read it, but they should have and it's their fault and more clearly intentional.

    Quote Originally Posted by page-zone
    Ask them to set you up a cron job a little before the logs are rotated to grep the domain from the mail logs and save it to a file in your home directory. Or better yet, mail it out to you. Thats a one minute job.
    Hmmm... I think I'd rather ask for it only when I really need it. The cron seems like too much of a special favor even though it's easy.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by -Barry-
    I wouldn't be willing to resend email indefinitely until their server responds. "All entities shall, provided such entity has reasonable means available, accept requests for records submitted in the form of electronic mail," so I don't think the burden would be on me to mail my request. If the problem was my server, I wouldn't blame them.
    Ok, let's take a step back and look at what "had resonable means available" means. Does that mean if the mail server dies during the downloading of a message and it is not delivered successfully, then still had "reasonable means" to accept it? If I fail to receive a message, did I really have reasonable means to accept it?

    Quote Originally Posted by -Barry-
    Anyway, if their server does accept the email and I receive no reply, that's more than a server problem. Maybe nobody read it, but they should have and it's their fault and more clearly intentional.
    Just because it was accepted and not read or replied to, does not mean it was intentional. You seem to be arguing from a technical standpoint, but you are lacking the knowledge to back up the arguments you are providing.

    Quote Originally Posted by -Barry-
    Hmmm... I think I'd rather ask for it only when I really need it. The cron seems like too much of a special favor even though it's easy.
    It is not easy in all cases. Forget everyone posting that it is easy and your host should do it, every one of them has to be commenting on their own systems (ie, advertising) otherwise they would look at the broader picture and realise that not every host can write a single command to do this.

    If you really need to confirm that they received it, why not use registered mail? E-mail is not a reliable form of communication and any decent lawyer would be able to prove that in court.

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by YetiHost-Wullie
    Ok, let's take a step back and look at what "had resonable means available" means. Does that mean if the mail server dies during the downloading of a message and it is not delivered successfully, then still had "reasonable means" to accept it? If I fail to receive a message, did I really have reasonable means to accept it?
    Maybe, because they'd just need to keep something in working order, but that's a matter of opinion. If you tell people they can use a certain email address that doesn't work, that's their fault no matter what the law says, and in some cases my server's email logs could tell me whether something isn't working right on their side. And if all I could blame them for having a broken server, that could only help me.

    Quote Originally Posted by YetiHost-Wullie
    Just because it was accepted and not read or replied to, does not mean it was intentional.
    I know, but it's more likely to be human error or misconduct than if the server didn't accept it, and it's less easy to forgive.

    Seeing that things went right from my end is enough to get me to take things to the next legal level. Otherwise I'd have to just assume it wasn't my server's fault with little to base it on. That wouldn't look good in court.

    Quote Originally Posted by YetiHost-Wullie
    If you really need to confirm that they received it, why not use registered mail? E-mail is not a reliable form of communication and any decent lawyer would be able to prove that in court.
    Email is faster and cheaper. I'm thinking of registered mail for my appeal, which has to be done in writing, but the law doesn't require it.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by FHDave
    And if the customer does not believe the output? By "access to log", I take it the OP wants direct access to the email log, just as what one can have with their HTTP log.
    However, a httpd log only contains information about your site. I don't know of anyone that would want to manage a multi log setup for all of their domain names email services. If run a small operations I guess it would be good, but if you have 10 mail servers with 1000+ cusomters then its a pretty big task to make sure they're rotated to a backup server for retention at a later date.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by YetiHost-Wullie
    The OP asked for "access to logs", not for hosts who would provide snippets from the logs.
    Snippets? How else are you going to provide them the logs? Are you going to provide the entire mail log with each smtp connect and garbage virus/spam scan and then the final routing for each customer on the given mail server?

    The OP was asking that if his email that he sent to a government agency, wasn't accepted or if it was; would he be able to prove it through logs provided by the host? If a email was sent and lets say down the road the OP is questioned about the email that he sent and whether it was sent or not, he has some shred of evidence that it was.


    [QUOTE=YetiHost-Wullie]
    Quote Originally Posted by YetiHost-Wullie
    Again, it is not always viable to turn over any logs for their mail account. Sure it's possible, but so is providing 100GB space for $1, it doesn't mean any responsible host is going to do so. If the means are there to do it, sure the host can provide it, but as I clearly stated it is not always possible to provide a single domain's mail log without writing a custom script to do it.
    Uhm...why wouldn't it be viable, its a support request and depending on the server it would only take 15-30 minutes. And the OP would be providing a very good explanation as to why he requires the logs.

    Quote Originally Posted by YetiHost-Wullie
    Ok, let's assume the impossible and god forbid, imagine that "hosts" also includes Windows hosts. Does your command still work the same?

    Also, forgive me if I am wrong, but does that not only print lines where the e-mail address exists? If so, you just lost half the log you were looking for on most systems.
    You would only need the date of the email that was sent, and the recipient's email address.

    From there you can use grep for linux/unix/windows, btw lots of admins can use cygwin (http://www.cygwin.com) or (http://www.mingw.org) not a very hard task.

    Quote Originally Posted by YetiHost-Wullie
    Exactly. What host in their right mind is going to get involved in a court dispute such as this? The host provides the logs, the lawyer disputes the validity of them, the host is called to testify. I don't think so.
    If this issue was raised in court, a subpoena or court order would then most definitely be required and the host would have to comply. However, in this case I think the OP is trying to stop it from going to court as much as he can. If he gets logs, presents them to whomever its a good step in the right direction.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by YetiHost-Wullie
    The point some of us are trying to make though is that even though you confirm that their server accepted the mail, in absolutely no way does that mean the recipient read it or that it even reached their inbox. Basically, this would be totally useless in a court because it would not prove anything other than their server accepted the mail.

    It's like me handling a letter to you at your door, yet claiming in court that meant your wife/husband/whatever read it. All it proves is that I handed the letter to you, it doesn't mean it made it to them and that they read it.
    Yes, however this doesn not mean that the person who sent it didn't send it. It proves that they tried and it was accepted by the other mail server.

    The server might toast it in many ways, but at least they know this. And they know that the person who sent it was doing their job, and technology was at fault.

    Quote Originally Posted by YetiHost-Wullie
    What you are saying is that if I know that their server failed to respond for x seconds, I could say that I replied within that specific time, tough luck that their server was down at that time? I seriously doubt that is the case.

    Also, if their server failed to respond you would get a bounce e-mail in a lot of cases, there is no need to have access to any logs to get that.
    Yes, bounced mail. However, like I said before they needed to know the hand off was at least made. So that a effort is shown.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by comm
    Snippets? How else are you going to provide them the logs? Are you going to provide the entire mail log with each smtp connect and garbage virus/spam scan and then the final routing for each customer on the given mail server?
    You just hit the point exectly. I'll refer you back to a previous comment made by the OP:

    Quote Originally Posted by -Barry-
    Yes, I'd like a way to access the logs through a control panel or command line or something that doesn't require a support ticket. I'd also accept having the logs emailed to me automatically.
    So yes, the OP clearly wants direct access to the log, not for the host to provide the details when needed.

  23. #23
    What most likely would happen, you would ask to enter it as evidence, the other side would object, the judge would ask if you brought an expert to testify this proves the defendant read the email, you'd say no, the balif would hand you back your evidence and tell you to put it away.

  24. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by page-zone
    What most likely would happen, you would ask to enter it as evidence, the other side would object, the judge would ask if you brought an expert to testify this proves the defendant read the email, you'd say no, the balif would hand you back your evidence and tell you to put it away.
    Considering all that's required before taking this to court is a single emailed FOI request and then a single non-registered letter to appeal, the standard of proof for such things seems low enough that they'd accept email logs. These days judges probably know what an email log is without an expert. I guess I'd also submit the correspondence between be and my webhost. Hopefully it would go something like:

    me: Dear [competent web host]: Could I have the email logs that show that my email (attached) of [date] was received by [government agency.com]?

    competent web host: Yes, see the attachment.

    Quote Originally Posted by YetiHost-Wullie
    So yes, the OP clearly wants direct access to the log, not for the host to provide the details when needed
    But I never said I won't accept snippets. It depends on whether they'd be court-quality and contain the information I need to prove what I need to prove.

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