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  #1  
Old
Junior Guru Wannabe
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Wisconsin
Posts: 37

Email issues with AOL despite rDNS and no IP blocks


This is an issue I've been having for a few months now and haven't been able to resolve yet with my data center, AOL support and the company who manages the server for me. My main reason for posting this is for a fresh set of eyes and to see if anyone else has had a similar problem in the past (and how they fixed it)

The issue is this:

I set up a dedicated server to host my web design clients a few months back and no one has been able to send to or receive mail from AOL addresses. I've gone through everything at the postmaster.aol.com site and have ensured that reverse DNS records are in place for all IPs associated with the server, as rDNS is a mandatory requirement for AOL.

Once my support requested was finally elevated to a real AOL support tech, they confirmed that my IP was not being blocked by their servers and are still under the impression that the problem must be on my end somewhere. Because this problem only occurs with AOL (we can send/receive with all other big providers - yahoo, hotmail, gmail, hush, etc), my server management team are fairly certain it must be an issue on AOL's side.

When sending mail from an AOL address, it bounces back with an error like so (real emails replaced with example addresses):

451 <email@exampledomain.com>... exampledomain.com: Name server timeout
Message could not be delivered for 2 hours
Message will be deleted from queue

When sending mail from my server, it bounces back with an error like so:

A message that you sent could not be delivered to one or more of its recipients. This is a permanent error. The following address(es) failed:

exampleaddress@aol.com
retry timeout exceeded

When attempting to manually deliver a message to AOL from the Mail Queue in WHM, I get an error like so:

Message xxx-example-number is not frozen
delivering xxx-example-number
Connecting to emr-d01.mx.aol.com [205.188.159.2]:25 ... failed: Connection timed out (timeout=5m)
LOG: MAIN
emr-d01.mx.aol.com [205.188.159.2] Connection timed out
Connecting to emr-m01.mx.aol.com [64.12.136.169]:25 ... failed: Connection timed out (timeout=5m)
LOG: MAIN
emr-m01.mx.aol.com [64.12.136.169] Connection timed out
LOG: MAIN
== example@postmaster.aol.com R=lookuphost T=remote_smtp defer (110): Connection timed out


When attempting a manual telnet test from my server to AOL's mail server at , it also times out with the following:

Trying 64.12.137.184 (connection timed out)
Trying 205.188.156.248 (connection timed out)
Trying 205.188.159.57 (connection timed out)

telnet: Unable to connect to remote host: Connection timed out

The AOL support tech explained that if my server IP were being blocked, it would return messages with a block error code instead of timing out. They suggested my firewall was blocking AOL's server....but both my data center and server management company said that isn't the case.

Because I can't duplicate this problem with anyone but AOL accounts, I don't know what else to troubleshoot or look for. I know AOL is notorious for blocking IPs and most email related problems are usually for lack of rDNS, but neither of those issues are the problem in this situation...so I don't know what else to try. My server management company (PSM) and AOL (once they finally elevated me to a real tech support person), have been very patient and helpful....but we still haven't been able to identify the problem and I feel incompetent for not being able to contribute on my own. I've researched for weeks and certainly understand more than I did, but still far less than they do.

AOL did direct me to a Windows Server troubleshooter relating to UDP packet size limitations with some firewalls that could cause MX query timeouts with AOL, Earthlink and Quest...but because I'm on an Apache server...I didn't know if that could be related at all to my issues (not to mention that I didn't even know what any of that meant until I went and looked up what a UDP packet actually was. I'm still not entirely sure I understand it). Even so, I did send the information to Platinum Server Management a short while ago, but haven't heard back yet.

Anyways.... in the meantime, I thought I'd check here in case anyone else had the same issue or saw something obvious we might not be considering.

My server details are as follows. I included my data center and management company details to illustrate that people far more qualified and intelligent than myself have performed the most common and obvious troubleshooters so far:

Pentium IV 2.8GHz /1GB DDRAM /120GB EIDE HDD
OS: CentOS 4.3
cPanel/WHM
Main Server IP: 66.79.163.138
Example Domain on the server: vedadesigns.net


Data Center: Dediwebhost.com (awesome service & fast support)
Initial Server Setup & Management: Platinum Server Management (I just can't say enough good things about these people)

Thanks in advance for any ideas or feedback!
Tara



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  #2  
Old
Just me
 
Join Date: Sep 2002
Location: Among the corn
Posts: 10,507
I go through the very same thing @ AOL occasionally myself, and, believe it or not, there's really nothing that you, your management team, or any of the flunkies @ aol can do about it. They do what they do. Eventually, you'll be able to mail aol again.

I had this going on for 2 years, with clients @ aol, mailing them sometimes worked, sometimes wouldn't (more not than would), and called in 2 dozen times, running through the hoops (mail postmaster, mail special address, etc). Eventually it just cleared itself up.

Really, not much can be said except 'don't mail AOL'. It's sad that they've gone to such lengths to isolate people from mailing them, but what's worse is the fact that their STAFF don't even know why this is happening.

  #3  
Old
Junior Guru Wannabe
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Wisconsin
Posts: 37
Thanks for the reply. Honestly, that's the exact same impression I'm getting as well. It took three weeks before I reached someone at AOL who did more than read out of a generic troubleshooting manual.

PSM tried disabling my firewall to see if that fixed the issue, but it still hangs. I'm so close to giving up. The only reason I've kept at it this long is because three of my hosting clients use AOL exclusively and have been resistant to switching to another email provider. *sigh*

Anyways, thanks for the feedback. At least I know I'm not the only one.

For anyone else having problems with AOL - here is a checklist of things you can try. It didn't help me...but maybe you'll be lucky.

1. Confirm your server IP has valid Reverse DNS records. You can use AOL's rDNS check tool to make sure they're set correctly.

2. If it's still not working, work your way through the troubleshooters shown on the AOL Postmaster site linked to above.

3. Assuming none of the above worked for you, contact AOL's postmaster and have them see if your server IP is on one of their block lists. If you haven't already, you'll want to create an aol email account and send a message to an address on your server so you can receive a bounced message with the AOL-specific error code that explains why the emails are bouncing. The error code I received was '451', which is a generic, unspecified error not covered in their troubleshooter and didn't help me at all.

4. If nothing above works, check to see if you are behind a hardware or software firewall. If it is a hardware firewall, make sure it permits UDP packet sizes larger than 512 bytes. An more detailed explanation of the issue can be found here

5. If you are behind a software firewall (mine is APF), temporarily disable it and run a manual telnet test again to aol's mail server. This will just identify whether or not it is an issue with your firewall. If it works after disabling your firewall, then at least you now know where the trouble is.

6. And finally, if nothing above has solved the problem for you...try running a traceroute to AOL's mail server IP from your server to see where it is failing/timing out. We discovered last night that the connection is leaving my server, but it is hanging along the way - which PSM said indicates a routing issue. I'm still waiting to hear back about what (if anything) I can do about that.

Best of luck.

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  #4  
Old
Retired Moderator
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: Singapore/Melbourne
Posts: 6,852
Maybe you can try setting up SPF and see if it helps. For AOL you need to keep trying until you get it right

  #5  
Old
Disabled
 
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: chica go go
Posts: 11,858
Those error messages do not indicate any kind of problem with PTR, SPF, or blacklisting issues. I think AOL might be having some trouble with their mail servers.

Code:
aol.com.                786     IN      MX      15 mailin-01.mx.aol.com.
aol.com.                786     IN      MX      15 mailin-02.mx.aol.com.
aol.com.                786     IN      MX      15 mailin-03.mx.aol.com.
aol.com.                786     IN      MX      15 mailin-04.mx.aol.com.

Code:
root@bonkers[/home/photos] $ telnet 64.12.137.184 25
Trying 64.12.137.184...
Connected to mb.mx.aol.com.
Escape character is '^]'.
Connection closed by foreign host.
root@bonkers[/home/photos] $ telnet 205.188.156.248 25
Trying 205.188.156.248...
Connected to dd.mx.aol.com.
Escape character is '^]'.
220-rly-dd06.mx.aol.com ESMTP mail_relay_in-dd06.2; Sat, 26 Jan 2008 14:02:10 -0500
220-America Online (AOL) and its affiliated companies do not
220-     authorize the use of its proprietary computers and computer
220-     networks to accept, transmit, or distribute unsolicited bulk
220-     e-mail sent from the internet.  Effective immediately:  AOL
220-     may no longer accept connections from IP addresses which
220      have no reverse-DNS (PTR record) assigned.
quit
221 SERVICE CLOSING CHANNEL
Connection closed by foreign host.
root@bonkers[/home/photos] $ telnet 205.188.156.248 25
Trying 205.188.156.248...
Connected to dd.mx.aol.com.
Escape character is '^]'.
220-rly-dd04.mx.aol.com ESMTP mail_relay_in-dd04.3; Sat, 26 Jan 2008 14:06:35 -0500
220-America Online (AOL) and its affiliated companies do not
220-     authorize the use of its proprietary computers and computer
220-     networks to accept, transmit, or distribute unsolicited bulk
220-     e-mail sent from the internet.  Effective immediately:  AOL
220-     may no longer accept connections from IP addresses which
220      have no reverse-DNS (PTR record) assigned.
root@bonkers[/home/photos] $ telnet 205.188.159.57 25
Trying 205.188.159.57...
Connected to da.mx.aol.com.
Escape character is '^]'.
220-rly-da04.mx.aol.com ESMTP mail_relay_in-da04.3; Sat, 26 Jan 2008 14:02:25 -0500
220-America Online (AOL) and its affiliated companies do not
220-     authorize the use of its proprietary computers and computer
220-     networks to accept, transmit, or distribute unsolicited bulk
220-     e-mail sent from the internet.  Effective immediately:  AOL
220-     may no longer accept connections from IP addresses which
220      have no reverse-DNS (PTR record) assigned.
quit
221 SERVICE CLOSING CHANNEL
Connection closed by foreign host.
Note that the first mail server immediately closed the connection without any kind of connection banner. This is on my freebsd server with absolutely no automated firewall, and no active mail connection.

Maybe it's related to greylisting? Try reconfiguring exim to retry mail delivery more often.

  #6  
Old
Just me
 
Join Date: Sep 2002
Location: Among the corn
Posts: 10,507
Like I said, typical of AOL.
AOL staff doesn't even know half the time what's going on with AOL stuff, and will run you through a standard plethora of their own tests (mail special user, etc), only to find out that the address isn't blocked.

This is why it's pretty common sense NOT to use AOL as a sole email provider, because their systems, well, they're unreliable as anything.

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