Unexpected Changes

E-mail is one of those things that you take for granted. Once you have set-up an address and a client you can reliably receive mail for many years until something changes.

Over the past 2 months something changed and I almost didn’t notice. There are certain sites that mail me a few offers, I subscribe to a few mailing list items, github updates me on a few projects that I keep an eye on. I don’t get a huge amount of email but there is normally something being downloaded when I open the client. There were a couple of days when I didn’t get as much as I expected. Not a problem as perhaps there wasn’t anything being sent. When this persisted for a few days I began my investigations.

I was aware of my web host updating the mail-server back-end. I had received an email stating that this would be occurring and to expect a little downtime. But apart from that I wasn’t expecting any significant changes. Significant changes had happened.

Having a domain name had allowed me to use a catch-all email address. Any email that would be sent to the domain after being spam filtered would be received. This made it incredibly easy to create a new address on the fly when creating an account for a new service. I had a few actual mail box addresses in addition to the catch-all. What I had noticed was email only being received from actual mailboxes and not the catch-all addresses.

This was a problem as I had a few accounts where I really needed to be receiving correspondence. I needed to get a solution and quickly. I was able to contact my host and get the catch-all re-enabled. This workaround allowed me a little more time to arrange a permanent solution.

The permanent solution would be to create actual mailboxes rather than rely on a catch-all system. How many unique email addresses had I been using over the years? I stopped counting at 114. Creating mailboxes for all these would be too much effort since most wouldn’t see a large volume of traffic.

Looking through the long list of addresses I was quickly able to discard a large number of them. I had a few that I had used for stores and services that have since closed down. I shouldn’t be getting any future mail from these so I have just made a note of them in my spam filter and ignore them. To reduce the remaining addresses I decided it was best to create a single mailbox and then update various accounts to use it. I can then discard the original address. This was a long and time consuming task.

Currently I have reduced my 114+ addresses down to a more manageable 25. In an ideal world I would have been able to reduce it down even more. A stumbling block was not being able to change my email address on some accounts. For the ones that matter it was easier to create a mailbox, for the others it was easier to unsubscribe and resubscribe.

In future I am only going to use a more limited selection of addresses to hopefully reduce the 25 even more. Whilst this process has been an annoyance it has been necessary to tackle it. I think it has been about 5 years since I last tackled a big email change. All being well I shouldn’t have to do anything as significant for at least another 5.

Email Settings

I checked on the connection settings I am using to log into the mailboxes. Technical information from another email provider provides a good overview of the available settings.

RFC8314 (Jan 2018) outlines the current thinking over connection security for email.

Simply put implicit security using SSL/TLS is preferred as it encrypts the connection by default. STARTTLS is discouraged as it begins as a plain text connection which can upgraded to an encrypted connection. It is worth checking your settings with your own provider to ensure you are as secure as you can be.