1. 25
  1.  

  2. 3

    This isn’t a panacea. Hosting your own email is certainly a lot of work, and the anxiety of if you set up enough DKIM et al to appease other mail providers is real.

    1. 2

      I think that’s an exaggeration.

      Yes, it’s more than zero effort- Yes, you also wanna set up DKIM, etc. Every guide I’ve seen posted here explains how to do that though. Once it runs it runs though. E-Mail compared to other things, even static web hosting feels a lot more stable. The only thing that happened in the last two decades was those anti-spam things, that involved running an additional service and it used to be more complicated. Now rspamd does parts of that for you. It still wasn’t hard back then and it’s not now.

      It’s probably nothing you should do as your first project (even though it was my first vserver back in the days before any professional experience and it still worked fine). But it’s certainly a lot more straight forward and a lot less maintenance than other things I self-hosted or that I’ve done professionally.

      The whole “you will get blocked by everyone” is simply not true. You won’t get blocked for sending from a not known IP (else all those “pay extra for dedicated IP” from mailgun, mandrill, etc. wouldn’t make sense), you also won’t get blocked for sending from an unknown domain. Google is the most draconic here. But if you set up SPF and DKIM and maybe enter the correct reverse IP into the according input field at your hosting provider you are good.

      On top of that E-Mail works like barely any other protocol in unreliable setups. There’s retries of queued emails, there’s bounce notifications, etc. E-Mails don’t just disappear silently, even if something would be down or broken.

      So to someone reading this. If you really are anxious, just setup a server, look at how it works, let it run for a while (a 5 USD server somewhere can get you far), use it for stuff that isn’t critical and see for yourself.

      1. 1

        I think you’re underestimating how bad residental/small business ISP and low-end VPS IP pools can be treated in blocklists. If I hosted email on my lonesome, I would probably get a service like Mailgun or an SMTPd on a server provide with a good reputation to front for my real mail server,

        Either way, it’s still operational workload someone may not want to take on - people have enough in their life. There’s a reason why email providers exist (and businesses pay for them), and I’ve said it before - if it’s not a core competency/differentiator for you, why bother with it? It’s going to become a cost and liability centre for you.

        1. 1

          I think you’re underestimating how bad residental/small business ISP and low-end VPS IP pools can be treated in blocklists.

          The article was speaking about vultr, not some residential ISP. I also think if you’d use that you’d see very quickly that pretty much nobody accepts emails from those ranges.

          For low end VPSs: I haven’t come across that yet.

          If I hosted email on my lonesome, I would probably get a service like Mailgun or an SMTPd on a server provide with a good reputation to front for my real mail server.

          In my experience the bounce rate on Mandrill and Mailgun is couple of hundred times higher than some tiny hosting company somewhere, because there’s certainly people spamming using Mailgun. Also Mailgun and others for that very reason offer dedicated IP that don’t suffer from their reputation.

          Either way, it’s still operational workload someone may not want to take on

          Sure. Then don’t do it.

          I am just saying it’s pretty low compared to a lot of other services (most, if not all I ever ran both privately and in business). Self hosting of course implies that you have to do stuff yourself. Just like cooking for yourself means you need to take care of buying ingredients yourself and make sure it doesn’t burn all by your own. So I’d consider that implied.

          However I really do think that there is a lot of FUD in that area (of course, after all people wanna sell you their mail related products). That’s the reason why I am writing this. People claim like the whole world is gonna fall down on you when the reality is that that’s not the case. And of course you should have a plan in case of problems, but the same is true for what if your smartphone dies, what do you do when your Gmail or whatever account becomes inaccessible (technical problems, some for of attack, your account getting blocked for some reason, etc. All things that happen).

          Fifteen years ago, I was a naive teenager and just went for it, for fun. Not having much money I had to settle for a tiny vserver of some unknown company though. Then I found it works surprisingly well. When I mentioned it to others people said it’s only because it is such an old and therefor my IP has good reputation. If I ever switched server I’d suffer, because there would be a lot of troubles, because nobody trusts the server. I don’t even send that many emails, so I think most of the internet doesn’t even know about that server existing.

          Later I switched to another provider, because I wanted to host more things and that 512mb vserver was getting small for all the services already running on it. So I switched over to another provider. In the process I switched to another OS family, switched to a completely different SMTP server software and switched from dovecot 1 to dovecot 2. Oh and I switched from Spamassassin to rspamd. Everything worked. Planning was ten minutes, switchover was quick as well. Few hours at most. To the best of my knowledge nobody noticed.

          I am certainly not experienced in the area of emails. I just set up these two servers with over a decade in between where the only thing I changed was adding SPF and DKIM. The only maintenance I did was doing the standard update procedure of the OS and packages when it informed me it wants me to.

          One thing I have to admit is that I got really lucky regarding disasters. None in those fifteen years. If a disaster would hit it would mean I’d have to copy over some files from a backup onto a new server and changing some DNS records.

          If I’d ever run into issues or for whatever reason wanted to change things there’s nothing that prevents me from switching my domain over to use some form of a managed service.

          Oddly enough though, Gmail users in those years had more issues with their emails not working properly than me. But just to be clear, it’s a sample set of one. It most likely has also to do with luck (and bad luck on Google’s side). Nobody should take this as something representative.

          There’s other occassioans though where I also was also setting up email servers: Centralizing status mails (think of what Debian and the BSDs send out daily). Those were just the minimum required parts to have mail servers accept emails. Here Google is the hardest one I’ve seen in the wild. The fact that these status mails might contain text that are hosts to spamming mail servers trying to connect doesn’t make that any better. ;)

          Only for smaller fun projects. Nothing serious that anyone really relies on there though.

          1. 1

            The article was speaking about vultr, not some residential ISP

            By default, vultr blocks outbound SMTP. You need to raise a support ticket for them to unblock it, explaining why, the volume of email you expect to send, and so on. That said, it took them about three hours to unblock it for me, as a new customer, and I haven’t had any problems since then.

      2. 1

        Tbh the DKIM/SPF stuff is easy peasy. And it’s something you have to address even if you don’t host mail yourself but use your own domain for mail.

        The reasons I don’t host mail myself relate to availability and recovery/backups. If things silently break for whatever reasons, then I’m not receiving emails until I notice it. Some monitoring things can help with obvious issues, but not every situation where mails are silently not making it to my mail client. If things break real bad (from an upgrade or ??) then I hopefully have a way to quickly(!) restore backups and get it going again. Making sure that’s possible is not trivial, and requires maintenance if the expectation is that it stays reliable over time.

        A lot of important things I do for work, life, etc still require email, so it needs to be reliable and robust. I’m not ready to accept that risk, or comit to the additional time to get that right (and keep it right over time..)

        1. 1

          Some monitoring things can help with obvious issues, but not every situation where mails are silently not making it to my mail client

          Could you give me an example of emails silently not making it?

          A lot of important things I do for work, life, etc still require email, so it needs to be reliable and robust.

          Same here. E-Mail is my main form of communication. Both business and private.

          1. 2

            Could you give me an example of emails silently not making it?

            If your mailserver rejects some mail because it looks malformed, but turns out Google or some other provider is laxer about validating mail. This had happened to me hundreds of times when I used to host my on email. Now that I don’t, it’s not my problem :)

            1. 1

              Sure, some reasons have nothing to do with the email specifications.. e.g. your email server application/system hangs or experiences some OS/application/hardware failure. Some of these failures could result in silent data corruption. It’s really nothing exceptional here, just normal risks of self hosting stuff but now it’s a service that might be more critical/needed than some blog or other things that most folks self host.

        2. 3

          Slightly off-topic, but I clicked on K9, because I use that too, without much thought. In their last blog article it’s mentioned that they try to collect some money, so will fund it now. Thought that on lobste.rs there’s probably other people using it, maybe some of them like me overlooking what they use daily but works so well, that one would forget about it.

          1. 2

            I would prefer to run all that on a single VPS and I would expect it to be cheaper. Am I wrong?