Early this week we started receiving reports from Blackberry users with different wireless carriers on different continents, that late last week they started having problems using their Blackberries to access their email on their domains hosted with NinerNet. However, they could access their email accounts through regular means — i.e., POP (with an email program) or webmail.
An initial look at the problem suggested that the two common denominators were NinerNet and Research in Motion (RIM), the latter being the “Blackberry company” through which all email on Blackberry devices is handled. It was (and is) unlikely that individual carriers were the cause of the problem.
After considerable research and consultation over the course of a couple of days, we did not have (and still do not have) any definitive reason for the problem. One reason for the lack of a definitive cause is the complete lack of information from RIM, who seem not to have any useful information about their email processing methods on their website for hosting companies like NinerNet, and who make it very difficult for people to contact them. (One good thing that can be said about a behemoth like AOL is that they maintain a website and a channel for hosting companies like NinerNet to contact them in the event of email delivery issues, as happened last week. That issue was successfully resolved thanks to dialogue with AOL.)
In the spirit of trial and error we tried two different configuration changes to our mail server based on the connection activity we were seeing from RIM servers. In hindsight we should have implemented these separately to see which one was actually responsible for fixing the issue, but the focus was, of course, on fixing the issue, not messing around. That said, a third issue was that, after making the configuration changes, we restarted the mail server. This had the effect of closing down about two hundred connections to our mail server from RIM servers. About fifty connections were quickly re-established, and we expected this number to grow again to about two hundred … but it didn’t. After more than twenty-four hours the number of connections remains steady at about fifty. This is interesting in itself, as simply restarting the server and not making the configuration changes may actually have fixed the problem anyway, making us wonder why RIM had so many connections open to our server in the first place.
So for now the issue appears to be resolved. We’re continuing to monitor connections to our mail server by RIM servers, and we ask that, if you have any further problems with accessing your NinerNet-hosted email using your Blackberry, you contact us with the details as soon as possible. Thanks very much.