NinerNet Communications™
System Status

Server and System Status

NC027: Migration update 3 — postponed again

21 May 2018 01:19:39 +0000

We have, unfortunately, decided to postpone this migration yet again. For this we sincerely apologise.

The good news is that both of the issues identified last weekend were resolved. The bad news is that, while this migration will be quicker (once it gets going) with fewer complications than past migrations because of the fact that the new mail server runs newer versions of the same software, doing the migration this way actually introduces it’s own quirks and set of challenges. We really hope to address those over the coming week.

In the meantime, your email is operating as normal.

If you have any questions or concerns, please do let us know. Thank-you again for your patience.

NC027: Migration update 2 — postponed

13 May 2018 11:03:30 +0000

We have decided to postpone the migration of server NC027 to NC036 until our regular maintenance window next weekend, 19:00 UTC Saturday (19 May) to 19:00 UTC Sunday. Of course, the move won’t take 24 hours, but that is the full length of the weekend maintenance window. Through testing of the migration process a few times on a test server and optimising the process of getting millions of email messages safely from one server to another, intact — this much data required a re-evaluation of our normal procedures — we have managed to shave at least six hours off of the planned migration time.

We therefore estimate that the migration will take about four hours.

There are a couple of reasons for the delay:

  • One thing we haven’t got working properly yet is an anti-spam feature known as DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail). Because this technique involves use of the DNS (domain name system), it takes time for the authentication information published in the DNS to propagate, and if the wrong information is present (as is currently the case) all of your outbound email will be stopped in its tracks. This is, shall we say, undesirable.
  • Secondly, we have found out that the IP address of the new mail server is in the blacklist of a major email provider. Good thing we checked before going live! We’re at the mercy of said big corporation as far as the timing of the removal, and it’s optimistic to think that it will be removed in the next few hours. However, it’s reasonable to assume that they will remove the block of our new IP address, and that they will do so by next weekend.

For now, everything stays and keeps working exactly the same. Do not adjust your television sets … or your email programs, for that matter.

Having worked with the new mail system all week, we are pretty excited about getting it online due to some new features and some excellent spam-fighting tools. We know you’ll love it too; thanks for your patience.

NC027: Migration update 1

12 May 2018 12:47:05 +0000

The migration later today of all mail from server NC027 to NC036 should take at least six hours, possibly more. For this reason we will try to start it a bit later than previously stated.

NC027: Migration of mail server

4 May 2018 17:17:14 +0000

Server NC027 is being replaced by new mail server NC036. We will be migrating all email accounts to the new server during our regular weekly maintenance window next weekend, starting at 21:00 UTC on Saturday 12 May 2018.

We will be conducting tests over the next week to determine how long this should take, and will post an update here by the middle of next week with an estimate for how long your mail will be unavailable. Because this is a migration between servers running the same software, it’s much more straightforward that most migrations and should take less time than usual. Additionally, the configuration settings for your email will not change, making the process much smoother.

As mentioned last week, this is part of a two-phase plan — this is phase two — to significantly reduce downtime during migrations. Future migrations should be done in almost minutes rather than hours.

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact support. Thank-you for your patience.

NC027: Maintenance complete

28 April 2018 22:53:20 +0000

The maintenance on server NC027 is complete, and it was brought back online at 22:17 UTC. Thank-you for your patience.

While we did this maintenance we also patched the server for the Spectre vulnerability. This means that the maintenance to do that on 1 May is no longer necessary, and has been cancelled.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact support.

NC027: Server maintenance

28 April 2018 21:08:46 +0000

Server NC027 went down for maintenance at 21:05 UTC. We will post updates here as the work progresses and when the server is back online again.

NC027: Blacklist update

27 April 2018 12:53:35 +0000

Good news! NC027‘s IP address has been removed from the blacklist it was in, so at 12:41 UTC we switched mail processing back to the primary server. NC027 is in no blacklists of which we are aware.

Please note that the events of the last couple of days have pushed the notices we issued of upcoming scheduled maintenance on three of our servers down the page. If you have missed them please see:

Thank-you for your patience over the last 24 hours. If you have any questions or concerns, please do let us know.

NC027: Blacklist situation

27 April 2018 06:13:40 +0000

As explained yesterday, a client’s compromised email account sent out thousands of spam emails before it was detected and stopped. This has happened before, but the circumstances this time are different.

Most blacklists are automated, both in adding IP addresses to the blacklist and in removing them. This is a double-edged sword. On the plus side, IP addresses that are the source of spam are quickly added, making it less likely that spam will get through in subsequent attempts from the same IP address. Most, if not all, automated blacklists then remove the bad IP address fairly quickly after the spam stops. They realise that stuff happens, and when the spam stops they assume the problem is fixed and remove the IP address. There is short-term pain, but it’s measured in hours and the block is generally removed within your business day.

On the negative side, organisations and people that run blacklists are generally unwilling to manually remove IP addresses before they automatically expire. In and of itself this isn’t actually a bad thing; many blacklist wouldn’t be able to function if they had to field pleas and demands that IP addresses be removed. Quick, automated removal when the problem that caused the listing in the first place is fixed is the cure.

Unfortunately this situation has exposed a blacklist that actually seems to be designed to punish mail servers that have had a temporary problem, even after the problem has been stopped. This is unusual in our experience, as it makes the blacklist less useful, by blocking legitimate email long after the problem has been addressed. Information on their website states that it could be “a week or more” before an IP address is removedif they determine the spam outbreak to be severe enough — without defining “severe” — even though it has stopped. And since the addition and removal of IP addresses is automated, “you cannot” get your IP address removed manually. Full stop.

Since this blacklist is still blocking our mail server’s IP address almost 24 hours later, at 05:01 UTC we started relaying all mail sent by clients through our relay mail server (NC023), which has a different IP address. We will continue to monitor the blacklist in question and reverse this once our IP address is removed.

It seems that most of the mail servers we’ve seen using this blacklist are in South Africa. Mail bounced using this blacklist will show a message like the following, using real email addresses, domains and IP addresses of course:

<destination@example.com>: host something.co.za[1.2.3.4] said:
    550-rejected because 212.71.255.195 is in a black list at
    truncate.gbudb.net 550 http://www.gbudb.com/truncate/ [212.71.255.195]
    (in reply to RCPT TO command)

If you’ve seen this, we suggest that you contact the person to whom you sent the email and suggest that they tell their hosting company that they should stop using blacklists that don’t operate within the norms of most blacklists. Feel free to point them to this blog post.

With all of the above said, we will be setting up a new mail server and migrating all accounts to it within the next couple of weeks. The new server will be better equipped to spot and stop these outbreaks automatically before they become “severe”.

As always, we appreciate your patience, and we also appreciate those clients that keep their anti-virus software up to date. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us. Thank-you.

NC027: Spam cleaned up

26 April 2018 11:22:13 +0000

We have cleaned up the mail server (NC027) after an email account was compromised. This has resulted in the mail server being placed in at least one blacklist. The email account in question has been disabled pending resolution by the client of the root cause of this issue, but it will be a few hours before restrictions on our primary mail server’s IP address put in place by this blacklist expire.

These incidents usually arise after a client’s computer has been infected with a virus. The virus then sends the email password back to the person or organisation controlling the virus, and they then use that information to compromise that email account on the mail server, using it to send thousands of spams from the account. Please ensure that you install, use and update an anti-virus program on your computers and any other devices to ensure that this doesn’t happen to your email account.

We apologise for this incident. Please contact us if you have any questions. Thank-you.

NC027: Addition of disk space

25 April 2018 11:53:31 +0000

Due to the growing need for more and bigger email accounts, we need to add more disk space to server NC027. This will require us to take the mail server offline during our regular weekly maintenance window for approximately four hours starting at 20:00 UTC on Saturday 28 April 2018. (Please click that link to determine when this will be in your time zone.)

During this maintenance you will not be able to send or receive email. Incoming email to your domain will be held on the sending servers until our mail server is back online, and will then be delivered to your accounts. No email will be lost.

Please note that email to NinerNet will also be down during the maintenance on server NC027.

This is phase one in a two-phase plan to ensure that long, disruptive maintenance windows like this become a thing of the past. We will post more details about this in the coming days.

NinerNet home page

Systems at a Glance:


Loc.SystemStatusPing
Server NC020, Chicago, United States of America, OPERATIONAL.NC020OperationalPing
Server NC023, London, United Kingdom, OPERATIONAL.NC023OperationalPing
Server NC027, London, United Kingdom, OPERATIONAL.NC027OperationalPing
Server NC028, Vancouver, Canada, INTERNAL.NC028InternalPing
Server NC031, Newark, United States of America, OPERATIONAL.NC031OperationalPing
Server NC033, Toronto, Canada., OPERATIONAL.NC033OperationalPing
Server NC034, Lusaka, Zambia, INTERNAL.NC034InternalPing
Server NC035, Sydney, Australia, PROVISIONING.NC035ProvisioningPing
Server NC036, London, United Kingdom, PROVISIONING.NC036ProvisioningPing

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This blog provides information about the status of NinerNet Communications systems. Dates and times of posts to this blog are in the UTC time zone, and dates and times given for events are also in the UTC time zone, although conversions may be offered for some time zones common to our clients. Please use the World Time Server to ensure accurate conversion of dates and times to your own time zone.

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