Recently my web hosting provider BuyShared (also known as BuyVM and Frantech) started using the SMTP provider MailChannels for outgoing e-mails. This is a neat feature that increases mail deliverability. Before switching to MailChannels, BuyShared routed outgoing mail through a local SMTP server. Due to more advanced and strict spam filters and policies by most major e-mail providers, including the world’s largest provides Gmail, Outlook, and Yahoo! Mail, sending e-mail directly from a shared web hosting account is not recommended. The chances of genuine mail ending up falsely marked as spam is at a level making this approach unreliable.
BuyShared added MailChannels “silently” meaning that no announcement was made, and the fact that they now use MailChannels is not even included on their website as of this writing. As a result, I, and probably many other BuyShared customers were (and still are) unaware about this change. The good news is that no reconfiguration of mail software is needed. Users should continue sending mail through BuyShared as usual since BuyShared takes care of routing outgoing mail through MailChannels.
Changing SMTP provider means that the Sender Policy Framework (SPF) should be changed for all domains sending mail through BuyShared. An SPF policy is added as a DNS (TXT) record and provides information about what IP addresses are allowed to delivery e-mails for a given domain. Having a correct SPF policy in place for a domain is essential for mail deliverability. While mail is not automatically rejected from domains without an SPF record, it is a crucial factor. More detailed information about SPF is available at the Wikipedia page.
MailChannels suggests using the following SPF TXT DNS record:
example.com TXT v=spf1 a mx include:relay.mailchannels.net ?all
This policy allows mail from the IP hosting the domain, the IP of the MX record of the domain, and MailChannels IP addresses. The “?all” means that mail sent from other IP’s should be marked as neutral. The exact interpretation differs between mail hosts.
Because I only send mail through mailchannels I use a more strict SPF record:
example.org TXT v=spf1 include:relay.mailchannels.net -all
This policy only allows mail from MailChannels’ IP addresses and states that mail coming from any other IP should be considered non-genuine and fail.
If you want to add the MailChannels IP space to your existing SPF record you simply need to add include:relay.mailchannels.net to your existing policy.
After adding/editing your SPF record you can verify the changes using a tool such as MXToolBox SPF Records. Notice that changes to DNS records can vary from just a few minutes to several hours before they are propagated to the rest of the Internet.
How to add an SPF record depends on the DNS server used by your domain. If you are using the default BuyShared DNS servers (ns1-4.private-nameserver.net) you will need to add/modify the SPF record from your hosing control panel.
If you use cPanel, choose “Zone Editor” to add/modify an SPF record.
If you use DirectAdmin, choose “DNS Management” to add/modify an SPF record. Mail Tester has published a quick guide to edit your SPF record on DirectAdmin.
A commonly used DNS provider is Cloudflare. See the quick guide by DMARCLY on how to add an SPF record in Cloudflare if your domain is using Cloudflare DNS.