Curse you, MX records! Sorry, my fault.

It’s been a while since I put a techie post up on here – shame on me! Here’s one about me doing something stupid, cursing my MX records then apologising for it being my fault.

Like many, I have a couple of email addresses. Actually, I have a silly amount I’ve set up to play with services over the years, but I’ve been slowly culling them. Anyway, I basically have two main addresses now – one which I use day to day for sign-ups, and one based on a domain name I own, and is mainly for friends and family which is now quite a few years old.

That, for a while now has been run from Google Apps, a relatively under appreciated offering from Google as far as I can tell. Essentially what it is, is a Gmail and Google Apps backend for your own company/domain, so all my mail for that address comes and goes from my address @ account, but is purely going through Gmail and gets all the benefits of the spam filter and 7GB+ of storage, for free. I like it – so much better than a Hotmail account or an ISP namespace.

My problem actually started a few weeks ago, but I didn’t notice as it’s not a high volume account, but I wasn’t getting any new mail. Then, last week my parents mentioned they’d actually got a bounced reply. I actually replicated it straight off from my phone thanks to Softbank’s insane timeout setting:

Action: failed Status: 5.2.0 Remote-MTA: dns; (___.___.___.___) Diagnostic-Code: smtp; 554 5.7.1 : Relay access denied

(IP address obscured there!)

Odd. So I logged in to my Google Apps account, nope, all looked fine there, but no new mail. So I went further up the chain. My domain registrar is called PairNic, who have always been good to deal with, and the domain pointer seemed fine. So the next logical question is: what had I changed with this domain – any aspect of it – lately?

Answer: I’d re-set it to point to this blog … a few weeks ago.


That’s a coincidence.

From Google Apps, I did a quick MX records test, where it basically does a DNS lookup (of which MX records are a component) on my domain and as somewhat expected, no MX records found. Well that explains why I wasn’t getting mail and people were getting bounced. As far as the internets were concerned, I wasn’t there.

So, I logged in to Pairnic again, went into their DNS/email config, and lo and behold – nothing – so a quick check at both WordPress and Google apps showed me my MX records should look something like:

Priority          Mail Server
1           ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.COM.
5           ALT1.ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.COM.
5           ALT2.ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.COM.

So I entered that into PairNIC’s pages, waited only a few minutes for it to replicate, and then the test from Google showed I had MX records again, and a quick email from my phone successfully arrived, followed over the next day by a small deluge as spooled messages came in.

You can actually get some good, simple steps to troubleshoot this in the Google Apps Tech Support area, as I discovered mostly after I’d fixed it.

So how did it break? As I suspected, it was when I re-pointed my old  brightblack website address to this blog through PairNic, I missed a large amount of red warning text saying exactly what would happen:

Warning:  Enabling any Forwarding features (E-mail or Web site Forwarding or Parking) will remove any previous DNS settings that you may have had with your account. Any previous nameserver, DNS, or e-mail settings will be lost.

How I missed that, I’ll never know – PairNic obviously make it pretty clear, but I must have thought that since I was only playing with NS (website) settings really, my email would be unchanged. I should have re-read that! All in all, I got off lucky – it took me less than an hour in front of the computer to realise what an oaf I’d been and to fix and test it – looking at some of the Google forums, some people have much larger issues.

If nothing else, I’ve refreshed my rusty knowledge of DNS, MX records and how my own email setup actually works, which is no bad thing. It’s also got me delving a little more into parts of DNS I hadn’t really looked at, like priorities, CNAMES, SPF records (sender-permitted-from), and gain a bit more knowledge on the subject of email in general, and some of the changes coming with IPv6!

Read the red text. Twice.