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You can use SFF Net's own WebMail program to read and send email using your browser, or you can use your favorite email program instead. If you need instructions on how to set up your computer to use SFF Net email, see the How to Set Up Your System pages for detailed instructions for your particular software.

Email basics
In theory, sending email is a very simple task. You send email from your computer (using an email client) to an email server. The email server reads the address on the email and figures out which email server on the Internet knows about the address you're sending to. Your email server then sends the mail on to that server. When your recipient is ready to read their mail, they retrieve their mail from their server using their own email client. And voila!, we have successfully sent email!

Unfortunately, the real world of email is much more complex, and transferring email (including the variety of attachments, addresses and other features) is a bit of a Herculean task. Fortunately, much of this complexity is behind the scenes and you won't need to bother with it.

    What are SMTP and POP3?
    SMTP is short for Simple Mail Transfer Protocol, and it's the most common method of transferring e-mail messages between servers on the Internet. In addition, SMTP is generally used to send messages from an email client to an email server. This is why you must specify an SMTP server in your email client to send mail.

    Unfortunately, most SMTP servers don't know much about security, and they'd happily give your email out to anyone who asked, which is why POP servers were developed. POP servers receive mail from an SMTP server and store it until the person authorized to get it logins in and asks for it. This is why you specify a POP3 server as your incoming mail server when you set up your email client.

    SFF Net maintains both an SMTP (smtp.sff.net) and a POP3 (pop3.sff.net) server for you to use. Your email client sends mail messages to smtp.sff.net and when it checks for new messages, it moves messages from pop3.sff.net to your local computer.

    Occasionally, an ISP will block the standard SMTP port (port 25) for sending mail outside of their domain. This is often done as an attempt to prevent spammers from using their domain to send unsolicited commercial email (UCE) to other mail servers. Most reputable large ISPs are already doing this, others will be soon. To avoid problems if/when your ISP blocks port 25, you should set your email client to use the alternate port 587 on smtp.sff.net instead. Details on how to do this can be found in the How to Set Up your System help files.

    What is SpamGuardtm?
    SpamGuardtm is SFF Net's Spam filtering system. Spam is any off-topic unsolicited commercial email (UCE) advertisement or other unwanted announcement. SFF Net uses very sophisticated filtering to prevent spammers from filling your email box with unwanted junk mail. The SpamGuardtm filtering can be turned on or off from your POP3 Options control panel (see below).

    Spam FAQ
    Here's a very informative FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) sheet about Spam and what can be done about it.

How to use SFF Net Email
Using SFF Net email is very similar to other email systems from ISP's. You set up your email client to send and receive email, and any mail that's sent to your SFF Net address (yourname@sff.net) arrives in your POP3 box. The email stays in your POP3 mailbox until you download it to your local computer using your email client.

Occasionally, mail gets jammed up and doesn't transfer out of your POP3 mailbox to your local machine correctly. In that case, you can still read your mail (or delete the message that's causing the jam) using SFF Net's WebMail program. WebMail reads your POP3 mailbox using your web browser, which lets you read, reply or delete email without downloading it to your local computer. This can be very useful, even if you use a third-party email reader. For example, if you suspect you have a large email tying up your email client while it downloads, you can use WebMail to delete it.

WebMail also allows you to use your SFF Net email even if you're at someone else's computer, at work, or from any computer with a web browser. Keep in mind, however, that if you ever use an email client that downloads email from the POP3 mailbox to your local computer, the email will now be on your local computer and WebMail won't see it anymore. WebMail can only see mail that's in your POP3 mailbox.

Your Junk Folder
Your SFF Net mailbox has a special Junk folder to hold messages addressed to you that have been flagged as spam by the SFF Net SpamGuardtm content filters. This function is only active if you turn it on in your email options settings. See the SpamGuardtm content filters section below for more information on controlling your filters.

Messages in the Junk folder are only visible using WebMail. These messages are not delivered to any third-party email client during download. You can view the messages in your Junk folder by starting WebMail and clicking the Junk icon on the WebMail toolbar.

Note: If you've chosen to have mail marked as spam delivered to your junk folder, then you must remember to clean out the folder regularly.

    Whitelisting
    Your SFF Net mailbox has a special feature called Whitelisting. A whitelist is a list of email addresses that are exempt from Personal Spam Filter checking. Note that Whitelisting examines only the FROM: email address used, not the name of the person. For example, even if you Whitelist Betty.Boop@somewhere.com, email from BettyB@elsewhere.com may still be caught by the spam filters.

    You can add email addresses to your whitelist in two ways:

    1. Automatic Whitelisting
      If you have chosen to have spam delivered to your Junk folder, you can open any message in your Junk folder that was caught and flagged as spam and click the Whitelist button. This will automatically move the email to your regular Inbox and add that sender's email address to your Whitelist.

    2. Manual Whitelisting/Editing
      You can manually add to or edit your whitelist entries. Select Edit Whitelist from the Options link on the WebMail menu. You'll see the Edit Whitelist screen:

      WebMail Options 7

      Any entries you've already whitelisted using the Automatic Whitelist method will be listed. You can also add any other email addresses you'd like to the list. Be sure to only enter one email address per line.

Blacklisting
Blacklisting is basically the opposite of whitelisting, it is a list of email address from which you never want to receive mail, period. Blacklisted mail is discarded - you will not receive it and it won't be marked as spam and sent to your Junk folder. You can build and maintain a blacklist by choosing the Edit Blacklist function from the Options page you go to when you click the Options link. Add any email addresses you want to block to the list box. Only one email address per line is permitted.

Note that Blacklisting examines only the exact FROM: email address used, not the name of the person. For example, even if you Blacklist Betty.Boop@somewhere.com, email from BettyB@elsewhere.com may still arrive.

Changing your Mailbox Options
Your SFF Net mailbox options are controlled from WebMail. To change your mail options, start WebMail (http://webmail.sff.net) and choose the Options link from the top menu after logging in.

Important: Most of the mailbox settings (particularly the SpamGuardtm filters, auto-forwarding, and auto-reply functions) affect all of your incoming SFF Net mail, whether you use WebMail or a third-party email client.

Don't forget to click the Save button at the bottom of the page once you've made your changes!

WebMail Options

General Settings

    Display Fonts
    The fixed-pitch and variable-pitch settings allow you to specify the fonts used to display messages. You can toggle between fixed and variable pitch settings using the Font button on the WebMail menu while reading a message. Fonts selected on this page may or may not be displayed correctly by your browser. On most Windows-based browsers, you can specify any installed Windows font as long as you use the correct font name.

    Return Address
    This field specifies the email address you want people to reply to when they respond to your email. This setting only affects messages sent from WebMail. If you are using a third-party email client, you must specify your return address in its configuration.

    You should only enter your SFF Net address in this field (in most cases it will already have been entered for you).

SpamGuardtm content filters
It's a dangerous world out there. SFF Net's spam filters offer you sophisticated and flexible protection from the scourges of the net such as spam (unsolicitied commercial advertisements), email viruses, worms, trojan programs, and scripts, etc. The filters are very good; however, it's a good idea to be familiar with how they work to be sure you're getting the level of protection you desire.

    System-wide Filters
    SFF Net doesn't accept email from known open-relays/proxies, domains or individuals with a long spam history, or people who send malformed email (missing headers, invalid return addresses, non-existent domains, non-RFC compliant mail servers, etc.). SFF Net also rejects email sent to generic addresses like friend@so-and-so, or email containing known viruses, worms, or trojans.

    You have no control over the system-wide filters. However, if you know of specific email that is being blocked incorrectly -- for example, a mailing list to which you subscribe that uses invalid headers but is otherwise desired -- you may write to Tech Support and ask to have the system-wide filters modified. You MUST include a copy of the headers for the blocked email (i.e., you need to get a copy from someone else, or that was delivered to you at another email address) in order for us to analyze it and make an exception for it.

    Domain Filters
    The Domains content filters allow you to control whether email will be rejected based on information gathered about the sending email client and transmitting server.

      Select these options with care. When these selections are enabled, mail that matches the criteria is rejected by the SFF Net server before any other information about the email is accepted. That means the sender will immediately receive an error and no other data is collected. As a result, SFF Net Tech Support will not necessarily be able to tell from our email logs anything about who was rejected.

    WebMail Options - Domain Filters

    • Accept email only from domains ending in .com, .net, .org, .edu, .mil, and .gov
      Much spam today originates from overseas or from domains that consist primarily of spammers. This section gives you the option of restricting your account to receive mail only from the six major top-level domains (TLDs) in use primarily in the United States.

      IMPORTANT: Before you select this option, there are several important consequences you should consider:

      1. You should only use this option if you are 100% certain that the only mail you will ever want to receive will originate from these domains. Any mail (spam or not) that originates from any other domain will be discarded. If someone from, say, Canada ever sends you an email, it's possible that their email will come from the .ca domain and you will never receive it.
      2. These domains do not represent all organizations used by people in the United States. If you have a friend who has signed up for a domain name using the .name TLD or you expect mail from a museum that's part of the .museum TLD, you'll never see mail from them.
      3. Mail from these domains may not only come from within the United States. Several of these domains (in particular the .com domain) have been granted to organizations outside the U.S. Enabling this option will not block email from those organizations.
      4. The filter uses reverse DNS to determine the origin of the mail. If the sending server does not have a proper reverse DNS entry, mail from that server will be rejected even if it actually is coming from a top-level domain.
      5. If this option is enabled, no exceptions to it are possible. Mail from blocked domains cannot be whitelisted or sent to your junk folder.

    • Refuse email from servers that do not appear to have static IP addresses
      By far the largest sources of spam today are end-user machines compromised by viruses/trojans that send spam without their owner's knowledge. The vast majority of those machines are on dial-up or broadband connections that are assigned their IP address dynamically by their ISP. Since legitimate mailservers use static (or fixed) IP addresses, SFF Net always flags email coming from a server with a dynamic IP address as spam.

      This option selects whether or not to refuse such emails immediately or to flag them as spam. If the option is selected, any email coming from a dynamic IP address will be rejected by the server and you will receive no notice (however, the sender will receive this bounce message "554 We do not accept unauthenticated email from dialup or DSL --send through your ISP").

      If this option is NOT selected, the email will be handled as spam according to your Spam Filters settings (see below). As a result, you may notice a significant increase in the number of spams arriving in your Junk folder with an X-Spam-Identifier header that indicates the email came from a dynamic IP address. If so, you may want to consider enabling this option.

    • Refuse email from servers that do not have reverse DNS
      Legitimate email servers have reverse DNS (rDNS) configured correctly, but many spamming machines do not. This makes the existence of correctly configured rDNS an excellent spam marker. SFF Net always flags email coming from servers with incorrect rDNS as spam.

      This option selects whether or not to refuse such emails immediately or to flag them as spam. If the option is selected, any email coming from a machine with incorrect rDNS will be rejected by the server and you will receive no notice (however, the sender will receive this bounce message "554 We do not accept unauthenticated email from hosts without reverse DNS").

      If this option is NOT selected, the email will be handled as spam according to your Spam Filters settings (see below). As a result, you may notice a significant increase in the number of spams arriving in your Junk folder with an X-Spam-Identifier header that indicates the email came from a machine with no rDNS. If so, you may want to consider enabling this option.

    Personal Spam Filters
    You can configure your mailbox to determine how to handle email that can be identified as spam. To configure your mailbox, go to WebMail, log on, select Options, then WebMail Options.

    WebMail Options - Content Filters

    • Call it spam if it looks like spam
      Check this box to have SFF Net examine your incoming email for known spam markers in the body of the email. This includes things like all-numeric URLs, "Make Big Money!!!" come-ons, links to known spam or scam sites, and other keywords associated with spam.

    • Call it spam if it comes from a known spam domain
      Check this box to have SFF Net examine the headers of your incoming email for indications that the email came from a known spammer. This includes searching for specific IP addresses, server names, or other header information that is associated with sources of spam received in the past.

    • Call it spam if it isn't addressed or CC'd to me
      Check this box to have SFF Net scan the TO and CC headers of incoming email for your email address. The TO and CC addresses are easily forged, and often have nothing to do with the actual recipients. Note that mailing lists often send email with the TO header set to the list address rather than the individual recipient. If you subscribe to mailing lists, or receive mail under aliases, you probably don't want to enable this filter.

    • Call it spam if the envelope and headers don't match, or if the TO is invalid
      Check this box to have SFF Net compare the FROM header with the sender's claimed identity. This filter also checks that the TO header contains a valid email address (but does not check to see if that email address is yours).

      Note that mailing lists often send email with the TO header set to the list address rather than the individual recipient, or with the FROM address set to the list reply address rather than the poster's address. If you subscribe to mailing lists, or receive mail under aliases, you probably don't want to enable this filter.

    • Mail identified as spam should be
      When email makes it through the system-wide filters but not your personal content filters, SFF Net will deal with the email according to your selection here.

      • Discarded -- the flagged email is thrown away
        Caution: Use care before selecting this option. If you choose this option, any legitimate email that gets incorrectly flagged as spam will also be deleted.

      • Delivered to my Junk folder -- the flagged email is delivered to a "junk" folder, which you may read online using WebMail

        There is an additional advantage to using the Junk folder option: you may Whitelist any mail incorrectly flagged as spam so that the sender will be exempt from any further spam checks. To whitelist an email, use WebMail to find the message in your Junk folder, open it to read the message, and then click the Whitelist button. The message will be automatically moved to your inbox, and the sender will be whitelisted.

      • Delivered to my Inbox -- the email is delivered to your inbox, which you may read either online or with a POP3 client. Mail identified as spam but delivered anyway will have an extra header line, X-Spam-Identifier, which tells you why the email was considered spam. You can use this line to easily sort out spam using your email client's message rules, for example.

        The only disadvantage to this selection is that you cannot whitelist a sender yourself. If you wish to whitelist a sender and you're not using a Junk folder, forward a copy of the flagged message (along with full headers) to techsupport@sff.net.

        Note: This option cannot be selected if you have your inbox set to forward to another email address.

    • Do NOT call it spam if the subject line contains the word
      This option allows you to set a "secret word" which can be given out to trusted correspondents to exempt their mail from the Personal Spam Filters checks. Any email that contains the secret word in the subject line will not be flagged as spam by the Personal Spam Filters.

      The word is case-sensitive (i.e. "Gumdrop," "gumdrop," and "GumDrop" are three different words) and should only contain alphanumeric ASCII characters. Since every mail with the chosen word in the headers will be exempted, you should select the word with care. Don't use your name, or a word common to subject lines (like "Hello"), or a word that's a common combining part of other words (such as "auto"]. Like other filter options, this option does not apply if you have forwarding enabled on your SFF Net mailbox.

    Worm, Virus, Trojan, and Identity Protection
    These settings indicate whether or not you want the SFF Net email server to automatically "sterilize" your mail by disabling scripts and executable programs so they can't be automatically or accidentally run and possibly infect your system.

    WebMail Options - Worm, Virus, Trojan, and Identity Protection

    • Disable embedded scripts found in email
      Check this box if you want to have scripts in your HTML mail automatically disabled. The actual script code is not deleted, however the line of code that calls the script for automatic execution is renamed to "$cript" and thus rendered harmless. Any known script commands (such as OnLoad, Script, IFrame, etc.) are disabled.

    • Rename exectuable attachments to non-executable filenames
      Check this box if you want to rename file attachments that arrive with filenames that can be executed (and thus possibly be a virus, or other harmful program) so that they cannot be executed. Filenames are changed by renaming the last period to an underscore. For example, filenames such as "IAmAVirus.txt.pif" would be renamed to "IAmAVirus.txt_pif".

WebMail Options

    Automatic Functions
    The last section of the options screen deals with automatic functions for controlling your mailbox size, mail delivery, and auto-reply to incoming messages.

    • Expiry
      You can set the system to delete old mail automatically to keep your accumlated mail down to a manageable amount. This setting controls what you want done with old mail in your Inbox. Note: Expiry for messages in the Junk folder is set to three days and cannot be changed.

      The current limit of messages for your box is listed here as well. Remember that if your Inbox becomes full, users sending to you will receive a bounce message telling them your box is full.

    • Forwarding
      You can set your SFF Net email account to forward messages sent to your SFF Net address to a different email account. Only use the But keep a copy in my mailbox, too option if you will be forwarding temporarily. Remember, there is are message storage and time limits on your SFF Mailbox.

      IMPORTANT: SFF Net does not forward any messages flagged as spam. Such messages will either be sent to your Junk folder or discarded depending on how you have your Spam Filter settings configured. The "Delivered to my Inbox" setting is unavailable if you have forwarding enabled.

    • Auto-Reply
      You can set your email box to reply automatically to incoming mail with a short message. This is very useful for letting people know you're temporarily away (i.e. "Hello, I'm out of the country for the next few days. I'll get back to you when I return."). If you click the And attach a copy of the sender's message checkbox, the auto-reply email you send will have the original message included, as well.

    Don't forget to click the Save Settings button to save your changes!

 

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