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Table of Contents
Well, the first installment of the Services NewsLetter (SNL) was very well received. It is clear that we should have started this a long time ago when we first had the idea of doing it! With that in mind, it is clear that the SNL is a needed part of the service offerings we have here at Deep Sky Tech.
For now, we will make certain we put out a new issue at the beginning of every calendar month. As time permits, we may try to make this more frequent, as it seems two a month would be much more useful for everyone.
We already have a very long list of topics to cover in the SNL, enough to fill at least a dozen issues. But, if you have ideas for what you would like to learn about dealing with our services, or with the Internet in general, feel free to let us know. We are obviously open to all suggestions for topics of interest to you.
For now, we are still only sending the SNL to people with access to the SAME interface for managing services within Deep Sky Tech. In the coming month, we will provide a means for anyone to subscribe to the SNL. And, of course, we are already working on building an interactive archive of SNL issues so you can review any of the issues released. For now, if you have a need for a previous issue, just drop us an email and we'll be more than happy to send it to you again.
I wanted to personally thank you all, too, for the very positive feedback we have received so far. It was very heartening to hear from so many of you on this subject. We will work hard to make each issue as fulfilling and useful as the first was.
Last issue we mentioned that invoices for Q1 2003 would be posted during the first week of February. Well, even that time frame, a month late for normal billing, was not reachable by us.
As I am sure almost all of you already know, invoices were finally posted in the middle of February. The due date was listed for almost everyone as the end of February in the SAME interface (on the actual invoices, the original billing and due dates was still listed).
Thanks to all of those that stayed on top of this once invoices were finally posted. It appears that almost everyone was kind enough to process the invoices almost immediately.
Obviously, since the invoicing schedule for this quarter was pushed back by our extremely busy schedule here, we will be very forgiving for those of you that are running a little late as of yet. So, you won't hear me wagging my finger (like that mixed metaphor?) at those still procrastinating for a few more weeks. Of course, automated reminders and late notices are still going out through email as usual.
Thanks again for everyone's understanding. And, yes, we will be back on our normal billing schedule in Q2.
Domain registrations are obviously one of the services that Deep Sky Tech. offers for all customers. We make it a simple matter to handle your domains by managing all aspects of the domain registration, domain renewal, and domain settings process. As well, Deep Sky Tech. has always provided full DNS services with all of our hosting solutions.
As we have grown, we have been able to acquire domain registration services for a reduced price. And, we are now passing on some of these savings to you.
As of January 1st, 2003, domains registered for Deep Sky Tech. customers have had a price reduction from $35 per year to $25 per year. The new price reflects a savings of almost 30% from previous domain registration and renewal pricing. This is across all domains that we provide management services for. Many of you may have already seen the price change on invoices for Q1 2003.
This is only the first service change of many others planned for the coming months at Deep Sky Tech. New services to be added shortly include direct domain registration and management on our web site, even more savings with extended renewal options, new TLD registration options, and direct DNS control within our web site. Most importantly, these services will not incur any price increases at all; the new services will be provided for all Deep Sky Tech. customers as a standard service for choosing us for all of your hosting needs.
Enjoy the savings!
Unsolicited Intentionally Trashed Bulkemail
As mentioned in the last issue of the SNL, the new implementation of the spam blocking system at Deep Sky Tech. has been put into place during February. This new spam blocking system has been called UITB, for Unsolicited Intentionally Trashed Bulkemail.
UITB is, in its current form, a continuation of our previously running spam blocking systems, systems that have been in place since June 2002. But, unlike the previous implementation, the formalization of the UITB systems, along with all of the development efforts we have put into it so far, allows for scaling the system to handle an almost limitless amount of future growth. As you may remember, the previous system had quite unexpectedly run out of room to grow at the beginning of December, 2002.
To give you some idea of what kinds of spam volume we are dealing with, we have taken a small time slice of relatively low activity to run some manual statistics on the system. For a six hour period, from 0600 GMT to 1200 GMT on March 4th, 2003, UITB blocked a total of 1978 spams on our email server. During that time period it also successfully identified 17 attacks into the email server, 15 attacks being what is commonly termed a dictionary attack, and 2 open relay attacks.
Remember, those statistics were taken from what is commonly deemed a slow period of activity on our email server. And, it is an example of what is being handled on a continuous basis. Worst of all, this is an issue that grows on a daily basis. Current indications are that the problem of spam is growing approximately 1% to 2% compounded every _day_. Believe it or not, compared to many other hosting companies, we actually have been impacted relatively little by spam, as well, suffer relatively little loss of bandwidth and resources compared to many other hosting providers. Though this is relatively low compared to other providers, as a whole it is still the single most significant problem on the Internet and is still the single most significant problem we are facing. Current indications are that an average of 40% of our total used bandwidth is for spam related purposes.
The current implementation of the UITB systems revolve around a very simple mechanism. Deep Sky Tech. processes and archives every single spam that we receive on the email addresses we manage. We also do the same for all spam reported to us by customers and was run through the email servers at Deep Sky Tech. These spam emails are then used to build a listing of originating email servers or SMTP sources in the world, by IP address, that we have direct and verifiable proof of having been the source of spam email. This list is then what is used as our UITB blocking list. Aggressive spam sources have address ranges blocked to catch rotating network addresses used to deliver spam email. As well, all sources of directly verifiable attacks into our email servers are also included on the UITB block list.
In this current form, the UITB spam blocking system is by no means complete. There are a couple of major flaws with this approach that have to be addressed with additional development of the UITB system.
One major drawback is the blocking of possibly legitimate email from users that happen to use email servers that have been and still may be sources of spam. This is a common drawback of blocking purely by IP address. Of course, any such sources identified are temporarily removed from our UITB system so as little legitimate email traffic as possible is blocked (more information on this further in this article).
Another drawback of the current UITB system is the identification of what exactly constitutes spam email. Certain mailing lists and automated distribution systems may operate acceptably to some people but not acceptably to others. Content of distribution may directly be a determining factor for each person to decide individually what is acceptable and what is not. And, in no way is Deep Sky Tech. in a position to judge what is acceptable and what is not in this regard.
We are currently developing additional functionality for the UITB system to address these exact problems. The first and most important problem to address is the capturing of all email attempts, even those that UITB determines as coming from known spam sources. And, making this available directly to the original recipient. This new functionality is in the final stages of development and will be online during the month of March. This should then solve the problem of possible legitimate email from being blocked and unrecoverable.
UITB.com: Spam Blocking Details (cont.)
To be clear about the current UITB system, the implementation currently in place is the most difficult of all feature sets. The lack of archiving, the lack of automated reporting functionality, and the inability for individual domain owners to customize the UITB block list for their preferences and usage all make it very limiting in its capabilities and flexibility.
This is why we are being very accommodating to temporarily removing any blocks that have been identified as spam source if they are also identified as sources of legitimate email traffic. Until the control of the UITB list can be customized by you for your own domains, there is no other reasonable approach.
This is why we also have made it the highest priority within Deep Sky Tech. to get the next pieces of functionality in place for the UITB system as quickly as possible. Best of all is knowing that the archiving functionality will be in place during this month.
Do continue to report all spams that you receive to our abuse reporting system for UITB. Detailed instructions for reporting spam are available on our web site at:
Also, a web site for the UITB system is under development. This web site will be located at:
This web site address is included in all UITB blocked email. For now, a very simple form for reporting inappropriate bounces is on the main page of the site. As more work is completed, this web site will contain complete policy, management, and descriptions of all matters pertaining to the UITB system and email in general.
Finally, thank you all for your support and understanding as these new spam handling systems are put into place. The problem of spam is a continuously growing issue that we do need to all work together to address. And, the patience, understanding, and efforts of all you are greatly appreciated.
The web log reports for all of our hosting customers had unfortunately been one of the items that had fallen a bit behind during the emergency development we have undertaken during December, January, and February. Though web traffic was still being captured during this time period, reports on this traffic were not available for any period after December 25th, 2002.
In early February, we have gotten caught up on making this data available to all customers. During that time, we also automated the last few steps of the log rolling systems at Deep Sky Tech. to make certain this is information available in a timely fashion once again.
We also corrected a couple of outstanding issues in the log rolling and log reporting systems that had been plaguing us for some time. A few more outstanding issues are close to being corrected, as well, once we verify the exact nature of the problem causing each.
We have also made a change to the log reports available online. As you already know, web log reports are available to most users in the SAME interface on our web site for all of the web sites you have hosted at Deep Sky Tech. Traditionally, there have been two formats available for web log reports: last time period was an automatically generated report for the last week available in HTML, and custom reports for any selected time period (week or month) available as PDF documents. The reports in each of these formats were exactly the same, the only difference being the format the reports were available as (HTML in our web site or PDF for you to download).
As of the end of February, the HTML format for web log reports has been removed. The exact same reports are available to you as PDF reports. As well, we are still archiving all previous reports generated as PDFs for your convenience. This change reduces considerably the amount of time to update the available logs in the log reporting engine. As well, standardizing the log reports all into a single format makes the management of the log reporting engine much easier for us as we move forward to bring this system up to date.
FTP (File Transfer Protocol) access for uploading and downloading files is not exactly the simplest matter for a lot of users. FTP usually requires special FTP software and not all users are familiar with the use of FTP client software.
Many months ago Deep Sky Tech. put into place a new interface on all of the servers for accessing FTP sites and FTP accounts through a completely web based interface. Due to the extremely new nature of this interface, we made it known initially to only a limited number of customers for testing. Now, we are making it known to all customers for use if you so choose.
First, an example of this new interface. 4D Zine is a free news, reporting and support site for 4th Dimension programmers that we manage at Deep Sky Tech. The web site itself is undergoing a much needed revamping of the design and content. But, the most valuable part of 4D Zine is the FTP site for accessing all manner of code samples, documentation, and archived content for 4D developers around the world.
The new interface for accessing an FTP site is available by using a slightly modified URL in a web browser:
For any domain that you can access using FTP, you can also use your browser by following the same formatting convention. Your FTP access information consists of a domain or hostname, usually of the form "ftp.yourdomain.com". This would be available as a web interface as "http://ftp.yourdomain.com:8000/". Secure access to this interface for individual accounts is available by following the Secure Login link on the main page and then supplying your FTP username and FTP password.
Try it out for your domain and let us know what you think. It is a wonderful new service available directly for all Deep Sky Tech. customers. And, as usual, there is no extra cost or configuration needed to use this new service.
The WebMail interface we have provided for many years is starting to really show its age. There definitely is a convenience of accessing your email from anywhere with nothing more than a browser. But, for most users, this can be more of a hassle than it is worth.
Limitations associated with any web based email client exist in our system, as well. This includes the inability to later access your email in your standard email client if it has been pulled into the web mail system. The limitations of a web based interface, and the lack of user interface controls, makes a web based email client too cumbersome to work with in many cases, too.
There is a very large prevalence of standard email client software that is freely available for use. And, mobile computers are even more common now than they ever were before. Most importantly, there are plenty of other free web based email client web sites available for use in case this is the preferred option by some users.
For all of these reasons, it does not seem a viable service to continue offering to clients. So, we will be discontinuing the web mail interface on our web site during the month of March. Specifically, on the weekend of March 13th and 14th, the web mail system on the Deep Sky Tech. web site will be removed.
Any users that are using the current web mail system, please transition your email out of the current system before removal of the service. If anyone needs help acquiring standard email client software, setting up standard email client software, or URLs to any of the free web based email sites available in the world, please contact Deep Sky Tech. and we will be more than happy to help in this endeavor.
As you can see from this issue of SNL, there is a series of service realignments going on. Much of it is the first steps required to streamline many operations internally at Deep Sky Tech. As well, they provide the fist steps in many of the systems upgrades that are nearing completion.
Lots of fun things going on right now and more fun things to come at Deep Sky Tech.
As always, if you have any questions about any of these items, feel free to contact us at your earliest convenience.
In the meantime, we are continuing to hunker down to try to catch up on our backlog of work.
Have a wonderful week.