This article describes the requirements and options for sending bulk email at Virginia Tech.
What is bulk email?
Bulk email at Virginia Tech is defined as sending the same email message to 100 or more people.
If you are planning to send bulk email (or employing a 3rd party to send bulk email), you must follow the requirements outlined in this article to help protect the Virginia Tech email service. If your method fails to meet these requirements, this may result in your messages being discarded, your email service being temporarily disabled, or your Virginia Tech internet connection being blocked to prevent further damage to the email service for others until you address any identified issues.
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How can I send bulk email?
There are several university-approved solutions for bulk email. Using these solutions will ensure that your message is received by the intended audience and follows the requirements listed below.
|Virginia Tech Daily
||Broadcasts a daily email to employees and students
||Communications and Marketing
||Reaches the entire university community by default
||Limited space available for message content
||A full featured customer relationship management (CRM) service with many options, including bulk email, address management, automatic archiving, tracking, and access control
||Business App & Integration Services
||Fully featured service with many options
||Steep learning curve to use
||Email Campaign (Adobe Campaign) (vt.edu)
|Enterprise Directory (ED Groups)
||Create and manage groups from members present within Enterprise Directory. Google Groups can be created and populated from ED groups.
||Managment of the ED group automatically updates the associated Google Group
||Limited to people within Enterprise Directory
||Enterprise Directory (ED) groups
||Create and manage groups with both Virginia Tech and non-Virginia Tech members. Can be used for both bulk email and membership management with other Google features.
||Collaborative Computing Solutions
||Handles both Virginia Tech and non-Virginia Tech addresses
||Difficult to add lots of members
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How to avoid problems
If you are sending bulk email using a different method than the solutions outlined above, then you must ensure your solution meets all the requirements outlined below.
- Timing and flow rate:
- Messages should be sent between 11:00 p.m. – 5:00 a.m. to avoid peak email hours at the university
- Messages should be sent at an approximate rate of one per second to avoid overwhelming the Virginia Tech email service
- Use an approved Virginia Tech software application: The software you use for sending must be vetted and approved by IT Software Procurement
- Proper message structure: Message structure must comply with standard email protocols and not spoof the From, To, or Reply-To address
- Routing control: Email programs should properly respond to routing instructions from Domain Name Servers (“obey MX records”)
- Sent from subdomain: If you are sending from a subdomain as part of your communication and branding strategy (e.g., service.vt.edu, department.vt.edu. etc.,) email programs should be set up to send from a DNS subdomain of @x.vt.edu and not the root (@vt.edu). These subdomains need to be configured first with the proper DNS configuration to ensure the 3rd party email is not identified as spam. Contact the Division of IT via 4help to discuss how to do this before sending for the first time.
- Give people an easy, reliable way to get off your list: Make it easy for people to opt-out of receiving your messages so they can maintain control of their email. Provide an email address that “unsubscribe” requests can be sent to, a web form they can fill out and submit, or a phone number they can call. In some cases, you may not want to give your recipients the option of getting off the list, such as in work situations where you want all staff in a department to receive work-related notices. Such transactional or relationship messages, if they are not misleading or deceptive, are not covered by the anti-spam laws.
- Comply with state and federal anti-spam laws: Bulk email sent from the Virginia Tech must comply with state and federal anti-spam laws including:
- Do not falsify any information in the message, such as in From, To, or Subject fields.
- Primarily commercial email must conform to the requirements of the federal CAN-SPAM act.
These requirements are designed to ensure the success of your bulk email communications. Improper bulk sending of email is a violation of acceptable use at the university and may result in your messages being discarded, your email service being temporarily disabled, or your Virginia Tech internet connection being blocked to prevent further damage to the email service for others.
If you do not understand these requirements or if your software does not seem to offer a way to address them, please contact the Division of IT before proceeding (via 4help, 4help.vt.edu).
Other common bulk email problems to avoid
You can help Virginia Tech and yourself by taking the following precautions:
- Clean up your email address list: Messages with bad addresses are bounced back to the sender. You should immediately remove all such addresses from your email list. Many internet service Providers (ISPs) assume email with bad addresses is sent by spammers and thus will use such messages as proof that the originating site should be blocked.
- Send to people who want your message: Try to identify people who are likely to want your message. The more your message goes to people who do not want it, the more they will block or filter out similar messages from you (or anyone else at the Virginia Tech) in the future. Look for ways people can choose to be on your mailing list (voluntary opt-in) rather than putting them on a list with the choice of getting off the list (involuntary opt-out).
- Avoid sending lengthy messages or large attachments: Large messages sent to many people will occupy large amounts of storage space on the Virginia Tech email system. A better way to make large texts and documents available is to put them on a website and send the URL to your audience.
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Frequently asked questions
- How can I design my messages so they will not be filtered out by spam filters? The criteria for determining spam scores are always changing as spammers try new tactics and spam filter writers come up with methods to counter them, so there is no guaranteed, simple answer. You can check the spam score of a message by sending it to an address at Virginia Tech and then viewing the seeing if it is filtered as Junk. Keep in mind that delivery of email is not guaranteed. Aggressive anti-spam and anti-virus methods used by ISPs often discard good messages.
- Can you just allow-list my email\vendor? It is not best practice to simply allow any specific sender unverified access to user’s mailboxes. Virginia Tech’s email environment is a sophisticated combination of multiple vendors that will not necessarily honor these bypass requests. Spam email scoring is a multifaceted operation in which email is scored at multiple layers (in-transit, at vendor, in mailbox) which cannot be centrally controlled. Therefore, we cannot accept requests to allow-list or block-list specific email addresses or vendors.
- My email is important! Why do people filter it out? There are many reasons:
- Rivers of spam: Everyone’s email is being assaulted by torrents of spam. Currently, about 50 percent of the email arriving at the Virginia Tech (30 million out of 60 million messages a month) is spam (as identified by spam scoring systems).
- Dangerous email: People have good reason to be wary of unexpected email. Some of it is fraudulent or dangerous. Some messages try to coax recipients into entering personal information by pretending to be official messages from reputable organizations (a form of fraud called “phishing”). Other messages carry dangerous computer viruses. Some messages simply verify your email address. If you respond to the message in any way (such as clicking on an opt-out button), and your address is sold to spammers as a “proven” address.
- Security experts tell them to: Because of viruses in email and vulnerabilities in email programs, email services (including the Division of IT) strongly advise everyone to be careful about how they respond to any unexpected messages. Common advice is to never buy from companies that spam, do not click on any link in a spam message, and do not respond to opt-out offers unless you trust the message sender.
- How do spam filters know which messages are spam? Users tell them. With many email systems the recipient of an unwanted message can just click a “Report As Spam” or “Junk” button indicating they do not want the message or others like it. Future messages with similar characteristics will be filtered out. The result is that the more you send email to people who do not want it, the more messages like yours get filtered out by everyone’s spam filters. Also, internet addresses that are the source of large amounts of email that users consider to be spam are often categorically blacklisted by email services.
- Can I use an email marketing program on my own computer? While they may seem attractive because of features like email list management, use of desktop email marketing programs is strongly discouraged for several reasons:
- The same programs are used by spammers. Your messages will be given high spam scores simply because they were sent with such a program.
- Many email marketing programs do not conform to the guidelines listed above, particularly in timing, flow rate, and flow control, and therefore are likely to create problems for the Virginia Tech email infrastructure.
- Our email solutions providers (Google and Microsoft) strongly enforce email sending policies that weigh heavily against sending bulk email from individual’s accounts. Any significant amount of bulk email sent from your account will most likely cause your account to become locked and disabled until you submit a request for re-enablement.
- For further information about the use of such programs please contact 4help.vt.edu
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Keywords: bulk, bulk email, spam, group email, mass email, can-spam