That Didn’t Go Well

A little over a year after moving to HostGator, I’ve moved once again. I thought the hosting service would be an improvement over GoDaddy, which I had used for years. Instead, it was the same and an email spam nightmare.

I have two domains. One is written in Ruby and the other has some PHP along with WordPress, which is also written in PHP. That is this site. The reason why I wanted to move was that GoDaddy doesn’t support Ruby. When I inquired at HostGator, I was told they did. Since there were a lot of positive reviews for the provider, I decided to move there.

The PHP site was easy. They even helped me with setting up WordPress. They also tried to help me move my email. When I took a closer look at their Ruby support, it turned out they ran a very old version that is no longer supported and they had no plans to upgrade. This is on a shared server. You can have any version you want on their dedicated servers, you just have to pay a lot more for it. So I decided to install my Ruby site on a Digital Ocean droplet at $5 a month. A droplet is a dedicated Virtual Private Server (VPS). It was a lot of work as I had to build the server from the base operating system, Ubuntu in my case. Since Digital Ocean doesn’t have an email hosting service, I decided to leave my other site at HostGator to use their email services.

While I was at GoDaddy, I received very little spam, maybe one or two a week. I have a large collection of email addresses that I distribute across the large number of web site I access. When I first moved to HostGator. I received the same amount of spam as I did at GoDaddy. After a few weeks, the spam started pouring in on one of my addresses. I deleted that address. A day or two later, the spam started comming in on another address. There was no stopping it. I tried using Spam Assasin that comes with the server. It only caught a few of them.

My only choice was to run spam softare on my Mac. SpamSieve was well reviewed and caught almost all of it. After not emptying out my spam folder for a month or two because of a problem email, it had over 9,000 items in it.

What finally did it for me was a new type of spam that SpamSieve couldn’t catch. The text of the message looks like a normal email. It’s the attachment that contained a virus. To make it worse, this spam started comming in on email addresses I rarely use. I was afraid that all my addresses would eventually be found and sent to spam hell.

There only seems to be two likely scenarios for the discovery of my email addresses: they are being captured in transit or HostGator has been hacked. My move to HostGator could have been coincidental to improved methods of capturing email addresses in transit so I don’t know which it would be. I doubt it’s a virus or bot on my Mac as they are rarely targets of hackers. A test would be to move to a new provider and then see if any other addresses started receiving spam.

I choose Google Apps of which gmail is a part. They had the most positive reviews. My second choice was RackSpace, but according to reviews, their service is going down hill. The Google plan was more expensive. It comes with a full office suite and cloud storage. I have no need for the products at the moment, but it’s nice to know they are there. I already have a free gmail account. The reason I got the paid one is that I wanted to use my own domain as the address. I also wouldn’t have to go to 100 or so web sites to change my addresses.

The set up was easy. The hard part was narrowing done my 46 alias’ to 30, which is their limit. After some house cleaning I was moved over. I changed my MX records to direct my email to Google and waited. It was quiet. Finally a few valid emails tricked in. All the spam that SpamSieve was filtering out for me didn’t even make it to my email client. All the troublesome generic emails with the virus were sent to my Junk folder my inbox was spam free. The only thing I’ve had to do is check the junk folder from time to time to whitelist some email advertisements that I like to at least see before deleting.

The last project was to move my PHP domain. I was able to select a preconfigured server from Digital Ocean’s large list. Everything worked right out of the box. All I had to do was copy over the web pages and import the WordPress database. It was up in less than a day.

While changing my settings on Hostgator, I noticed they now offer Google Mail at $5 a month, the same price I paid directly. I guess they have given up on their own offering as well.

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