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Serial mails and SPF entries

If you want to send a serial mail, SoSci Survey may warn you about a “SPF record” for the address of the sender. SPF stands for Sender Policy Framework and means that it has been defined which mail servers are allowed to send e-mails with your sender address.

For example, if you had the sender address name@example.com. Now, of course, the company behind example.com does not want spammers or fraudsters to send e-mails with their sender address. Technically this would be easily possible, therefore SPF records were constructed. Such an SPF entry for example.com could, for example, specify that only the company example.com´s mail server, which has the IP address 203.0.113.7, may send e-mails for this domain.

If you now send a serial mail via SoSci Survey, it will be sent by default via the mail server of SoSci Survey. This does not match the SPF entry, therefore a spam filter classifies the recipient's e-mail as a fraud attempt. This is usually not beneficial for the response rate. Different solutions exist here.

Generic sender address

The simplest solution is to send the serial mail not via your own mail address, but with a mail address from SoSci Survey (e.g. mailer@soscisurvey.de).

  • As sender your name or your company´s name is still displayed in the serial mail, e.g. first name surname mailer@soscisurvey.de and
  • Your e-mail address will be displayed as the reply address in the serial mail (reply-to), so that replies to the e-mail will automatically go to your e-mail address and not to SoSci Survey.

You can select the generic e-mail address in the serial mail directly (Send invitationsSerial mail → select the serial mail on the right).

Auswahl der Absenderadresse in Serienmails

Use SMTP server

SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) is often used as the protocol for sending e-mails. E-mail programs use this protocol to contact a mail server in order to send e-mails. SoSci Survey can also use SMTP to send serial mails via “external” mail servers.

Of course, no company wants spam and phising to be sent via its own mail server. This is why access to mail servers is protected. For example by username and password.

If you use a Freemailer (gmx.de, web.de, gmail.com, …) or the mail server of a university, then you should not send serial mails with it. There are two reasons for that. First, there are almost always strict limits for sending mail. The university mail server maybe only allow 50 emails per day and user account. After all, the university does not want a stolen user account to be used to send spam on a large scale. Secondly, one should never enter one's own mail account in SoSci Survey, because the access data is stored unencrypted (see below).

Entering an SMTP server under Survey project in the Project settings in the Specials tab at SMTP server for serial mail dispatch is especially useful for companies. If your company has its own mail server, you can create a new user account there, which can send the required number of e-mails.

SMTP-Server für den Versand von Serienmails eintragen

Enter the SMTP server and the access data and test whether the dispatch works. If everything is correct and the mail server does not block SoSci Survey due to other filters (e.g. IP address), then “OK” is displayed below and you will receive a test mail to the e-mail address of your user account.

Warning: The password for the mail account is stored unencrypted and (to emphasize this again) displayed in plain text. It is therefore essential that you use a separate e-mail account, which is only used for serial mailings and can be deleted once the survey has been completed.

Warning: Notifications about invalid e-mail addresses (“Undelivered Mail Returned to Sender”) are not sent to the mail server of SoSci Survey, but to your mail server. Therefore SoSci Survey cannot mark the incorrect e-mail addresses in the address list as such.

Warning: Clarify the dispatch via a mail server with your IT department. Otherwise, a security mechanism might wonder about the large number of emails “from outside” and block the user account.

Tip: If you operate your own survey server, you can enter an SMTP server globally for all survey projects in the server settings in the tab serial mails.

Change SPF entry

Another option would be to adapt the SPF entry to your own domain. You could enter the mail server of SoSci Survey as the legitimate sender for your own mails. However, this option is usually not recommended:

  • The own IT department will not be enthusiastic if the SPF entry is to be changed.
  • In principle, there is a risk that other users of the survey server will send e-mails on behalf of your company. This risk is limited because SoSci Survey validates the email addresses of user accounts, but does not completely exclude them.
en/survey/mailing-spf.txt · Last modified: 19.09.2019 14:31 by margaux.mohnke
 
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