Release Notes: January

Here at MxToolbox, we realized that simply releasing new features was insufficient.  We thought maybe you, our customers, might actually like us to tell you what we’ve accomplished. We’ll be doing this more often to help you find new things and new features.

The last month was a good start to the year.  Here a few things that we thought might interest you:

Free Tools

  • DNS Zone Protect Product page now has an AXFR lookup.  Return all the DNS entries for your domain in a single query is AXFR is enabled.  Get more information on DNS Zone Protect.
  • Bulk Lookup for Free Users.  A new link to the Bulk Lookup Tool is available via the toolbar on the homepage.
  • Time Zones are now properly respected for monitors and lookups.  There were some inconsistencies.

Paid Monitoring

  • Get better availability information on your monitors and adjustable date ranges.
  • Fixed Support link for Service Provider customers.
  • Service Provider customers can now have stacked notifications or individual transition notifications.
  • Corrected the way User defined filters worked.
  • Fixed a bug where some customers were not able to complete delisting requests.

As always, let us know if you have any Feedback!

New MxToolBox Monitoring Feature: Pausing Monitors

Sometimes, there comes a point when a server needs to be taken down for temporary maintenance. Whether you are monitoring that server for performance or availability, you more than likely don’t want to get inundated with down alerts or, worse,  go through the process of removing the monitor in order to stop the alerts – only to re-add it again later.

With that in mind, MxToolBox recently released a new feature for pausing your monitor. Whenever you need to take server offline, you can simply pause/disable your MxToolBox monitor until you are ready to bring the server back online.

To access this feature:

  • Select the monitor you wish to pause
  • Select the “Edit” tab
  • Choose “Disable Monitor”.

When you are ready to unpause your monitor:

  • Select the “Disabled” button in the status bar of your monitoring dashboard
  • Select your monitor
  • Click “Edit”
  • Select “Enable Monitor”

Bam! your monitor is now active again and ready to start tracking.

MxToolbox Use Cases: Firewall Setup

Testing Firewalls

Testing firewall setup can be a tricky business.  There are thousands of ports to scan and many types of options that make configurations complicated.  While MxToolbox can’t know every firewall and test every variation, we can give you tips on how to probe your firewall externally using our tools to see if everything is setup properly.

Pre-Test

Before you begin testing your firewall setup, you’ll want to make a few lists:

  1. Make a list of IP addresses and server names.  You should have two lists:  one for public facing servers that you want to be able to access and another for private servers that should not be externally facing.
  2. Make a list of ports that should be accessible on the firewall, based upon the types of servers you have that are public facing.
  3. You may also want to make a list of ports you absolutely want blocked for security reasons.  We have a few in our Portscan Tool.

Verifying Setup

During setup verification, you will run a series of tests against both your public IP addresses and private servers to ensure your firewall is appropriately blocking traffic and permitting only what you want.

  1. Run a port scan on your firewall.  This will tell you if most common ports are open
  2. Ping both lists of servers: IP addresses you want to be public and servers you don’t want to be public.
  3. Run a Traceroute to all public facing servers so you can be sure that traffic is running through your firewall.
  4. Run SMTP, HTTP, or TCP tests on all public facing servers for each port/service combination that the server will be running.  Alternatively, you could simply run a port scan for each server.

On-going Server Maintenance

On-going, you may want to ensure your firewall is open to the ports/services you have specified.  The best way to test this is through regular monitoring.

  1. Setup SMTP monitors for all mail servers behind the firewall
  2. Setup HTTP monitors for all web servers behind the firewall
  3. Setup TCP monitors for all other services on those servers.

Monitors are the best way to know immediately when a service or server goes down.  MxToolbox monitors are constantly probing your systems to check availability, giving you peace of mind knowing that you will know if something goes wrong.

MxToolbox Use Cases: Webserver Setup

Setting up a Web Server

Setting up a webserver for a new or existing domain can be a fairly trivial task with the right tools.  An administrator needs to balance configuring web server software, DNS setup, load-balancing, redundancy, and firewalls.  Here are few tools that might simplify your setup process:

Pre-Check

  1. Run a blacklist check on the IP addresses that you plan to use for your web server.  A blacklisted IP address should not be used for mail servers or web servers as this is an indication of potential fraudulent or spammer activity.

Verifying Setup

We’ll pick-up after you have assigned the IP addresses, and installed the OS and web server software.  From there you will want to verify that your server is up and running and accepting HTTP or HTTPS connects:

  1. Run an HTTP or HTTPS test on each IP that will accept email.  This will perform several tests against your server and give you results on your web configuration. HTTPS tests add a few additional areas related to configuration of the secure socket layer, including certificate checks.

Verifying DNS Setup

  1. Check that you have properly configured A records for the server(s).

On-going Server Maintenance

  1. Setup a web monitor on each IP that will serve as a web server.  This will perform several tests against your server and give you granular results on the status of your HTTP or HTTPS configuration.

Today, almost every online service runs off an HTTP or HTTPS backend.  Knowing that your services are up and running is incredibly important.  With MxToolbox Monitoring solutions, you can be sure that your services are up and performing while you concentrate on making them even better.

MxToolbox Use Cases: Setting up a Mail Server

Setting up a Mail Server

Setting up a new mailserver can be a time-consuming and error-prone process, especially if it involves setting up a server for a new domain.  An administrator needs to balance new email security configurations with DNS setup, redundancy and firewalls.  While these can greatly improve security and email deliverability, they can complicate setup.

Here are a few suggestions for using MxToolbox to ease your mail server setup:

Pre-Check

  1. Run a blacklist check on the IP addresses that you plan to use for your server.  A blacklisted IP address should not be used for mail servers.

Verifying your Setup

We’ll start after you have assigned the IP addresses, and installed the OS and email server software.  From there you will want to verify that your server is up and running and accepting email:

  1. Run an SMTP test on each IP that will accept email.  This will perform several tests against your server and give you results on your SMTP configuration.
  2. Check that the appropriate Email TCP ports are available and responding through your firewalls to these servers.
    1. SMTP on port 25
    2. POP on 110 and 995
    3. IMAP on 143 and 993
    4. Outbound SMTP on 587
    5. OWA on 443
  3. Run a Port scan to make sure other ports are shutdown

Verify your DNS Setup

  1. Check your MX records to ensure they are pointing to the new server.
  2. Check that you have properly configured A records for the server.
  3. Check the servers PTR records to ensure they point back to the domain.
  4. Check your SPF records on the domain.

Final Setup

  1. Send us a test message.  Our Email Deliverability report will give you an in-depth report on email headers, hops and more.
  2. Setup your user lists.  We have an Email Extraction tool that can help you assemble simple lists of email users for addition to your server.

Advanced Testing

You might decide to adopt additional standards to address email delivery and spam issues.  MxToolbox is excited to offer tools that can analyze the setup of both DKIM and DMARC standards.

  1. Check your DKIM setup.  This can be useful for email deliverability as signing emails with a DKIM key can reduce bouncebacks.
  2. Check your DMARC setup.  DMARC can improve email delivery as a fully configured record gives recipients the means to communicate issues with your email.  If you monitor your abuse post, you can uncover and remove issues that might cause blacklisting.

On-Going Server Maintenance

We encourage our customers to setup a regular maintenance plan for their email servers.  Realistically, load issues arise, as do DNS and firewall complications.  The best way to prevent these is to know about them before they take out your email.  Here are a few recommendations to keep your servers up and running:

  1. Setup a Blacklist monitor for each IP address.  Blacklisting can cause lingering email delivery issues.  You want to know when your servers have been blacklisted.
  2. Setup monitors for your email systems MX and A records for this email server.  Typically, these shouldn’t change, but a monitor will ensure you know immediately if something does change.
  3. Setup SMTP monitors for IP address of each server.  SMTP monitors will constantly check your servers to ensure they are up to send and receive email.
  4. Setup a Mailflow monitor for each server.  Our premium Mailflow monitor constantly checks the end-to-end health of your mailservers by measuring traffic flow through the server.  

Monitors give you peace of mind.  You’ll know immediately when there is a service slowdown or outage and be free to concentrate on other issues.  

How can I make full use of my MxToolbox account? Part 11, Add Premium Monitors

In this installment of our series on getting the most from your MxToolbox account, we’ll discuss our premium monitoring options and how they can save you time and money.

Consider Premium Monitoring Options

MxToolbox is constantly striving to develop tools and monitors that save time for IT professionals.  Most of our tools and monitors are included in our MxWatch monitoring packages, but a few are more complicated or require more infrastructure to support.  These are premium monitors that require an extra charge.

Domain Health Monitoring

As an online business, you have a domain; that pesky “.com” thing you run use as your online presence.  This domain has value to you:  It’s your name online.  It’s the location everyone uses to access your services.  It’s how people find you now that the Yellow Pages are a historical curiosity.  Since it’s so valuable, wouldn’t you like a regular report card on your domain that tells you how it’s doing?  That’s our Domain Health Monitor.

Domain Health analyzes your domain and automatically creates the monitors you need for your domain, including: Blacklist, DNS, SMTP and HTTPS monitors.  These monitors scan your domain frequently and report on any potential issues.  You get peace of mind your domain is accessible to your customers and prospects.

Mailflow Monitoring

If you’re running your own mail server, you probably have to deal with users complaining of missing messages, delays or messages not arriving at their destinations.  How mail is processed through your network and servers is important and can affect everything from customer satisfaction to actual sales.  An unanticipated outage could cost you money, time and customers, not to mention a few hours of work and the ire of everyone at the company.  That’s why we developed our Mailflow Monitor.  

MxToolbox Mailflow monitoring is an end-to-end monitor for how email flows through your mfgraphlarge_smallservers.  Every 5 minutes, we send you an email that is forwarded back to our servers.  We analyze the round-trip time and the headers to understand how the email flowed through your servers.  We give you a complete analysis and alert you when our messages reach certain performance thresholds.  You even get reports you can use for management.

DNS Zone Protect Monitoring

If you own a domain, you registered it at a domain registrar and then configured DNS records so that everyone on the Internet could find your website and send you email. Those records are vitally important for your domain to work properly.  DNS Zone Protect is a service from MxToolbox that monitors all of your DNS records for a domain, in real time, to make sure you know for certain that your DNS is working and that all of the information is correct.

DZPChangeSummaryDNS Zone Protect gives you two very powerful features in one simple service. If anyone, using any method, modifies any of your DNS records, you will know about it. This includes possibilities like a compromised DNS login, an attack against your DNS provider, or other possible security vulnerabilities on the DNS Servers. The method of attack doesn’t matter. If your records change, DNS Zone Protect will make sure you will know about it.

The other benefit DNS Zone Protect provides is a comprehensive change history of all your DNS records. This automatic communication is vital so that everyone on your team knows exactly what is being done, in real time. We also keep a histoDZPStatusrical account of changes which allows you to go back and see what your DNS records were at any point in time in the past.  DNS Zone Protect gives you peace of mind about all your DNS for that domain, not just the records you know about.

In the next in our series we will discuss use cases, specifically, how to verify setup of an email server using MxToolbox.

How can I make full use of my MxToolbox account? Part 10, Configuring Paid Monitoring

In this installment in our series on making the most of your MxToolbox account we discuss some best practices for configuring your paid monitors and introduce you to Quickwatch monitors.

Configure Paid Monitoring Options

With an MxWatch account you receive access to the MxToolbox Professional toolset and a number of a la carte monitors that you can use for Blacklists (including Domain blacklists), DNS, Mail, HTTP, or other TCP ports.  You can mix and match the types of monitors you use.  With these monitors, you also get an enhanced interface for managing the monitors that includes:

  • Add users to the account – Maybe you have a small team or a colleague with which you work.  Now you can share a single account and access and control your monitors.  The filters_exampleaccount owner can delegate or retain authority to edit or view monitoring information.
  • Use Tags – Have a large number of monitors or maybe monitors for specific groups within your organization?  Tags enable you to logically group monitors without renaming the monitor.
  • Create Custom Filters – Combined with tags, custom filters enable you to group monitors together in your view.
  • Setup Notification Policies – Once you’ve added users and tags, you might want to control how certain monitors alert you and your team.  Notification policies are highly granular ways of controlling how alerts notify you.

A combination of these items gives you everything you need to simplify notification of specific teams or team members in the event of an outage.

Setup Quickwatch Monitors

Have you ever made a change to DNS and then needed to know when it was finished propagating?  Have you ever needed to know when a VM image was finished loading and new services were available?  With our Quickwatch Monitors you can do that and more.  Quickwatch enables you to set a short-term (1 to 3 day) monitor that automatically expires.  During that time if the monitor detects a change, we alert you.  Since the monitor automatically expires, there’s no need for you to login and deactivate or delete the monitor, it stops tracking on its own.  Since Quickwatch Monitors are light and flexible, you get a larger number of them as part of your paid subscription. Use the on anything that is likely to transition quickly and it’ll save you time rerunning queries on the site.

In our next installment we will discuss premium monitoring options to make your job even easier.

How can I make full use of my MxToolbox account? Part 9, Paid Subscriptions

The latest in our series on getting the most out of your MxToolbox account discusses some of the benefits of a paid subscription.

Get a Paid Subscription

While most of our customers use MxToolbox for free (and we encourage that!), many of our customers need more monitors and monitoring options to make their work even easier.  MxToolbox offers affordable monthly subscription packages that include a flexible number of monitors (IP and Domain Blacklists, SMTP, TCP, DNS, HTTP/S) combined with advanced tools.

Advanced Tools

MxToolbox is committed to making life easier for Network, Email and Systems Administrators, people who work on IT infrastructure on a daily basis.  As part of that, we are constantly looking to add new tools that simplify repetitive work. (We hate doing the same thing every day too!)  Some of these tools may require a paid subscription, but we will never make our free tools paid.

Try DNS Batch Tool

The DNS Batch Tool is the first in our new line of premium tools, tools included with a paid DNSBatch_resultssubscription and featured in the Professional interface.  This tool enables you to input unstructured text and run batch DNS queries on the IP addresses contained therein.  This is particularly useful for someone analyzing an event log, say from an intrusion, or network routing tables.  The DNS Batch Tool saves you time pulling all the relevant IP addresses, sifting through them and then running multiple queries to determine what IP could be the problem.  We do it all in batch and even send you an email of the results, if you would like.

In our next installment, we will discuss the benefits of the additional monitoring options you receive with a paid account.

How can I make full use of my MxToolbox account? Part 8, Free Monitors

This is another in our series on getting the most from your MxToolbox account.  Today we discuss adding a free monitor.

Add your Free Monitor

When you register with MxToolbox, we give you a free monitor.  You can use this free monitor to monitor IP blacklists, SMTP, TCP ports, or HTTP/HTTPS.   Simply go to the Add Monitor page, and select the type of monitor you would like to add.

freemonitor_example

Note:  You may see options for Domain Blacklists, DNS, Mailflow and Domain Health monitors listed on this page.  These monitors require a paid subscription.

MxToolbox monitors constantly check the status of your servers and report any issue that might compromise your service.  There’s no need to periodically run lookups, we’ll let you know if something changes.  You can relax knowing that MxToolbox has your back.  We highly recommend that all free users register and setup a free monitor on whatever server they find the most important, troubling or time-consuming.

The best candidates for monitors are lookups that you perform often or are mission critical.  If you find yourself checking your email server daily for SMTP setup, then create a monitor.  If you are concerned about a blacklisting event stopping your business, add a monitor.

In the next installment, we will discuss the benefits of paid monitoring accounts.

How can I make full use of my MxToolbox account? Part 7, Network Tools

This is another installment in our series on getting the most from your MxToolbox account.  Today we discuss a few useful network tools.

Network Tools

There are times when you just need to check your network from outside.   Is this server detectable?  Did I leave the right port open on that firewall?  Is the service up and running?

More advanced setups, complex server or network configurations may require different tools.  MxToolbox has a suite of tools for testing servers on your network.

  • Ping – Use it to see if a server is accessible and “alive” to traffic from outside your firewall.
  • Traceroute – Check the number of hops and delay to your server from MxToolbox.com
  • TCP – Check a port on a server to see if a service is running.
  • Port Scan – Scan your server to see if various common ports are open to outside traffic.

MxToolbox has many more tools for network administrators but these listed above will get you started.

In our next installment, we will discuss free monitoring options.