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Spam Tip: For sanity's sake, centralize your spam blocking.
As someone who's both part-time IT guy, and nearly full-time anti-spam warrior, I'll periodically encounter users who just can't find an email that they're positive was sent to them. They check where they think all their email blocked as junk lands, but they just can't find the message.
Often the problem is that their incoming email is subject to many, many different levels of message analysis. More often than not, they're not aware of all of them. Let's recap all the common places email can be blocked at.
Firewall or Router
Most people don't consider that their firewall or router may be preventing email sent to them from being delivered. While less common than other methods, some networks control spam via their incoming gateways.
An Anti-Spam Appliance
Anti-spam appliances work various ways. Sometimes these spam stoppers will act as a network bridge - relaying all traffic - except that which it thinks contains spam . Other times the appliance may act as a proxy to your email server. An appliance may use any number of different technologies to do its duties. Some appliances allow for recovery of blocked messages, while other do not.
Often I'll ask an ISP if they do any server-side message filtering, and they'll say no.
Then five seconds later, they'll correct themselves and say something like, "well, we don't do any content filtering - but we do use greylisting, the CBL blacklist, and an internally maintained blacklist."
To which I'll respond, "is that all?"
Greylisting and nolisting both cause email messages to be initially rejected before being ultimately delivered to the incoming email queue.
Content filters examine the actual message body for clues about if it's unsolicited or not. They may use simple text filtering, Bayesian logic or (my favorite) fuzzy logic.
As mentioned before, blacklists track networks and individual IP addresses of known bad guys.
There's a good chance your ISP or IT department is using some combination of the above. While some server-side filtering allows for end-user notification, the norm is not to tell the recipient about email that's been rejected. However, commonly the message sender will receive a "bounce" notice.
Client-side via your email client
Outlook, Thunderbird and Windows Mail all have their own junk detection systems which use whatever technologies their creators thunk up. By default, most of these applications will move email they don't like into a "junk" folder as opposed to just deleting them.
Client-side via dedicated anti-spam software
This includes programs like SpamButcher. I won't even get into all the little tricks SpamButcher uses to figure out what to nix before it goes to your inbox. SpamButcher and most other dedicated applications allow for easy message recovery.
The lesson here is that your missing email might be in one of a half-dozen different locations (if it still exists at all). If reliably receiving your email is important - talk with your ISP or system administrator about what systems they have in place. Even the best spam blockers will sometimes delete email you really wanted. Understanding where missing email may have gone is a logical first step.
If you're using a client-side application, disable Outlook's filtering, and see if you can have your ISP or IT department turn off server-side filtering for your account. They may not be able to disable filtering completely, but they may be able to "turn it down."
While having multiple filtering layers can in aggregate block more unsolicited email, it also makes hunting down email you've missed much harder. If reliably receiving messages sent to you is important, cutting down to just a single filtering mechanism may make your life easier.
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