Tips on How to Find Out Where Your Email is Being Hosted
Since the company hosting your website may or may not be hosting your email, it might be a little confusing to track down who an email host / provider really is. Add to that these numerous spam/junk email cleaning services out there, who temporarily get your email to clean it up and then send it back to you and figuring out who an email host is can be downright confusing.
This article gives some tips and ways to find out where an email address is hosted. I’m giving you the non-geek ways first and then the geek ways. Both get you about the same results so that you know where your domain name’s email is hosted.
A Quick Understanding of Email
Before moving on, please make sure you understand a few things (this will help you):
- All your email is at one host – it’s not divided up. For example, email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org all use the same hosting company. You cannot have multiple companies hosting your email.
- Email can be web-based or client-based. Web based is like GMail. You use your web browser to view it. Client-based is like using Outlook, Apple Mail or Thunderbird – it’s a separate program you start and it’s not in your web browser.
- If you use client-based email, you may have different sending and receiving hosts. You may login to one host to check/receive email and another host to send email.
- Your receiving email host is either using POP3 or IMAP.
- Your sending email host is using SMTP.
- If you’re keeping your email on the server and checking it from multiple locations or devices, then you’re probably using the IMAP protocol (incidentally, web-based email works this way, too).
- If you’re downloading your email every time you check it and clearing it off the server, then you’re using POP3 as the protocol (or “way”) you’re using email.
- Email can also be forwarding from one place to another, so make sure you’re checking for things like that.
Email can be a little tricky but there is a path you can follow and get answers, so don’t give up!
The 4 ways are below… scroll on!
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1. The Non-Geek Way: Use MX Lookup to Find Out Who is Hosting Your Email / Server
If you do not have access to a Linux shell (you’re not a geek), then you can go to this website and check here:
MX Lookup (mxtoolbox.com)
Just type in your domain name there and it’ll give you lots of information about your domain name and email.
You’ll see who the host is. Click on the IP address for more information and you should see the host and this will help you determine your email host:
2. The Geek Way: Start With the Domain Name
First, always start from the beginning. Start with the domain. Do a “whois” to find out which name servers (DNS) are being used with this domain.
You will see this in the results:
Name Server: NS.RACKSPACE.COM Name Server: NS2.RACKSPACE.COM
There are 2 or more name servers listed usually as there is a primary server and secondary server. Very often, where you have your DNS is where you have other things like your website hosting and email, so this is a valuable clue.
I also have an article here about how to tell who is hosting your website and you might want to read that one as well.
3. Check DNS (Domain Name Service)
Second, check the MX record, which says where email goes. If you have a Linux shell available (or the Terminal app on a Mac), run this command:
dig tonyherman.com mx
It will report back the domain name and IP address of the server that is handling email, which looks like this:
TonyMacbookPro:~ tony$ dig tonyherman.com mx ; <<>> DiG 9.8.3-P1 <<>> tonyherman.com mx ;; global options: +cmd ;; Got answer: ;; ->>HEADER<<- opcode: QUERY, status: NOERROR, id: 39325 ;; flags: qr rd ra; QUERY: 1, ANSWER: 1, AUTHORITY: 0, ADDITIONAL: 0 ;; QUESTION SECTION: ;tonyherman.com. IN MX ;; ANSWER SECTION: tonyherman.com. 86400 IN MX 10 tonyherman.com. ;; Query time: 50 msec ;; SERVER: 10.0.1.1#53(10.0.1.1) ;; WHEN: Fri Apr 1 20:13:47 2016 ;; MSG SIZE rcvd: 48
In this case, email is handled by the server that hosts the tonyherman.com domain name. This would mean it’s the same as the website host.
See if that matches where the website is hosted – to find that out, just run this command:
(In all these examples, don’t use “tonyherman.com” but use your domain name, of course)
If these two match up, then your email is hosted in the same server as your website, like I explained.
4. If All Else Fails: Talk to Your Website Host
If you still don’t know who is hosting your email for your domain name or if you can’t do what’s listed above, talk to your website host. They should know or be able to help you figure out where the email portion of your domain name is being sent to.
It might be them or it might be at another place (company) but they should be able to tell you.
The email host for a domain name can be on a different server than your website server (email and web can be different servers). Sometimes hosting companies have to move things around to make them work better, so this happens from time to time.
If you’re not sure who your website host is or server is, there are a few ways to find out:
- Check your credit card or bank statements – who are you paying?
- Check with your website design company – they might know.
- Check with your IT support department – they should know.
Be creative and do some digging. The answers are out there. Don’t give up but just figure the problem out.
That’s about it. If you have problems with email, then contact your email host and see how they can help you and tell you who is hosting your email server.
If you need help with your SMTP server, then here’s a good article about that.
If you have any more tips about how to find where email accounts are being hosted, please leave them below and please share this article.
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