Email Scout

This page was last modified 05:42, 29 January 2007.

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How we monitor Email

Functional Software ensures that the mail server processes are running on your mail server machine. We currently offer checks for pop3, smtp and imap services.

We also offer a "round-trip" email monitoring service. This tests that your mail server is effectively communicating with the rest of the world.

In all instances, a remote testing email address is required for returning our test email. For Linux/Unix and Exchange Email monitoring, any mail that is received by the test account is not kept, so using an existing email account is not recommended.

Functional Software collects three data points in measuring the Round Trip Email time. The start time, the time the email is generated to be sent back to our servers, and the time it is received by our reception script. As a general rule, we only use the total Round Trip time (Receive Time - Start Time) to generate metrics, as we cannot guarantee that all servers will be synchronized with regard to time.

We do attempt to get around Timezone limitations by obtaining either:

The time in Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), on platforms where this is an option


The timezone offset (this is generally the offset from Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) which, while very close to UTC, is not exactly the same thing.

However, neither of these are foolproof methods, as the time on a given server may be given to time slipping, or may simply be incorrectly set at the very start. Therefore, we cannot base our calculations on the time given by a remote machine. In order to achieve the greatest possible time accuracy, all machines on which we run the Email Monitoring Knowledge Base are synchronized with a remote time server every hour.

If we were to include the remote time data, and it were not set correctly, the information would appear to have either a very large outgoing leg, and a negative incoming leg tim, or vice versa

We do log the data for each of the legs, but have found that the potentially large positive and negative numbers were making things too confusing. Therefore by default it is not displayed in graphs.

Functional Software cannot offer support on how to create a new user, as it varies greatly depending on the type of mail server, security settings and environment required for each site.

By default, we measure the time taken for an email Round Trip every 20 minutes. The default timeout is set to 10 minutes, with a slow warning if an email takes between 2 and 10 minutes to arrive. We have found that this suits most customer needs for email monitoring, but as with all of our sentinel3G based products, everything is configurable on a per-item basis.

Similarly, the default notification is to wait for a timeout (10 minutes), then wait 30 seconds and fire another test. If this also times out, the notification is triggered. This would normally be by SMS, as generally email notification of email failure is a bad ides. The details of SMS notification would be covered in your support agreement. These settings mean that the 'maximum' amount of time your email system would be down before notification is less than 41 minutes. This assumes that your email delivery went down immediately following Test1, and was still down for Test2 (20 minutes between Test1 and Test2, plus 10 minute timeout) and Test3 (30 second wait time, plus 10 minute timeout).

As well as the double testing safeguard, to make sure it was not merely a system glitch that caused the missed email, if your monitoring contract supports it, your email will be monitored from multiple remote systems. At least two of which need to be in agreement that there is an issue of mail not being delivered before triggering a notification.

Functional Software currently supports Email Round Trip monitoring under Unix/Linux (using the .forward feature), MS Windows servers running Exchange 2003, and MS Windows servers running the Imail mail server. If you are using something other than the Email systems mentioned here, please contact Functional Software and we may be able to organize something to help you.

Email Round Trip Monitoring for Unix/Linux

The round-trip email monitor is set up under Linux/Unix using the .forward feature of your mail system. The Functional Monitoring server sends a specifically constructed email to an address that the end-user has created for the purpose of monitoring. We recommend using a name that is easily remembered, such as webscout@company.com or something similar.

The mail server machine that is being monitored does not need to have Functional Software's COSmanager suite installed on it, but a service contract for email monitoring is required. Also, at this time, the email monitoring service does not cover IP Address based email systems.

When editing the .forward file of the chosen email user, you will need to add the line below:


This will run the script, but not retain the original message. This ensures that your users mailbox is not filled with unnecessary messages. If you would like to retain the messages, the .forward file becomes:


This script email_return verifies that the email is originating from Functional Software. If it does come from our monitoring service, it adds a system timestamp to the Subject line of the email, and returns it to the email monitor address. The timestamp is called in UTC format. It is not, however, used in the monitoring metrics, as there is no guarantee that the time on your remote server and the time on our monitoring server will be in synch.

Once the remote email address is set up, we can start monitoring almost immediately.

When the returned email is received by our monitoring email account, another script builds the information required to measure the round-trip email time, and reports that to the sentinel3G Agent.

Email Round Trip Monitoring for Imail

Many thanks to John Treen from Canning College for this workaround for Windows Imail

The following instruction will guide you through the installation and setup of the Imail Email Return Application for use with our Email Round Trip Monitoring Service

  1. Place Imail Email Return.exe somewhere on your hard disk
  2. Copy vbSendMail.dll to your System32 folder
  3. Load a Command Prompt Window (cmd) and run:
    • regsvr32 %SYSTEMROOT\System32\vbSendMail.dll
  4. Load the Imail Administrator
  5. Expand the folders and navigate to your server name
  6. Right click on the Aliases folder and click Add Alias
  7. At the New Alias ID screen enter your desired monitoring email address (for the rest of the example we will assume you used webscout)
  8. At the Type of Alias screen select Program and click Next
  9. At the Program Alias screen enter the Program name and Arguments like:
    • <Path_to_Application>\IMail Email Return.exe <MAIL_SERVER_ADDRESS> <FROM_ADDRESS>
    • For Example:
      • C:\Imail\Imail Email Return.exe localhost support@fs.com.au
  10. At the Create New Alias Screen click the Finish Button
  11. The address should be set up and ready to go.


The Imail Email Return.exe program can take up to three command line parameters

The filename and path is automatically appended to the end of the arguments list by Imail when it calls the application. You can also leave the IP/Host and E-Mail address parameters blank and they will be populated with the default values, but it is recommended that you provide them.

The executable can be called in the following three ways:

The vbSendMail program is NOT developed or supported by Functional Software
For more information about the vbSendMail program, please visit vbSendMail at www.freevbcode.com

Email Round Trip Monitoring for Exchange

There are two possible ways to enable the Functional Software Round Trip Email Monitor for Exchange. Using Agents, or using Event Sinks. The easiest to set up and use is the Event Sink, but many older installations of Exchange do not support this method. These servers must use the Agent Method.

In both cases, the result and email that is returned are the same. The main difference between the two sinks is merely the way that data structures are called internally.

In order of operation, these scripts:

  1. Obtain the local time of the machine
  2. Attempt to get the timezone offset from the Windows Registry
    1. If successful, apply the offset to the date
  3. Creates a mail message containing required information from the received mail
  4. Adds the Time stamp obtained above
  5. Sends the new email to the specified return address
  6. Halts delivery of the incoming email.

Functional Software provides a package (.ZIP archive) containing all the files and scripts necessary to install this method. The package contains the following files:

Event Sink Method

This is the easiest method for installing the Round Trip email monitor. It requires the target machine to have the cscript utility installed. Cscript is the Windows Command Line Script Host command (Microsoft Page for Cscript)

If a user already exists to receive the email from the Monitor Script, simply run the Installer File, after reading the instructions.

If a user email account has not already been created for the Event Sink Monitor to use; In Active Directory Users and Computers (U&C): create a new account, specify a password, mark it to never expire and user cannot change. To use the Event Sink method, a mailbox is not required, although it can be created with no harm done to the setup. Then, as Administrator run the Installer file to set it all up.

The VBScript that is used to install the Event Sinks is NOT developed or supported by Functional Software
The script is available from Microsoft via either the MS Support website, or in the Exchange SDK (also available from the MS website)

Mailbox Agent Method

The easiest way to install the Email Round Trip Monitoring for Exchange (Agent) is to set up a new user to monitor, and automatically forward email for that user to a Public Store that has our Round Trip script installed against it.

This has the benefit of not requiring any special permissions for an other non-used Exchange user. It does require certain permissions for the Administration account used to create the agents however.

As this is no longer a recommended install path for Email Round Trip Monitoring, instructions for installing this method have been moved to: Agent Installation

Due to the nature of the Exchange Agent setup, sometimes it can take as long as a minute (60 seconds) to return a result to our monitoring email. This delay should be taken into consideration when looking at your Round Trip metrics.
We have no way of knowing how long it actually takes between the arrival of the email and the running of the agent.

Information we Require

Once you have entered into an email monitoring service agreement with Functional Software, we will ask you to provide us several pieces of information:

* Please note that notification and escalation details are dependent upon the level of contract you undertake.