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Meet the author:
Jill Olkoski

Jill has a MA in Clinical Psychology, a BS in Computer Science, and a BS in Mechanical Engineering.

She currently owns Aldebaran Web Design in Edmonds (near Seattle WA) and enjoys educating her clients on topics related to small business website design.

In Jill's previous life, she spent 17 years in the engineering and quality organizations of a Fortune 100 tech company.


Why Small Business Should Be Careful About using AOL For Business Email

August 10th, 2011

Should small business owners use AOL for their business email? Normally I strongly encourage clients who are getting a new website to use their domain based email as their business email address. So rather than having, I try to get them to use – or any email based on their website domain. Recently, two of my clients who wanted to use AOL had a strange thing happen.

Normally I use the PHP mail function on my contact forms. Very simple function, works like a charm, very reliable, simple to implement. Normally the recipient is an email address based on my client’s domain that we’ve set up. Every once in a while, it’s a gmail address. And just recently, it’s two AOL addresses.

Today, both AOL clients contacted me to say their contact forms, which we had tested and found to be working, had stopped working – they got no emails. They checked their spam folders, and nothing. The emails from their contact forms were simply nowhere, gone, vanished.

I’ve submitted a support ticket to DreamHost about this, as both clients are on the same email server – thinking, maybe it’s been blocked by AOL. But because of AOL (and Comcast’s) aggressive and hidden spam prevention, DreamHost doesn’t forward email AOL since 2006 or Comcast since 2006 as a policy. Now I’m wondering if using the PHP mail function, which sends out from a DreamHost mail server IP – should have the same rule.

But in general, you can find lots of people on the web who tell everyone who will listen not to use free (gmail, yahoo, hotmail) or ISP (AOL, Comcast, Verizon) as your business email.

Here’s one that has excellent reasons for not using AOL in particular:
Why Real Businesses should not use AOL as their Email Address

All the same reasons apply (except perhaps appearing a decade out of step) for not using a free email account or your internet service provider as your business email address.

Hopefully I’ll hear back from DreamHost soon (and I’ll update this post) – but I remain convinced the best way to have reliable and professional email from a small business website is to use a domain-based email address – even though it requires more effort on the part of the business owner to figure out how to receive that email. There are plenty of solutions like Outlook and Thunderbird (my personal choice).

Here are instructions on how to read your DreamHost email.

UPDATE: Both clients eventually received their emails, but days later – which for business email is totally unacceptable. Now both are switching to domain based email. DreamHost responded and said that yes, it’s possible that AOL was blocking or delaying these because it could detect them originating from DreamHost, and recommended this PHPMailer solution – thinking that if I used SMTP authentication it would be less likely to be blocked. However since I really believe small business website clients should not be using free email (like AOL, gmail, Comcast) for email, we are opting for the more professional and reliable approach of using domain based email.

J. Olkoski
Aldebaran Web Design, Seattle
Jill Olkoski has a BS in Engineering, a BS in Computer Science and an MA in Clinical Psychology. She delights in using her advanced technical and psychological skills to help small business owners develop cost-effective and successful websites.

One Response to “Why Small Business Should Be Careful About using AOL For Business Email”

  1. Jonathan Roy Says:

    Hi Jill, I’m glad to have found your blog post because I ran into a very similar problem. Some of my clients not getting the contact forms sent from the PHP script I had written because they went directly into the spam box. I now use a mail delivery network with an API such as SendGrid and it works like a charm. I didn’t have any problems since then.

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