What’s SMTP got to do with it?
Today’s post is going to be a short one, and very specific.
One of the most confusing things about setting up websites is getting email to work. Fortunately, if you’re using WordPress all the confusing stuff is hidden and most of the time you don’t even have to think about it. This has been my experience so far, I’m glad to say.
I use Plesk, which, as I think I’ve mentioned elsewhere, gets my prize for being the least intuitive interface yet devised by man (or woman, I hasten to add). Technically it’s probably excellent. Behind the scenes it does some pretty complex things with an absolute minimum of user intervention, but an unintended consequence of this is that much of the time one hasn’t the faintest idea what’s going on!
I hit this problem when I installed a simple but effective contact page plugin (‘Cleverwise Contact Page’). As part of the setup it asks you to enter the SMTP host, port and connection type. It offers default values which look quite sensible, and for all I know it might retrieve them from the system somewhere, but if you’ve set your site up under Plesk there’s no obvious way of knowing — apart from digging down into the plugin code.
I sent a message to Support asking for help and they replied:
Please check whether the ports used to configure the configure are correct.
Which, I must say, didn’t help a lot.
I tried to send some test emails from the contact page using the default settings (host = localhost, port = 25, connection = standard), and a few variations but all that happened was that I kept getting an error message to the effect that SMTP Connect had failed.
Hm. Impasse! I expect you know the feeling. Not only do you not know what to do, but you can’t see a way to find out what to do. Support didn’t seem to understand my question or even to be able communicate in comprehensible English, and I was at something of a loss.
Then I noticed that there was an additional page to the setup, on which it asked for a ‘From’ address and password, and helpfully pointed out that the address had to be accessible from the domain. Could it be, I asked myself, that all that SMTP stuff was a red herring? That the default values were good and didn’t need changing unless I had a definite reason to change them? Worth a try.
So I went back into Plesk and added an email address under the domain (I know — it should have been obvious!) and entered it (with its password) as the ‘From’ address. It worked.
So what’s the moral?
- Don’t panic.
- Make reasonable assumptions and test them
- Don’t always rely on Support!
That will do for today. More serious stuff tomorrow…