10 X the traffic = some site hiccups

Let’s start with the good news: we are getting TEN TIMES our normal traffic today!

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This means we have the necessary traffic to reach our goal of increasing sales by 10 times (as part of the previously announced “Perfect 10 Black Friday Special”).

As for the not so good news, as you may have noticed, there have been some site issues today.  Please know that we are working very hard to resolve them all and expect to be fully up to speed very soon!

Even so, please don’t hesitate to contact our Customer Relations Department if you need help with anything.  You can reach us until midnight tonight at staff@comc.com or by 1-800-517-3540. Here are our Extended Customer Service Hours. Thank you for your patience!

How to unblock email sent by Exchange 2007 SP1

We finally traced down why our customers have not been reliably getting emails sent by our web server. It turns out that this started happening after Exchange 2007 SP1 got installed. Basically email sent from our web server, relayed through our exchange server, was getting blocked by Exchange’s content filtering.

This is the exception that was getting thrown by our call to System.Net.Mail.SmtpClient.Send(MailMessage message).

System.Net.Mail.SmtpException: Mailbox unavailable. The server response was: 5.7.1 Message rejected as spam by Content Filtering.

Here are the steps we followed to fix the issue.
– Open Exchange Management Console
– Expand Organization Configuration
– Select Hub Transport
– Select the Anti-spam tab
– Double-click Content Filtering
– Select the Custom Words tab
– Specify some word that is included in every email sent out to prevent
– Click Apply

Now our webserver can reliably send emails!

Getting email to go to aol.com addresses

At last… I found the needle in the haystack. Wow, what a pain. We got our new email server all configured about 10 days ago, and it seemed to be working great for just about everyone. However, no one from with an aol.com email address was getting our emails.

After many many hours of searching I finally traced down what the issue was. This forum post from tek-tips.com was very helpful.

Quick Summary
AOL required reverse DNS to be configured for the IP address that is sending the email messages.

Full Details
This had all been configured correctly with our old email server, but when we migrated the the new email server, I had to change some of our firewall settings. The email server happens to accept request from a couple different IP addresses. So it was successfully receiving emails that were routed through mx1.checkoutmycards.com, but when it was sending emails it happen to go out through a different IP address.

I realized this by doing a “What is my IP” search and seeing that it didn’t match mx1.checkoutmycards.com. All I had to do was change one firewall setting so that outgoing emails got sent through the same IP address as the one that had reverse DNS configured.

I even created an @aol.com email address just to test the scenario and make sure things worked. Hopefully all of you at aol.com can now receive our emails.

Using technology to improve service

This morning at 5:49AM PST I got a text from one of my employees that the site appeared to be down.

Sure enough our firewall was having issues and needed to be rebooted. Everything is back up and running fine now.

For a while I have been having http://mon.itor.us follow our site to track any down time. Since there haven’t been any issues is a very long time, I never spent the time to configure their setting to actively notify me of any down-time. So I went ahead and configured it so that I would get notified through email and text messaging if the site ever goes down. Normally they charge extra for text messages, but they offer free Twitter messages and Twitter offers free text messages… so that is a nice trick to get free text message of site status.

Now I should get notified pretty quickly if the site ever has connectivity issues, and I can make sure that you have as little down-time as possible.

You can now follow us on Twitter to get the latest updates on things related to CheckOutMyCards.com.

CheckOutMy: Due Dates?

Lately we have noticed we have been getting a few questions about due dates so we thought we would try and answer a few questions about how the due dates work, why CheckOutMyCards due dates have been behind lately, why some orders finish faster than others, and how you can get your orders up as fast as possible.

How do the due dates work?
Here at CheckOutMyCards.com we use estimated due dates from 2-4 weeks for standard processing. These due dates are our best estimate of how long we think it will take to process your cards but are not a guarantee how long it will take. Please keep in mind these due dates are based on a few factors like how many orders are ahead of your cards, how many cards are in those orders, how many cards are in your order, how long they will take to sort, and how hard they are to identify. All cards start our process based on the date received but along the way some of these factors will effect if that actual due date will be met on time or if it might be required to take a little more time.

Why has CheckOutMyCards due dates been behind lately?
In December a major snow storm blew threw Washington state which then turned into major flooding in January that shut down our area and kept most CheckOutMyCards.com employees home for more than a week. Even through the shut down we have continued record growth in sales and the amount of cards to be processed.

Why do some orders finish faster than others?
We find out along the way through that some cards take more time than others.

What makes my order take more time than others?
There are many reasons for what makes your order take longer than others.
Here is just a few:

  • Were your cards sent in screw downs or top loaders?
  • How long will it take to sort them?
  • How hard are they to identify?
  • How hard is it to find pricing information for them?

What can i do to get my order get processed the fastest?
Using the express service is the best way to get your cards processed the quickest but if you are using the standard standard service here are some tips:

  • Clearly mark your user name on or in the package.
  • Carefully count the cards and include that count with the package.
  • Take all of the cards out of any screw down and top loaders and follow our instructions for how to ship the cards to us securely.
  • If you feel like you can securely get the cards to us without any penny sleeves as well, that is the best.
  • Try grouping all of the cards that are from the same set together.
  • If the cards are all over the map, try to group cards from the same player together.

Thank you to all our our amazing customers for all of your understanding and patience,
CheckOutMyCards.com Team

Website hiccup this morning

Sorry about the website slowness and sporadic down-time this morning. For some reason, Friday likes to give us the most fits. Almost every time we run into any issues it happens on a Friday. Go figure…

Anyhow… In case other web developers run into this issue, here is what happened, and what we did to fix it.

This morning we noticed that w3wp.exe on our web server was using nearly 100% of the CPU and was floating between 3GB and 6GB of memory usage.

Restarting IIS didn’t solve the problem. w3wp.exe would quickly consume all available resources.

Solution: Re-deploy the ASP.Net 2.0 website.

My theory is that the ASP.Net compile state somehow got corrupted. Re-deploying the website simply triggered a full recompile.

The website is back up and running smoothly now.

How to unblock email to …@yahoo.com

When you create an account at CheckOutMyCards.com our server sends you an email. Sometimes email from our server gets blocked by your email provider. The easiest way to unblock our email is to add staff@checkoutmycards.com to your contact list. To do that with Yahoo! Mail simply click on the Contacts tab or go to http://address.mail.yahoo.com.
Contacts Tab

Then click the Add Contact button.
Add Contact

Specify staff@checkoutmycards.com as the email address and click Save.
Save Contact

Now email from our server will arrive in your inbox and you will be able to activate your account.

To request a new activation email go to the following page, sign in (if necessary), and click the ‘Request a new activation email’ link.
http://www.checkoutmycards.com/manage/activate.aspx

Background
As part of the account creation process at CheckOutMyCards.com we verify that the user has specified a valid email address that can successfully receive email from our servers. This is very important for sellers on our site because they need to be notified if a potential buyer sends them an offer on their cards.

Unfortunately many people have trouble receiving email from our servers. In the past 30 days most email domains have had a 65-75% success rate in receiving our emails and activating their accounts. However there are two outliers, @yahoo.com and @gmail.com. As we have seen with just about everything from Google, their services appear to be superior. 95.74% of the users from @gmail.com successfully activate their accounts. Even though Yahoo! Mail is the post popular email provider it appears to be on the other end of the spectrum. Only 47% of the @yahoo.com email addresses are able to receive our emails.

Email Domain  Activation Rate
@yahoo.com 47.42%
@hotmail.com 70.67%
@gmail.com 95.74%
@aol.com 69.23%
@comcast.net 76.92%