Broken SPF

A Broken SPF record signifies that now your DNS record is no longer functioning the way it should. This can lead to emails getting lost during transfer and never getting delivered as they should. Dealing with broken SPF can be tricky, start with determining the probable reasons why the SPF records may break, and then move on to troubleshooting options.

What is a broken SPF record?

An SPF record is a piece of text that tells your domain name’s email service where to send incoming emails. If an SPF record is not properly configured, it can cause your emails to bounce.

The most common cause of a broken SPF record is when your mail servers are trying to send mail from an IP address that isn’t listed in the SPF file. Another common cause is when the domain used by your mail server doesn’t have a valid DNS record.

Other reasons may include:

a) The sender’s domain name is registered with an SPF record that does not match their actual IP addresses (i.e., if there’s no MX record)

b) The sender’s domain name does not have an SPF record at all

c) The sender’s domain name has been blacklisted by ISPs due to abuse reports received through RBLs (Real-time Blackhole Lists), or because they’ve sent spam before and were placed on industry-specific blacklists.

Why does SPF record break? 

Broken SPF can be a result of several underlying reasons. Listen below are a few: 

  • Syntax Error 

A broken SPF record may be a result of incorrect syntax. Something as minor as an extra space or missing character can completely invalidate your record setup and break the protocol. This is why it is always recommended to use a reliable online tool like an SPF record generator to create your record instead of relying on a manual setup.

  • Exceeding DNS query request limit 

Going over the 10 DNS lookup limit for SPF is one of the most common reasons for broken SPF. You might want to look into that. This can happen if you’re an online business using several email vendors like MailChimp, Google, etc for your email transactions. Each of these third-party services adds to the number of DNS query requests since they operate using several internal servers with different IPs.

An SPF flattening tool is the recommended solution to prevent broken SPF by keeping your lookup limit in check at all times. 

  • Too many characters 

RFC specifies a 255-string character limit for the protocol, which means too long a record will lead to broken SPF. You can make sure your record is short and crisp by removing redundancy and multiple includes. 

  • Inactive IPs and Parked Domains

Your SPF record contains a list of IP addresses and domains that are authorized to send emails on your behalf. If some of these IPs point to servers that are out of service, or the record includes a parked domain (a domain that is inactive and no longer in use), you can expect broken SPF. 

Make sure the IP addresses and domains included in your DNS record are valid and fully operational. 

How to Deal with Broken SPF?

If you want to prevent broken SPF, you need to stop making the errors mentioned above right away! Don’t allow your SPF record to become an endless stream of includes most of which are redundant. Shorten your record to limit the number of query requests, and make sure you are syntactically sound. Optimize SPF record from time to time to ensure that you’re maintaining an updated list of IPs. 

Is there a way to automate this process?

If you can already feel the burden of mitigating broken SPF weighing heavy on your shoulders, you may want to outsource this responsibility. At PowerDMARC, our users enjoy an automated experience when it comes to dealing with broken SPF, through deploying PowerSPF – a one-click record flattening solution that instantly fixes errors in your record. 

Get started today, to stop your SPF from breaking. For more insights on how to recover from email delivery issues, contact us today!

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