The Pennsylvania State University - Administrative Information Services, a unit of Information Technology Services

Core E-mail

Administrative Information Services (AIS) maintains a full suite of extended services associated with Penn State's primary e-mail servers. AIS is responsible for the design, installation, and oversight of Penn State's primary incoming and outgoing e-mail servers, which process millions of e-mail transactions each day.

E-mail Forwarding

An e-mail forwarding service is available through the ITS Secure Server so that mail.psu.edu and email.psu.edu users may forward e-mail to another preferred e-mail address. Once an Access Account is activated, it is joined to a number of services, including e-mail services. For example, if your user ID is xyz123, your public e-mail address would be xyz123@psu.edu. Those who wish to use another preferred e-mail account (whether that of a college/department, a third-party ISP, etc.) may utilize this forwarding service. E-mail communications may continue through one's Penn State address, but mail will automatically forward to the preferred account.

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E-mail+ Addresses

Penn State's e-mail servers permit the use of addresses utilizing a "+" as a result of updates made to Penn State Directory Services in 2005. Typically, addresses with a "+" are used for finer-grained sorting and filtering of e-mail messages on the client-side.

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LISTSERV

A LISTSERV® e-mail system is used to manage over 5,000 mailing lists, which contains more than 1,000,000 subscribers. Classes, clubs, committees, and professional organizations use the lists for announcements and discussions.

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Spam Filtering

In an effort to reduce the amount of unwanted, unsolicited e-mail to Penn Staters, ITS employs a server-side spam filter to better protect the University community from malicious messages and phishing scams. By using such technology, all incoming e-mail to a psu.edu e-mail address is scored as per Penn State's e-mail server rules. The designated grade given to the e-mail then determines the final destination for the message. The highest graded e-mails will be sent to a user's junk folder. Some users may have to access tagged spam messages through a spam quarantine folder located at work.psu.edu due to user-enabled work-flow settings.

Headers inserted into the message via the spam filter can be used to better understand the results of the server-side spam filtering.

As Penn State's spam filtering is performed on the server-side of e-mail delivery, information about user preferences cannot be retained by the spam filter. Users have the ability to enable client-side filters based on personal preferences. Instructions can be found through the Creating Client-Side Spam Filters page.

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"Vacation" Auto-reply Messaging Service

The auto-reply messaging service, commonly referred to as the "vacation" service, allows Penn State faculty and staff to create automated responses to send to incoming mail when they are not available to check e-mail. Also, this service has been upgraded to handle spam. Any e-mail marked with a spam flag of "yes" is no longer sent a reply, thus preventing the propagation of one's e-mail address on spammers' lists.

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Virus Filtering

To dramatically reduce the amount of virus proliferation, virus protection software has been installed on Penn State's outgoing (smtp.psu.edu) and incoming (psu.edu) e-mail servers. Any message with a virus sent from Penn State through smtp.psu.edu or to Penn State through psu.edu automatically forwards notification to Security Operations and Services (SOS, a unit of ITS), regardless of its final destination (such as an e-mail account on a machine maintained by a Penn State college or department).

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Incoming E-mail Servers

email.psu.edu and mail.psu.edu
Penn State's primary incoming servers email.psu.edu and mail.psu.edu use the Post Office Protocol (POP) to hold users' e-mail until downloaded through an e-mail client. Similar to the way in which the post office holds and processes surface mail, the POP server retains e-mail until it can be delivered to users' respective e-mail addresses.

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Outgoing E-mail Server

smtp.psu.edu
Penn State's primary outgoing mail server is smtp.psu.edu. SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) is the protocol used to send e-mail messages between servers. E-mail sent from any mail client with its outgoing server configured for smtp.psu.edu is sent to this server. Then, the SMTP server routes the mail to its destination for users to retrieve messages via a client configured for a POP or IMAP server. Because incoming and outgoing servers work in tandem, e-mail clients must be configured for both servers in order to work properly.

The SMTP server accepts an enormous amount of e-mail each day. To ensure that only valid Penn State e-mail is sent, individuals who use a third-party ISP to check their Penn State POP mail must first check mail before attempting to send mail through smtp.psu.edu. E-mail that is sent without first successfully checking for new e-mail on the server will be rejected. Those who use Penn State's network through outlets such as computer labs, residence hall wireless or ethernet connections, authsmtp or via the VPN are not affected by this.

authsmtp.psu.edu
Authenticated SMTP allows users who connect via a third-party internet connection to use Penn State's outgoing e-mail server. The authenticated version of smtp.psu.edu, which is authsmtp.psu.edu, requires a user to enter his/her password before being permitted to send messages. The new server authenticates senders of outbound mail to protect the mail server from abuse from e-mail-related viruses and spammers. Note that you can use POP before SMTP to check your e-mail before you send it. Instructions for configuring the various e-mail clients are found at: http://kb.its.psu.edu/article/1308.

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Secure E-mail Transactions

Secure Socket Layer (SSL) Connections
All students, faculty, and staff who use ITS' POP or IMAP e-mail services must check e-mail via a secure-only SSL connection. SSL is a type of software that encrypts individual userids and passwords when users check e-mail via mail.psu.edu or email.psu.edu. The SSL changes are part of Penn State's on-going security effort to make e-mail correspondence at the University safer. University community members were given advance notification so that they could change settings in e-mail clients accordingly. Secure methods such as Kerberized POP and Penn State WebMail are still valid and secure options for checking e-mail; KPOP users or users Penn State WebMail were and are encouraged to continue with those options.

Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP)
IMAP was developed at the University of Washington. IMAP requires an SSL connection, provides a method for accessing electronic mail that is stored on a mail server. It permits an e-mail client, such as Thunderbird, to access remote messages (both new and saved) and stores them as if they were local. For example, e-mail stored on an IMAP server may be manipulated from your computer at home, your computer at the office, or from a laptop while traveling without the need to transfer messages back and forth between computers. IMAP can only be used with mail.psu.edu. IMAP allows for the use of a Kerberos ticket as an addtional method for authentication as well as a username and password. IMAP is a service available to faculty, staff and students. An IMAP account may be obtained at https://www.work.psu.edu/access/email/.

Post Office Protocol (POP)
POP remains a widely utilized protocol for email retrieval. For POP configurations, please visit The Penn State Knowledge Base.

Kerberized Post Office Protocol (KPOP)
Kerberos is a network authentication protocol. It is designed to provide strong authentication for client/server applications by using public-key cryptography. It is often supported in Telnet, FTP and e-mail applications. At Penn State, KPOP, which is supported on email.psu.edu and mail.psu.edu and is opt-in. In addition to SSL, KPOP and WebMail provide users with secure alternatives for checking mail.

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Content Questions: AIS Webmaster | Support Questions: IT Service Desk
Page Last Updated or Reviewed: Tuesday, July 15, 2014