With last week’s release of a new set of “Best Common Practices” (BCP), the gurus of the anti-spam and anti-phishing world have given everybody who runs email systems a handy list of chores, just in time for Spring Cleaning.

It remains to be seen whether corporate email administrators will even notice this excellent guide to the health and hygiene of email infrastructures, much less heed the advice. Unfortunately, the consequences of not having an email infrastructure that is sufficiently “ship-shape” are increasingly glaring and occasionally dramatic.

The recent BCP document was issued by the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group (MAAWG), a coalition of Internet service provider and email marketing experts who are some of the brightest minds in the messaging security business – their inability to come up with a catchier group acronym notwithstanding.

Much of their guidance document focuses on steps that large volume senders, such as email marketing service bureaus and consumer-facing e-commerce companies, can take to increase the odds of their email reaching the in-boxes of recipients without unwanted detours or delays caused by over-zealous anti-spam settings.

But many of the fundamental recommendations aren’t limited to email service bureaus and fall into the category of sound email administration policy, regardless of whether your system transports a thousand messages a day or a million messages an hour.

Among the recommendations are the creation of basic privacy and acceptable use policies, proper configuration of mail systems including dedicated IP addresses for outbound email servers and properly configured reverse DNS, and adherence to popular email authentication standards like Sender ID and Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM).

As an erstwhile email system administrator myself (thankfully responsible for only my own email and that of a few family members), I have been working through these recommendations and doing a little Spring housekeeping on my own email infrastructure.

Out of the dozen or so MAAWG recommendations that were relevant to my own puny email infrastructure, I have been able to get many of them implemented in a matter of just a few hours. Just think, if I had actually known what the heck I was doing, it might have only taken minutes!

Admittedly, for some more complex email infrastructures, implementation of the MAAWG BCP may take more than a few hours. But in chatting with a number of knowledgeable system administrators, I have also come to realize that a number of these recommendations are things that fall into the category of “stuff that should have been done correctly in the first place.”

As I scratch my increasingly graying head, and occasionally pull out my hair trying to make sense of various obtuse Unix commands and configurations, I have to keep reminding myself that for many system admins, a lot of this Internet email stuff is still pretty new territory.