Troubleshooting SharePoint Alerts – Primer

November 27th, 2009 by Ryan

To make best use of the guide to troubleshooting why SharePoint Alert emails stop working its helpful to have an little understanding of what is going on under the covers.

For our purposes Email Alerts can be split into two types

Confirmation Emails

When you first setup an alert a confirmation email is sent to the recipient of the alerts.

This email is sent immediately from the Web Front End (WFE) serving the page at that time and running under the Identity that the IIS worker process (w3wp.exe) is using.

Email Alerts

The “Windows SharePoint Services Timer” service (owstimer.exe) is responsible for various jobs including sending out email alerts

By default this runs every 5 minutes – this means that even when you set “Send e-mail immediately” its not really immediately, there could be a short wait for your emails to be sent.

What does mean for Troubleshooting?

These two types of email are being sent at different times from different components of SharePoint and often using different Identities running on different servers.

(Tip – if you are brave you can check the TimerLock table to see on which server your various timer jobs will run)

So just because you get the Confirmation Emails you can’t assume that the Email Alerts will be work (and vice-versa) :-

  • There may be a problem stopping the SharePoint timer job running that doesn’t effect the confirmation emails.
  • There may be a problem with the configuration of the alerts that only effects the alert emails
  • Does your email infrastructure may not allow the emails to be relayed from the server the timer job runs on but does allow the WFE
  • Does your anti-virus software stop emails being sent from the server/process (owstimer.exe) or even user identity that the timer service jobs run under but allows the confirmation emails

You get the idea! For troubeshooting purposes  you should treat them quite separately.

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Posted in Troubleshooting Alerts | 4 Comments »

4 Responses to “Troubleshooting SharePoint Alerts – Primer”

  1. Dominic Moss says:

    Does the email alert service actually compile emails that can be seen in the sent folder for the email address that the emails emanate from? Is the Alerts Notification email is sent from the WFE server or does it generate a request for the mail server to send the email?

  2. Ryan says:

    Dominic – you’ve got a few misconceptions about how SMTP emails work.

    There isn’t a “Sent Folder” for SMTP emails – thats just something that email clients (Outlook etc) do for our convenience.

    Yes the email alert service compiles the email – its then sent onto whichever SMTP relay server SharePoint is configured to use (which can be the local server or a remote one) – at that point its out of SharePoints hands and in the hands of the email system for delivery. This page may help

  3. Dominic Moss says:

    Ryan – thanks for the rapid and helpful reply – as you can tell I am not a techie. I have been working with a customer who is running Project Server 2010 and there is an approval workflow task which is triggered by a Project Server workflow. A lot of the nominated recipients are not receiving the alerts, which they have to subscribe to, when a workflow task is generated. My client also tells me he personally gets two emails for each alert (??) – he has also revealed that they are using Lotus Notes. It is easy to get SMTP email alerts by providing the IP address for the Domino mail server. The emails that are received have a URL link to the Project Server Workflow Task but the URL compiled by the Domino mail server has blank spaces whereas emails from an exchange server will have the %20 characters for a blank space in the URL. I am trying to eliminate any obstacles to the system performing in line with expectations one step at a time.

  4. Ryan says:

    Hi Dominic – thats a whole load of problems you have there! I am not going to be able to help with this I am afraid – I think its best if you raise a PPI support ticket with Microsoft –

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