What are some good reasons to use sender ID?
Sender ID is a great feature to be offered by your hosting provider within their email program, but should not necessarily be a feature that you have the option of turning on, or turning off. If you are going to be a website owner, there is no question that email is going to be a primary method of communication between you and your users. Sender ID is a process on the mail server (likely powered by your hosting company) that verifies the DNS and assesses the reputation of the sender before allowing an email to land in your inbox or other folders. You will want this feature to prevent your email accounts from getting hacked, and your hosting provider will want the same to protect its server infrastructure and its customers.
Are there any reasons not to use sender ID?
No. Well, unless you enjoy copious amounts of spam emails, phishing attacks, and other forms of malicious emails pounding your inbox on a daily basis. Sender ID has been specifically created for the protection of email users. If you have ever received an email from those less than savory folks who use a trusted name in their from line and subject line, but are sending messages from a third party domain email account with the intention of exploiting or manipulating you, then you have seen the types of emails Sender ID should protect you from. Why wouldn't you want to be protected from those types of emails?
What are the alternatives to sender ID?
The most frequently referred to alternative to Sender ID is Sender Policy Framework (SPF). However, Sender ID is actually dependent upon information provided by SPF in order to function correctly. There have been some non-formal studies done comparing data from these two protocols - in a majority of cases, information provided by both are similar and there are no deliverability issues for email. However, in about a quarter of cases in the survey, emails can be incorrectly flagged as spam when reviewed using Sender ID.
Do I have to know how to program to use sender ID?
No. Microsoft provides a wizard with extensive instructions for setting up Sender ID if you really wish to install this on your hosting platform. Again, depending on what email hosting platform your hosting provider offers you, Sender ID should be a built in feature and something you don't have to worry about. However, if your email server does not have Sender ID installed and you want to install it, then you will need to have some extensive programming experience to add it and configure it to properly function. This is not something recommended for the casual website owner or blogger, and would likely require a VPS or dedicated hosting plan from your provider.
Are there any additional specific hosting recommendations?
As mentioned above, Microsoft actually provides a very easy to use wizard for configuring a new SPF framework for your DNS that includes Sender ID on their own website. First, that wizard asks you to enter your domain into a form field. Once you've done that, the wizard will verify that there is an existing SPF record. Step 3 has a series of checkboxes you will need to check or uncheck as needed to update information on domains used for sending email, inbound mail servers, outbound mail servers, DNS lookups, outsourced domains, and more. Once you have all of the correct information included in those records, the wizard will provide you with a new SPF record that you will need to upload to your DNS record. Consult with your hosting provider or any documentation they provide you related to DNS administration for uploading instructions.
What does self-hosted mean? I don’t have to run a server myself, do I?
Self-hosted email servers do not require YOU to personally own a server and manage it to host your email delivery. Instead, self-hosted simply means that hosting is not provided directly by the development team that created your email software manufacturer - like Microsoft or Mozilla, etc. In order to use a self-hosted email server for mail delivery with the Sender ID feature, you will need to contract a hosting provider before building your website or setting up your mailboxes.
Do I need managed hosting in order to use sender ID as my verification for email deliverability?
You most likely will not have to. However, the real answer to this question depends on your answer to the question "how much responsibility are you willing to accept for the maintenance of your mail server?" The more complex your domain becomes with mail servers, application hosting, website hosting, intranets and additional features, the greater your need will be for professionally managed hosting. Shared hosting plans often comes with some managed services included, and whether or not you have Sender ID included as a feature for your email delivery is probably up to your hosting provider. If you have a dedicated hosting solution, however, managed services are likely required as part of your agreement. This is the case with any self-hosted mail server that includes any protocols for improved mail deliverability - not just a mail server with Sender ID installed.
Can I host Sender ID on a shared hosting plan?
This is completely up to your hosting provider. The answer to this is likely yes, but because Sender ID uses a 4-step evaluation of mail header fields and other record types (like SPF) are more widely used, your hosting provider might find it sufficient to simply offer SPF records and not Sender ID. Because of this, if you require the extra verification of Sender ID to ensure delivery of your mail messages to MSN and Hotmail email addresses, you might be better off using dedicated or VPS hosting for your mail server so that you can control all of the features you require.
Anything else I need to know about Sender ID records?
Sender ID is really only used by Microsoft to securely receive inbound email to Hotmail and MSN accounts. The majority of the Internet that hosts email verifies the same information utilizing sender policy framework information. Before you get too invested in using Sender ID, take some time to review your mailing list to determine how much of your contacts may not receive your mail if you don't use Sender ID. Depending on what reports you listen to, Hotmail/Outlook.com email users account for only about 20% of email use in North America while Gmail and Yahoo! Mail together comprise over 75% of the market. When you consider the worldwide dominance of Gmail over Yahoo! and Hotmail, it may make sense to save yourself some time with this feature. However, make that decision with data, not just a gut feeling.