KNOWN ISSUE: Helpdesk Inbox is not processing e-mails and is getting errors

Article:TECH26029  |  Created: 2007-01-18  |  Updated: 2009-07-10  |  Article URL http://www.symantec.com/docs/TECH26029
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Article Type
Technical Solution

Issue



E-mails sent to a Helpdesk Inbox are not processing correctly. An entry is recorded in the ALogs with the following information:

Source: AlertManager.ProcessInboxes
Description: Object reference not set to an instance of an object

When manually processing the Inbox, the following message is returned:

Other errors: 1
Inbox processing exception: Object reference not set to an instance of an object.

In some cases, an incident will be created with a title similar to:

Altiris Helpdesk Inbox "mailboxname" has rejected {1} message(s) and found {2} message(s) with no text.

If the e-mail is saved and reprocessed through the Inbox, it makes it in with no errors.


Environment



Helpdesk 6.0.297 (SP4)
Helpdesk 6.0.308 (SP5)

Cause



The most common cause of this issue is an email with nothing in the body. The component used to process emails is not able to process messages with a completely blank body. In addition, some email systems and messages use a MIME type that Helpdesk doesn't know how to process. Because of this, the body is seen as blank and the message is unable to be processed.

We see this issue most frequently with phone systems, reporting systems, and Linux-based email systems. Quite often, these messages contain information in the subject of the message, but nothing in the body. Microsoft Outlook Meeting Invites tend to have issues as well since Helpdesk doesn't recognize the MIME type.

You will find that you cannot duplicate the issue by sending blank emails to Helpdesk using Outlook. This is because Microsoft passes code in the body of emails regardless of whether you use HTML, plain text, or rich text. Since the body is not completely blank (the Inbox recognizes the hidden code) the body is not considered blank, and the system is able to process the message.

In Helpdesk 6.0.297 (SP4), this could also be caused by an E-mail Inbox Filter configured to check incoming messages for blank bodies.


Solution



In many cases, we have found that forwarding these messages back to the Inbox allows them to be processed successfully. This is because the forwarding process wraps the original message body in its own MIME type which Helpdesk is then able to recognize. This is true for messages manually forwarded through Outlook as well as emails forwarded at the Microsoft Exchange level.

Our recommended workaround (which works for most customers) is to create a second mailbox, configure Exchange to forward all messages from the original address to the newly created mailbox, then have the Inbox check the newly-created mailbox instead of the original one. There will be no visible change to the emails, but Helpdesk should now be able to process the messages.

Example:
You currently have an Inbox configured to check helpdesk@altiris.com.

  1. Create a new mailbox called helpdesk2@altiris.com.
  2. In Active Directory, configure the Helpdesk account to forward messages to the Helpdesk2 account
  3. Edit the Inbox and change the address it checks to helpdesk2@altiris.com.

There will be no impact to end-users because they will be using the same address to submit and repond to incidents. Your email templates will still be configured to use the original address as the From address. The only changes will be behind the scenes.

There are other possible workarounds as well depending on the cause in your environment. For example, if you have a phone system that sends an email whenever a voicemail comes in, you can configure that system to include something in the body of the email like the time, date, and/or name of the attached file. If you have an E-mail Inbox Filter blocking message with blank bodies, disable the filter.

You can also try to manually reprocess messages that have this problem. To do this, follow steps 1-2 above. Instead of changing the address used by the Inbox, you will configure the Inbox to send you an email when there are problems so you can manually reprocess the email. To set this up:

  1. Edit the Inbox
  2. Find the "Send reports to" section and enter the email address(es) you want the report to go to.
     
    When you get the report and see the error "Object reference not set to an instance of an object," you will go to the secondary mailbox and reprocess that e-mail.

A feature request has been created in KB 41869 to change this behavior. If you would like to be updated as the status of the issue changes, please subscribe to article.


Supplemental Materials

SourceDEFECT
ValueABQ 4183
DescriptionLogged in abqdc01 (Altiris - Albuquerque) database

Legacy ID



32039


Article URL http://www.symantec.com/docs/TECH26029


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