Emails having attachments sent from custom email account (ProofPoint) are sometimes stuck in a send-retry loop and actually sent many timesĀ 

One symptom is when we see the following information in a node log when the email is sent:

2020-09-07 07:46:28 (966) worker.7 worker.7 txid=f2294aaadb4f WARNING *** WARNING *** handling smtp exception: javax.mail.MessagingException: Exception reading response;
nested exception is: Read timed out : Exception reading response
2020-09-07 07:46:28 (973) worker.7 worker.7 txid=f2294aaadb4f WARNING *** WARNING *** EMAIL.b0f70ea6db4f54d09a686b4bd39619c8: send-retry

This makes the customer believe that the SN instance might not be waiting for a long enough time to receive a response from a mail server.

Release or Environment



The SMTP timeout duration is something that ServiceNow set at code level and we cannot modify it. The default SMTP timeout is 60 seconds and the default SMTP max timeout is 300.

From the ServiceNow side the step to take is to validate if there is any business rule with current.update in the target or sys_email table. The KB0715782 article that discourages the use of current.update is confirmed by the official ServiceNow documentation page that states Avoid using current.update() in a business rule script.


Usually, the loops stop by removing the attachment from the sys_email record. As ProofPoint is not a ServiceNow product and the issue occurs when using an external mail server, it is required to work with the email admin to examine the logs and troubleshoot further.

The solution has eventually worked by regular testing with a bit of process of elimination troubleshooting and narrowing down if the formatting of the messages is affecting the ProofPoint ability to allow the messages to be processed. For example, replacing <strong> with <b>, could help the messages to start going through without delay. It could be something as easy as that or much more complex.

Here is a list of external links outside ServiceNow scope that mentions this issue:

Article Information

Last Updated:2020-09-27 06:56:41