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Is there a good SMTP service to send bulk emails (or other solution?)
January 16, 2013 7:33 AM   Subscribe

Is there a good SMTP service to send bulk emails (or another good solution for sending bulk emails, using the tools I already have, rather than a service like Mailchimp?)

I have a couple of email lists I use to promote local events. The lists are in the range of 2000 to 3000 people. I've been assembling the names on these lists for several years, through a mix of different ways: Sometimes people sign up on a paper email list at events, sometimes they email and ask to be on the lists.

Everyone who is on the lists asked to be on them, and unsub requests are, of course, respected quickly.

I send emails to these lists in a couple of ways: Sometimes just using my regular email client (I use Thunderbird, and my email provider is Fastmail). More often, I use a script I wrote a very long time ago in ColdFusion, that is hosted at The Small Business Authority (formerly Crystaltech.)

The thing is, most ISPs are not set up to encourage people to send 2000 or 3000 emails in a short period of time: They throttle the sending, or in some cases, temporarily shut down your account if you send too many messages.

I tried Mailchimp, and it's a great service, but it requires, at least for now, too many changes in how I do things: It has its own list management, its own rules about how to send, etc. Re-arranging all my lists to happen in Mailchimp is a lot of work that I'd rather not do, at least for now.

I'm wondering if there is some SMTP service that I can sign up for that will allow me to send 2000 - 3000 emails without causing a lot of hassles. Something where I could allow be to continue to use my existing tools, without stressing the SMTP servers at my regular email provider, or web host.

Does anyone have any recommendations for services like this? There are plenty out there, but it's really hard to judge which ones are good. Some criteria I'm looking for:

1) Ideally, a very simple solution that does not require a lot of change to how I already do things.
2) Ideally, not too expensive (less than $50 a month, I'm hoping)
3) A reasonably reputable and reliable company to deal with. (This is the hardest thing to judge on my own, and why I'm asking the green rather than just googling).
4) If the solution could help a bit with list management, deleting addresses that bounce, reducing the percentage of messages that get tagged as spam, that would be great, but not totally necessary.

Any help much appreciated. Thanks!
posted by ManInSuit to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Mailchip offers SMTP service through Mandrill, their transactional email service. More info here. Basically you can set up your current mail clients to point to the mandrill server, and your outgoing mails will get sent out through mailchimp's architecture.
posted by reptile at 7:39 AM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


I use Mandrill personally, but Amazon SES was another option I looked at:

Can I use Amazon SES to send bulk email?
posted by dyno04 at 7:53 AM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


SendGrid is another transactional email service. It sounds like you would fit in their cheapest plan which is $10/month. They have a Web API or you can just use their SMTP server which should probably work with your existing setup.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:54 AM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Look into Amazon SES. I haven't used them for large-scale campaigns, but I did some testing in their sandbox and found them easy to use. The APIs are solid if you'd like to do a little programming, and I have used their SMTP interface with Thunderbird without much trouble.
posted by catalytics at 7:55 AM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Campaign monitor ?
posted by adamvasco at 7:56 AM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Mandril is a good choice, SendGrid is fine for lower throughput. SES is going to be a lot more change than you want, I think.

That said, the way you do things now isn't really a good way to do it, because you're not actually sending transactional emails. You're sending bulk emails. At some point you should really just bite the bullet and spend the hour it's going to take to convert your lists to Mailchimp (or whatever).

When an organization I volunteer for did with a similarly sized list that we used in a very similar way, we discovered that virtually all of the "changes" were changes to things we should've been doing anyway (like providing a one-click unsubscribe and handling bounces intelligently).

Also, be cognizant of the cost involved in switching to a different provider. It will not be zero cost (in terms of time). There will be hitches and snags and other hang-ups. It'll take more time than you think it will, possibly by several orders of magnitude, and then you're still going to be using the wrong tool for the job.
posted by toomuchpete at 8:09 AM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


DYN.com has some services and I've been a fan of them for a long time.
posted by phearlez at 9:08 AM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Or get a VPS, you'll be able to send as many as the pipe(/VPS) can send.
posted by Brian Puccio at 9:38 AM on January 16, 2013


Or get a VPS, you'll be able to send as many as the pipe(/VPS) can send.

That's really not a viable option any more. If you look at most bulk mailing lists, 90% of accounts come from perhaps a handful of providers. Those providers have SMTP servers with automatic filters that will throttle, defer and often blacklist a new IP that's suddenly pushing a lot of mail in their direction.

Bulk mail is one of those things where hosted (and paid) services now make way more sense than something self-hosted, because you can be much more confident that those five or six big recipients won't bounce you as a potential spammer. I've had decent results from Sendgrid in the past, though that was before SES had its full SMTP interface, and I'll probably try SES in the near future.
posted by holgate at 12:48 PM on January 16, 2013


I haven't used either, but Heroku recommend Mailgun and SendGrid.
posted by schmod at 1:01 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I do something similar .. have an email list of 3300 people for our organization.

I selected elasticemail.com .. it's $.001 per email sent, so each run of 3300 is $3.30 .. which seems like a good deal.
posted by duncantuna at 1:47 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thanks, there are all great suggestions! Mandril looks like a front-runner. I like the fact the your service is build on building a good reputation- that just feels sorta right to me. And I like the fact that, for the volume of messages I need to send, it is free. And I like mailchimp's generally great reputation for this sort of stuff. I'll check that out, and some of the others, too...

toomuchpete: I take seriously your suggestion that maybe I really do just need to move to mailchimp, or something similar. But when I did try it a while ago, it really felt like too much of a square peg in a round hole: I spent the better part of a day moving things, and trying things, but I have too many specific things I do with the lists that were hard to transfer over... Maybe I should try again soon.
posted by ManInSuit at 2:16 PM on January 16, 2013


That's really not a viable option any more. If you look at most bulk mailing lists, 90% of accounts come from perhaps a handful of providers. Those providers have SMTP servers with automatic filters that will throttle, defer and often blacklist a new IP that's suddenly pushing a lot of mail in their direction.
Good to know, glad I've had my own mail server for years now on the same IP. Looks like if I started hosting my own mail now, I'd run into a brick wall.
posted by Brian Puccio at 3:10 PM on January 17, 2013


Update: I signed up with Mandrill, and sent my first email announcement, to around 2500 susbcribers, earlier this week. All seems to have gone very well! Starting to use Mandril was no more complicated than switching to any new SMTP server (which admittedly did entail some extra hiccups as toomuchpete suggested). It adds some cool extra features: tracking bounces, open rates, etc. Mostly - it seems to deliver the messages really fast (and, I presume, reliably), and I have a very clear indication of how many messages I send, and don't have to worry about going over my ISP's hourly/daily limit. Seems super-great so far. Thanks all for the suggestions!!
posted by ManInSuit at 6:37 AM on January 31, 2013


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