Why You Should Abandon Server Mail

  • transactional mail

    When I first started hosting with Cazaratech, I was told to use a mail service for server mail. Up until that point, I had always used server mail and was not sure about the reasons behind the advice to use a mail service. They had tried to explain it to me but at the time I just didn't get it. Well, I do now. 

    I've researched a few transactional mail services in order to do my blogs and because I used them. Sendgrid and Mandrill are the two I've used for my sites. I also tried Sparkpost but it doesn't perform well for social networks. Sendgrid is the one I'm currently using. Here's a tutorial for Sendgrid.

    So, why is it important to use a mail service instead of server mail? Good question. There is the deliverability factor, for one. These services have already gone through the steps to make their IP addresses accepted by many ISP's which means your emails get delivered at a higher rate than if you use your server IP since the ISP's aren't familiar with it, they can mistake it as spam.

    Sending bulk emails such as newsletters or highly active sites sending lots of notifications can tie up server resources if using your own server, whereas, if using a transactional service, you free up those resources for your site. This is important. You want to have all the resources you can for your site operation so users don't experience lag or down time. 

    Here's a biggie that I've seen first hand. Let's say you have a disgruntled user. That user sends pm's to you, contact us, subscribes to threads, etc and gets lots of notifications from it, on purpose. That user also gets your responses to the pm's and contact us. Now, if that user were vindictive and decided to label all of that email they got as spam, if you are using server mail, you're toast. Most hosts today will immediately suspend your account. 

    I've seen this happen with Arvixe and PHPfox clients when Arvixe switched recently to their new email provider/monitoring service. Many clients got their sites suspended due to the amounts of notifications going out from the sites and hence, the monitoring mistook it for spam. That had their sites suspended and one was suspended for a week due to language barriers as he couldn't understand the issue from Arvixe. I had to contact my contact at Arvixe in order to tell them what was happening so they could unsuspend the clients and take steps for that not to happen again. If these clients had been using Sendgrid, Mandrill, Amazon SES or some mail service, their sites wouldn't have had that issue. 

    Most transactional mail services have some great features. You can see bounce backs (and change that user's settings to not receive mail if your script you use allows it, or just remove them as most are spammers). I like to keep an eye on the activity log for my sites, in the Mandrill dash. I also like the unsubscribe that is easy to set up, keeping in conformance with various internet regulations. There are just too many features to list again in this blog. Take a look at the other blogs to see more info. 

    The main thing here is, if you use server mail, you are risking your server IP being blacklisted, ISP blocked, etc if you get false spam reports. Is it really worth it when there are some free mail services out there? Yes, if you send a lot of mail from your site, you will have to pay once you go over the free allotment but at that point, you probably have an active site and should be able to pay for it. Also, if your site is that active, can you risk down time if your hosting company suspends you for false spam reports or for mistaken spam as the Arvixe issue? Do you really want to spend months getting your server IP unblocked by various ISP companies just because they don't recognize your IP or because of false spam reports? It's so easy to set up Mandrill, for example, and you get 12,000 free emails per month, that it seems a matter of laziness or lack of webmaster responsibility if you don't use a service in today's spam crazed society.