Letting the experts do the heavy lifting: How I switched a part of our email delivery to AWS
3 min read

Letting the experts do the heavy lifting: How I switched a part of our email delivery to AWS

Following up my agony and exploring SES as a possible solution.

I wrote another article briefing about my agony towards Microsoft and their bad spam filters. I have tried a lot of recommendations from my industry friends to improve the IP reputation but all in vain. I had to make a call about what to do! I devised to leverage AWS (SES) to improve the situation. Since a lot of our email infrastructure is mission critical (important notifications to clients/customers, uptime notifications to sysadmins etc.) we needed robust solutions. My first choice was mailgun since I've been a mailgun user since forever (actually 2014), They used to graciously offer 10k emails for free. That changed earlier this year when they decided to discontinue that offer and start charging for all emails. Now, don't get me wrong they're still cheaper than a lot of competitors and offer a dirt cheap pricing, I was unwilling to take that path. Given the fact that I'd have to pay per email anyway, I made up my mind that I'll go with SES. that's one less invoice raised. That is because we're already using AWS S3 for storing our overnight backup. I thought that instead of adding a new biller altogether in our accounts, it's rather better to pay AWS a slightly higher bill based on email volume. Since their pricing is also very identical: mailgun offers $0.80 / 1000 emails in their Pay as you go plan while SES offers $0.10 for every 1,000 emails plus $0.12 per gigabyte (GB) of data in the messages so assuming that we only incur the bare minimum cost (our emails aren't very huge in size so 1GB is the least we'd pay for) We actually save a few pennies by going with SES.

Now don't get me wrong, mailgun offers a fantastic value for money, they have fantastic API integration and other bells & whistles that you won't get with SES. their delivery rates are almost identical and service uptime is top-notch. My rationale for going with SES is to actually save on the number of bills and the few pennies that AWS stands cheaper for us in the long term. we pay only $0.22/month as against $0.80/month with aws and that itself shows we can send 4x more emails with ses in the price that we'd pay for mailgun. This makes SES very cost effective and the most amazing thing about them is that they don't require me to dedicate a sub-domain. their setup process is straightforward. I can simply add 4 DNS records (1 TXT and 3 CNAME) to enable their services on my domain while continuing the inbound/outbound delivery through our own infrastructure for the P2P emails. This simply translates into the fact that I have to spend less time fiddling with DNS configuration if I want to send from SES compared to mailgun and, once the root domain is verified, all it's subdomains are also covered so I don't have to verify multiple domains at once to ensure reliable delivery.

Generally speaking, I'd like to use SES for the automated (system-generated) emails that we need. We've heard a lot of complaints that emails would end up in spam (or worse yet, silently rejected) so we had to figure this out somehow. This approach (albeit only 48 hours since implemented at the time of writing) is already showing positive signs. we've communicated with the affected customers and have noticed that they actually received and replied to the emails. they have received the emails in their primary inbox (except a few odd ones, God knows why) and the email delivery was almost real time i.e. delivered in ~15 seconds of triggering. We'll have to observe this in long term and I'll probably follow this up 6 months down the line to calculate if the efforts were worth but for now, Let's just hope that SES keeps the email delivery up & running for the better part.

I'll probably follow this up with another article covering the pricing structure of various other providers and their pros & cons. If You're interested in that, let me know in the comments below. I'll be happy to cover that in it's own article.

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