How Web Apps Send a Mass of Email

Running a startup is all about overcoming challenges.  You're sure to come across many of your own.  If you build web apps, or have been thinking about building a web app, here is one challenge you'll eventually need to overcome: email

Now I'm not talking about email marketing campaigns (that can be managed with a great tool like Mailchimp), I'm talking about transactional emails.   These emails may include:

  • Account Activation
  • Signup Confirmation
  • Friend Requests
  • Follow Notifications
  • etc.

Running a web with just a few thousand members, you'll probably never need to worry about these emails causing and overload - but once things start getting bigger you'll notice your qmail (or whatever mail agent you're using) starts to have issues.  If you are constantly need to reboot qmail or clear the mail queue - its time to think about a better option.

The two options I've listed below, are aimed for small startups - perfect for bootstrapped applications.  Also, if you're more into server admin than me, you can probably create a pretty slick mail setup on your own.  The following services will take mail off your hands:


This is the service I use and love.  Sendgrid is used by some pretty neat companies like Foursquare and GetSatisfaction - just imagine how many emails those companies send.  Sendgrid will improve your email deliverability (are your web apps mails always going to the junk folder?) but you also get some very handy stats.    These stats helped me tweak the emails sent to improve the open and click-through rates.

The average web app will pay around $0.00075 per email sent through Sendgrid.


Similar to SendGrid, Postmark is apparently very good (I've never used them, but I've only heard good things).  The one major difference is that Postmark uses the RackSpace cloud, which I'm a big fan of.

Take a look at the two and see which fits best for you - there are a few minor differences between the companies (and of course look at the pricing)

Why Outsource Your Mail

Mail for web apps may seem simple - mainly because tools like gmail have made sending and receiving email so simple for consumers - but when you're talking about delivering email at scale, things can get quite complex.  Both these companies know a lot about mail and you'll be tapping into their knowledge pool.

I've mentioned just two of the many different methods that can be used to overcome the mail challenge - I would love to hear how you handle mass transactional emails.

P.S - learn how to build your own Web Apps (or steal my code) by signing up for The List.

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