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I work for a company that heavily relies on email marketing to make money and we're running into a problem. We are trying to spin up a new email server and are finding it difficult to find a hosting company that doesn't explicitly disallow any form of mass mailing, legitimate or otherwise! Our lists are all opt-in, so the legitimacy issues aren't a problem, and we comply 100% with CAN-SPAM laws, but that doesn't seem to matter to hosting companies. Does anyone else have experience in this market? Can anyone suggest hosting companies that either support ESPs or are at least mass-mailing friendly? I've done lookups on most of the big players in the field and it seems that all of them are hosting their own equipment, which is currently cost prohibitive for us.

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closed as not constructive by mgorven, Ward, Tom O'Connor, MDMarra, gWaldo Jun 1 '12 at 0:16

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4 Answers 4

You merely need colocation space and a server in a rack. I have never seen a halfway decent colocation provider that banned any traffic types with the exception of content that was illegal in the country. You can either purchase 1U and populate it with your own server, or get a dedicated server at a monthly price.

1U us typically around $100USD and Us get cheaper in bulk. You might have to be careful with pacing your outbound mail to single mail domains because in some cases you can earn a blacklist for your entire netmask (or surrounding netmasks). As long as you're as legit as you say you are, and your MTA behaves properly with pacing $bigNum amount of emails to $singleDomain (e.g. Gmail.com) then you're fine. Perhaps balance outbound mails across multiple IP blocks on different subnets.

EDIT:

I decided to consult with some of my colleagues that have worked in the colocation / dedicated server sector. Apparently it's a lot more common than I thought for a colocation to take a dim view of mass mailers, no matter how legit they are. Certainly, some are more willing to work with you than others, however.

Some things to consider:

  1. You might be more successful if you bring your own network contract to the colo, rather than using the colo's in-house carriers.
  2. Use multiple IPs for outbound mail. Lots. I know of one place that apparently used two /24s for their outbound campaigns and were fairly successful. This is also predicated on following other best practices like list scrubbing, outbound mail pacing and etc.
  3. Most importantly, approach the colo / ISPs with no secrets. Tell them what you do, who you do it for, how much you do it, and anything else they ask for. Many places are happy to give you space and lines, but they want to be in contact with you. As you know, people report messages as spam even if they signed up for the mail. It's a hard game to be in, and eventually IPs get dirty and people go calling the carrier. If you have ties to the ISP, keep them close and stay totally open. That will help you enormously.
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We've been debating colocation. There's a colocation company right near our office, but we hadn't sorted through their TOS yet to see if they had any rules regarding mass mailing. If you're right and they don't, that might be exactly what we're looking for. –  Ghost1227 May 31 '12 at 18:00
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It sounds like you're asking about sending your mail through a provider's infrastructure? If so, I can't think of any providers that will allow this offhand.
You are asking to take what the provider sells as a shared resource (a mail server) and dump a huge volume of traffic on it, potentially degrading service for their other clients. Additionally even though your lists are all opt-in huge volumes of mail can "upset" reputation-based spam filtering systems and wind up getting their server blacklisted, affecting all of their customers.

TL;DR - Too much risk, not enough profit. Providers aren't going to jump at that combination.


There are providers that specialize in bulk mailing (Constant Contact is one, InVision/mindSHIFT's eBlast service is another), and you can probably find a provider that is willing to lease you a dedicated server (or host one you build) that you can use for your bulk mailing.

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I used Constant Contact, it' very nice, but you have to be very careful on both opt out and on permissions to contact a person. You can create custom emails/email lists, very nice and somewhat reasonably priced (I worked for nonprofit, enough said on $$$ aspect). Good luck! –  George May 31 '12 at 17:09
    
"bulletproof hosting" allows just about anything (that isn't explicitly illegal) and there are several providers around. They're not cheap however. –  Chris S May 31 '12 at 17:12
    
You're misunderstanding. We're not looking to use someone else's resources, especially not shared resources. We have our own platform (full MTA and a web-based frontend) that handles the sending, all we need is a machine to host it on. –  Ghost1227 May 31 '12 at 17:27
    
@Ghost1227 In that case you should have no problem finding an ISP -- Google "colocation your region", or try Bulletproof, Rackspace, etc. -- You may have to put down a deposit with the provider or pay a higher rate as if your email gets tagged as spam the ISP then has to spend their time getting their networks off of blacklists. Bulk mail (or really any hosting) is rarely cheap... –  voretaq7 May 31 '12 at 17:30
    
Bulletproof sounded kinda shady, Rackspace is one we're looking at, but like many similar dedicated the TOS seems to preclude email marketing. –  Ghost1227 May 31 '12 at 17:33
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I have found over the last few years that when it comes to sending outbound emails, especially for mailshots, then the best answer is not to run your own mailserver, but instead to send your email via a SMTP delivery service, such as Postmark, Sendgrid or Mailchimp.

The reason for doing it this way, is manyfold. Firstly, you don't have to worry about the reputation of your IP address, especially as many providers are re-using IP addresses / IP ranges. What someone else did shouldn't have any impact on your service.

Secondly, it allows you to focus on what you do best. Making a decent webapp/etc. I presume that sending bulk emails isn't your primary business...

Thirdly, and most importantly, your time isn't consumed by figuring out bugs in mail delivery. This is especially important, because your time is more valuable to the company doing whatever it is you do best, and not figuring out the best settings for tuning a MTA.

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Most smaller ISPs are going to be uncomfortable with the type of activities that you are suggesting, so one alternative is to use a cloud service provider to handle mail submission and delivery to the recipient, some examples are;

HP sendgrid;
http://sendgrid.com/pricing.html

Amazon AWS (SES);
http://aws.amazon.com/ses/

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