Around 14 years ago, I got to experience one of the happiest days of a boat owner’s life; the day I bought it. In some respects it wasn’t exactly a happy day, since it broke down on its test run and we found out that the radio was busted. Since then, I’ve had to do a ton of maintenance on the engine, including replacing it. Fortunately, it uses a pretty standard Chevy 350 engine, which was used in millions of vehicles for decades, so even though the engine goes out often, it isn’t impossible to replace and get things running again.

Making Sure Every Piece Fits

I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m talking about boat motors and how they relate to sending email. Something I’ve realized as we’ve built SendGrid over the past 6 years, is you can’t just start with what looks like a great engine to build on, but instead, everything needs to be designed for the purpose you are using it for.

In the case of my boat, I can’t say anything negative about Chevy’s ability to make a great car/truck engine, but I can say that engine doesn’t work so great in salt water, which it wasn’t designed for. A boat operates in a very specialized environment, and in order for it to work well, all of the pieces need to be designed to work there.

I see a cloud service as very similar. When SendGrid was first starting, we used Postfix, probably the most popular MTA out there, for our incoming and email delivery system. I have nothing bad to say about the software, but I will say it doesn’t work so great for a high scale cloud service. What we’ve found at SendGrid is that in order to create a service that as an integrated whole is high scale and reliable, we had to build most of the pieces ourselves for this purpose. You can’t just have a great MTA; every piece must be great, and designed from the beginning to work together in the environment for which it’s being used.

A system is only as good as its weakest link; it doesn’t matter how great the engine is if the starter goes out.

Price and Value

In the case of my boat, hindsight has certainly showed me that I got what I paid for. While it was easy to get the price extremely low while drifting in the ocean, many trips were ruined when the engine went out again. Many companies try to compete purely on price, but as the market has already shown this year, that is not sustainable. SendGrid is committed to providing our customers not just with our service but with value. We are built to last and will be there for you not just now, but in the long term as well.

Providing a Life Preserver

I’ve learned another piece of maritime advice that relates to email. Sitting in the middle of the ocean with no engine and no radio, hoping that someone sees your flares before you run out, is not a good place to be. Having a working radio is more important than any other piece of equipment on a boat. Similarly, I feel one of the most important “features” of a cloud provider, after being able to deliver email, is the ability for a customer to be able to call for help.

As our CEO mentioned in an earlier post, SendGrid has more support staff than most other cloud email providers have employees. This is critical because the root problems, and solutions, for email revolve around people, not technology. Bad actors such as spammers and phishers have caused inbox providers to build automated defenses against them, so when a legitimate sender gets caught in these, the solution often relies on the ability to talk to someone about how this happened more than it does any software change to resolve it.

But finding the right person to talk to usually isn’t a straightforward task, and often relies on having existing relationships in the email community. At SendGrid, we are extremely committed to ensuring that if a customer is having an issue, it is solved as quickly as possible. Our 24/7 Support Team handles all of your questions, not just “critical incident” support, and our Compliance & Standards team is dedicated to protecting your sending. I personally respond to many questions on our community site, because I believe our customers deserve the very best in their hour of need.

Finding Happiness

I’m still waiting for that second happiest day in a boat owner’s life. Anyone want to buy a boat that will leave you stranded in the ocean?

Didn’t think so.

For more on my thoughts on clouds, boats, and how to migrate to SendGrid join me for an “Ask Me Anything” webcast on April 21st. Submit your questions ahead of time here.

Tim Jenkins
Tim is a Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer at SendGrid.