Introduction from a Founder

More than 6 years ago, my fellow co-founders and I started a journey to solve the problems of email. At the time, no cloud-based email infrastructure offering existed, and as three software engineers, we figured we could build it and make people’s lives easier.

We discovered that email problems, and solutions, revolve around people, not technology.

Bad actors like spammers and phishers have forced inbox providers to build automated defenses to prevent their malicious messages from getting to recipients. Unfortunately, this means that many legitimate senders are unaware of these defenses, and their messages suffer the same consequences. What are they to do? Who can they talk to? How can they improve their email program so it doesn’t happen again?

Typically, the solution to an email problem is an alteration of sender behavior. At SendGrid, we often coach our customers to send less email in order to be the types of senders that an inbox provider is willing to trust. Quality is much more important than quantity when it comes to a successful email campaign.

If you’re considering whether your company should handle email on-premise or use a cloud-based solution, the people become the most compelling factor in favor of a cloud-based solution. There are a few reasons for this:

1. Email isn’t something they teach in any class; the only way to get experience is the hard way: dealing with problems and fixing them. 

2Email is such a critical part of a company that it shouldn’t be left up to one person to fix things when they are going wrong.

3. The highest cost in email isn’t the hardware to run it or the people to maintain it, it’s the cost to a business when it isn’t working.

SendGrid is trusted by hundreds of thousands of customers who rely on us to power their email infrastructure needs because we have the people, experience, and technology to get their messages delivered. I hope you’ll trust us as well.

– Tim Jenkins, SendGrid Co-founder, and CTO

You can read more articles by Tim on the SendGrid Blog 

Build vs. Buy

There are many factors that come into this choice, but the largest center around whether it’s better to manage your infrastructure internally or outsource the management and buy an email infrastructure. This guide will provide you with:

  • Considerations you should take into account when making the “build vs. buy” decision
  • A chart comparing the two options
  • Steps you should take when setting up your infrastructure
  • Next steps to take when you’re ready to send
  • Where you can go to get the help you need if problems arise

Email is a critical part of any successful organization, so it’s important that you make the right choice for your business needs. The most important factors that come into play when considering these two options are:  

Deliverability

Successful email deliverability means that the message you sent made it to your recipient’s inbox as intended. If the message ends up in the junk/bulk/spam folder, that means the email failed to get delivered correctly.

This concept is what SendGrid is built on. We have teams of experts to help companies authenticate their messages, maintain their reputations, and make sure relationships with inbox providers are maintained.

As a result, customers who choose to use SendGrid as their email infrastructure are able to get more of their messages delivered correctly.

Scalability

Sending one email is simple. But what about 10 or 50 million in a day? When successful companies start gaining traction and need to communicate with their users or customers, they need to scale their email alongside the rest of their business.

With an on-premise email solution, this could require adding servers, people, and other resources to handle the load. SendGrid customers can simply continue to add recipients and upgrade their plans as they see fit.

Today, SendGrid has scaled our platform to easily handle sending over 1 BILLION emails a day. This means that even the largest sender can trust that we can process, and deliver, their messages.

Support

If you build an on-premise email solution, when something goes wrong with your email, you only have one place to turn: yourself. Troubleshooting email issues are difficult for any company, and depending on your email volume, you could be impacting business for days on end.

Not only will you be spending time and resources fixing the problem, email can critically impair your business from operating at all.

SendGrid is known for providing industry-leading support to our customers. We have a team of email experts who are ready to answer nearly any email question that can be asked. If there’s a problem with your email, you can get in contact with someone at SendGrid 24×7.

SendGrid is also a customer-focused company that wants to help people get answers to questions as quickly as possible. We have detailed Documentation and the constantly up-to-date SendGrid Blog to help you solve problems when they arise.

Cost

At the end of the day, many businesses are concerned with one thing: cost. Is it cheaper to buy a cloud-based email infrastructure like SendGrid or build an in-house solution? Companies that choose to build their solutions need to consider costs for hardware, software, and staffing over time. These add up quickly and usually grow. 

However, as SendGrid Co-founder, Tim Jenkins, pointed out in the introduction, the highest cost in email isn’t the hardware to run it or the people to maintain it, it’s the cost to a business when it isn’t working. If your account confirmation, password reset, user profile, or authentication emails aren’t being sent correctly, your ability to create revenue grinds to a halt very quickly.

Buying an email infrastructure solution allows you to pay a monthly fee in return for an email delivery service. Rather than employing in-house email experts, you can leverage teams of people dedicated to all things email to help you send your messages and get them into the inboxes of your recipients.  

Comparison Chart

Below is a comparison chart you can use if you’re considering the choice between building an on-premise email solution or outsourcing your email infrastructure to SendGrid. We’ve included the above considerations, as well as a few other email-specific concerns.

Using SendGrid Building On-Prem
Hardware and Software Purchasing, maintaining, and upgrading are handled by SendGrid for you Purchasing, maintenance, and ongoing maintenance will have to be taken into account over the life of your email program.
Pricing SendGrid provides a straightforward pricing structure that allows you to budget for email in an easy, predictable way. Depending on personnel, physical assets, and licenses, pricing an on-premise email solution can be difficult and expensive.
Staff SendGrid has engineering, support, and deliverability teams who are dedicated to getting your email delivered. Depending on the amount of money you want to invest, you may have one or two people dedicated to monitoring your email infrastructure and attempting to get messages delivered.
Deliverability SendGrid was built to solve email deliverability issues, and we provide customers with access to all the tools and expertise at our disposal so their messages are delivered correctly. With your email system in place, you’ll have to monitor changes in inbox provider requirements, sign up for feedback loops, and authenticate your IPs. These are just the basics, and once in place, your email team will have to maintain a clean email list and work with inbox providers if you’ve been placed on any blacklists.
Support SendGrid provides all customers with access to our technical support team. We currently have an entire team of experts helping people answer any and all email questions 24×7. Developing an on-premise email solution means there isn’t a support system to rely on if (and when) things go wrong. Support and problems need to be handled by your developers and any email experts you hire.
Authentication For SendGrid customers who want to make sure their email is authenticated correctly, we provide Expert Services for onboarding and email delivery so that you can work directly with our email experts. Prior to sending your email, you’ll need to properly set up SPF, DKIM, DMARC, A records, PTR records, and a valid MX record. From there, you should set up “postmaster” and “abuse” mailboxes for all your domains.
Maintenance SendGrid ensures that as your business grows, you will always be able to scale your email program. We have servers and data centers on-hand as well as an operations staff dedicated to making sure your messages are sent correctly. Once again, with an on-prem solution, maintenance is up to you. As you scale and need to add tech to handle your email campaigns, your in-house team will need to handle installation and any ongoing upgrades.

Setting Up Your Email Infrastructure

By now, you’ve probably determined that outsourcing your email infrastructure to a cloud-based solution like SendGrid is the right way to handle your organization’s email needs.

Your cloud-based email infrastructure still needs to be set up though. Below, we’ll cover a few more decisions you’ll have to make about your email program and some tips for making sure your email is delivered correctly.

How will you send email?

SendGrid can be used in a few different ways depending on your business needs:

Web API

You can use SendGrid’s Web API to send emails via HTTP. Once you’ve created your SendGrid account, you can use SendGrid’s Web API endpoint to request to send your email along with the contents of the message. SendGrid then processes the request and passes the message to the recipient’s inbox provider and provides you with a response that the message was accepted or not.

Learn more about response codes and what they mean in SendGrid’s Docs.

We recommend senders use the Web API because it’s fast and easy to use. You can learn more about integrating and using SendGrid’s Web API in our Web API Documentation.

SMTP Relay

Unlike the Web API, when you use SMTP to connect to SendGrid, separate pieces of information must be passed back and forth between SendGrid and your servers before the message can be processed and sent to the recipient inbox provider.

While SMTP does take more time and has additional points of failure, it is also a standard email protocol and is used universally. For customers who are unable to use the Web API, SMTP is a perfectly acceptable option.

Learn more about SMTP in our educational blog post-SMTP Service Crash Course.

Marketing Campaigns

benefits of email marketing

Finally, if you’re simply sending marketing email, you can use SendGrid’s user interface to upload contacts, design templates, and schedule email campaigns. SendGrid designed Marketing Campaigns so that marketers and developers alike can create the best marketing emails possible.

To learn more about the basics of Marketing Campaigns, visit our Documentation Classroom, or to get a more technical walkthrough you can check out the Marketing Campaign’s User Guide.  

 

Determining Your IP Needs

Once you’ve decided how you’re going to integrate and use SendGrid, you’ll need to determine if you need a dedicated IP. Depending on the amount of email you’re going to send, more than one IP may be appropriate for your program.

Generally, SendGrid recommends that if you’re requesting to send more than 50,000 messages each month, you should have a dedicated IP address to send your mail from. This allows you to take responsibility for your sending reputation.

All SendGrid email plans allow you to setup domain authentication and link branding. Senders using a dedicated IP can also implement reverse DNS for improved deliverability.

To learn how to set up domain authentication, link branding, and reverse DNS, please visit the Documentation User Guide article How to Set Up Domain Authentication.

By being in control of your dedicated IP and your reputation, you can improve the likelihood that messages are delivered to recipient inboxes correctly. Smaller senders, on the other hand, can actually benefit from sending mail from a shared IP address.

Many times, smaller senders have varying volumes of email campaigns. These fluctuations in sends can raise red flags for inbox providers, and they may place mail in the junk or spam folder rather than the inbox. To prevent this, smaller senders can use a shared IP with other small senders to maintain a more consistent mail volume and reputation with that IP.  

Authentication Basics

Once you’ve established your email infrastructure, you need to authenticate your email. Email authentication is the validation techniques you use to show inbox providers that the email coming from you is actually yours. The three most important authentication techniques you should use are:

Warming Up Your Configuration

Not long ago, the concept of warm-up was strictly referring to your IP address. Today, spam filters and inbox providers think about warm up in terms of your whole sending configuration.  These days, when senders think about warm up, they have to consider their IP, DKIM domain, from address, and even their content.

Inbox providers default to placing mail streams in the junk or spam folders to protect recipients. It’s important for all senders to go through a warm-up phase to introduce your IPs, domains, and your messages to inbox providers to show them that they’re legitimate and wanted.

Proper warm-up means sending a very small amount of traffic for the first several sends with a new sending resource (IP/DKIM/domain). Start with your most engaged recipients and gradually increase volume from there. A very cautious warm-up shouldn’t take more than 30 days. An aggressive warm-up can be done in about seven.

Learn more about the IP warm-up process in the SendGrid blog post, What Is and What Isn’t an IP Warm Up?

Segmenting Your Email

For senders who want to ensure their mail is delivered correctly, another step they can take is separating the types of email they’re sending into two buckets:

  • Promotional Messages – Newsletters, discount offers, sales announcements, etc.
  • Transactional Messages – Receipts, password resets, account notifications, etc.  

If you send all email from the same IP and same “from” address, customers who unsubscribe from promotional emails (or report them as spam) may end up not receiving future receipts or password resets they want and need.

To prevent this from happening, you can create a sub-user within your SendGrid account and then add another dedicated IP.

By doing that, you can send all your promotional messages from your main account, and then all your transactional messages from a separate IP and sub-user. You should also consider sending transactional messages from a different “from” address.

This easy separation of mail streams will keep your transactional mail reputation intact, and prevent recipients from unintentionally missing out on important messages.

For more advanced senders, you can add as many sub-users and IPs as you like so that even individual email campaigns are sent from their own IPs. Read about the latest in segmenting strategy in our blog post, Two New Email Segmentation Techniques.

Address Collection

One of the biggest problems senders run into when beginning a new campaign is sending to a list of email addresses that they either purchased, used in previous businesses, crawled from social media, or have acquired from a partner, affiliate, or associate.

These practices can wreak havoc on your infrastructure because the people on those lists haven’t shown interest in your new email program, and they may find your email unwanted and intrusive.

Your email is a guest in your recipients’ inboxes. With that in mind, if you’re sending email to people who don’t want it or expect it, they will mark it as spam and negatively impact your reputation. With a bad reputation, no matter how well you’ve set up your infrastructure or authenticated your email, you won’t get inboxed well.

The best thing to do is grow an email list from the ground up and set expectations as you go. You can learn more about how to do this in our blog, Great Expectations: Setting User Expectations Before Pressing “Send.”

Get the Help You Need

SendGrid is here to help you correct your deliverability problems or answer any other email questions you may have. The resources below are designed to answer technical and non-technical questions alike:

Blog

SendGrid’s Blog has been updated multiple times every week for almost four years. You can visit the blog to find older posts that answer best practices, product, and technical questions. You can also subscribe to the blog to stay updated on all things email related.

Docs

The SendGrid Documentation has nearly everything you need to get your email program off the ground. If you can’t find what you’re looking for in the menu, simply use the search function to find the topic that best answers your question.

Expert Services

SendGrid has a team of email experts who can help you in many different ways. This group is separate from SendGrid Support, and is focused on helping new customers onboard and use our product, and helping customers improve their deliverability issues. Depending on the level of service you need, Expert Services will develop a pricing plan for you. Simply fill out the contact form to receive a quote.  

Support

SendGrid’s Support team is available to customers 24×7 and is capable of answering any SendGrid-related issue. Whether you need a step-by-step walkthrough of whitelabeling your account, or you have billing issues, you can contact SendGrid support for help.  

Get Started with SendGrid

About SendGrid

SendGrid helps you focus on your business without the cost and complexity of owning and maintaining an email infrastructure. We manage all of the technical details, from scaling infrastructure to ISP outreach and reputation monitoring, to whitelist services and real-time analytics. We offer world-class deliverability expertise to make sure your emails get delivered, handle ISP monitoring, DKIM, domain keys, SPF, feedback loops, link customization, and more. To learn more, visit www.sendgrid.com

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