Amazon Launches Bulk Email Service: SES

Cloud computing
Earlier this week, Amazon announced the launch of its new Simple Email Service (SES).

SES is part of the Amazon Web Services (AWS) division. That’s the division that also provides Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), Amazon S3 and Cloudfront.

What is Amazon SES?

Amazon SES is not an email service like Exchange or Gmail. It’s designed for people who want to send email marketing and other similar types of bulk email. The Amazon newsletter is a good example.

SES is therefore Amazon’s equivalent of  services such as AWeber and Mailchimp. But SES doesn’t provide newsletter management as such: it is strictly an outgoing mail server for sending legitimate bulk email.

As a customer, you’d have to create the list, develop the mailing and send it.

Bearing this in mind, SES is for clients with very large bulk mailing needs that have the expertise to do most of the work themselves. The majority of hosting customers won’t use it. But SES could be incredibly useful to corporate customers.

That impact could, in turn, trickle down to small businesses over time.

Why Use Bulk Email Services?

With a bulk email service, users can download software to turn their ordinary home computer into a bulk mail sender. Amazon says SES is different because of its price and its performance.

Amazon SES costs 10 cents per 1,000 messages sent out; customers sending messages through Amazon EC2 or Elastic Beanstalk can send up to 2,000 messages per day free. Bandwidth charges apply to both tiers, the same as with all Amazon’s services, but the first GB of outward traffic is free.

It’s tough to compare SES with Aweber and Mailchimp, because the service both offer is slightly different. For the sake of perspective, Aweber charges $19 per month to send unlimited email to 500 peopleMailChimp is free for up to 1,000 subscribers and 6,000 emails per month, but its bulk pricing plans are several times more expensive than Amazon’s, averaging about 50 cents per 1,000 messages.

How Amazon’s Bulk Email Service Works

‘Deliverability’ is hard to measure, but Amazon sends many newsletters and has honed its metrics around deliverability and success rates. This means it’s going to have to work hard to prevent spam.

It’s therefore pretty cautious about taking on new customers, acccording to reports.

Initially, new clients must use the SES Sandbox, a stripped-down version of the SES service with limitations:

  • All addresses have to be verified via an emailed link – even if the recipient has done this already.
  • Outgoing email sent through the Sandbox is limited to one message per second.
  • Users cannot exceed 200 sent email messages per day.

Once a customer has a proven track record, they may request an upgrade to the full version of SES. They can send send 1,000 email messages per day, though the mail is still throttled to one per second.

Those caps are lifted to 90 messages per second and 1,000,000 per day in a few weeks, if the user needs greater capacity.

Is Amazon SES Worth Using?

Amazon SES isn’t meant to be a replacement for Gmail or Exchange. It’s not a replacement for MailChimp and AWeber either. It’s targeted solely at corporate customers; the companies that send out tens or even hundreds of thousands of messages per month.

As such, clients will need to have the tools for building lists and developing emails already.

Other AWS products have proven that companies can be inspired to build new services when the technology is there, and SES could be the same. Amazon’s products are cheap, reliable and developer-friendly, so SES could sit behind services we all use, even if we don’t sign up directly.

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