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What is phpList Hosting?
PhpList is a software package for the management of mailing lists. It owes much of its popularity to the fact that it is written in PHP and uses a standard MySQL database. In addition, it is open-source, published under the GNU General Public License (GPL).
Whether you run an e-commerce site, a B2B site, or just blog about a certain subject, keeping in touch with readers and customers is an important step in making your site successful. This is especially true of niche sites and businesses that do not rely on regular traffic. Once someone leaves your site, there's no guarantee they'll ever come back.
However, email marketing hopes to overcome this problem by giving you the ability to reach out to customers long after they first used your services. This may prove useful for promotional programmes and improve customer loyalty.
Don't spam, provide useful and informative updates
Part of the purpose of email marketing is to generate revenue and convert readers into customers, keep regular customers informed, announce promotional contests, sales and disseminate other information that may be of use.
Of course, you should tread carefully and stop short of spamming your customers' inboxes with countless updates they may not find relevant, but this is another matter. We are talking about the technical aspects of phpList, the marketing department should handle the rest.
In case you deal with an international audience, phpList can be a useful tool for reaching out to clients abroad, in their language. Bear in mind that phpList supports a number of major languages (English, Spanish, German, Japanese, French, Portuguese, Vietnamese, and Traditional Chinese). Support for new ones is constantly being added.
The software can also handle extensive mailing lists with hundreds of thousands of subscribers, which makes it very scalable – phpList can be used by small, niche sites, or large e-commerce or B2B services.
System requirements for phpList
While phpList was originally developed for the Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP environment (LAMP), it is also compatible with OpenBSD, FreeBSD, Apple's OS X and Microsoft environments such as Windows Server or IIS 7.0 and above.
As far as LAMP is concerned, you will need PHP version 4.3.x or higher with an IMAP module for bounce processing. The required MySQL version is 4.0 or higher.
On Windows, you will need Apache, PHP and MySQL. The phpList team recommends XAMPP server for testing and development. While Windows IIS web server is not officially supported and the environment is not recommended by the developer, it is possible with a bit of tinkering.
Support for PHP with IMAP is another requirement if you want phpList to automatically process your bounces. The phpList team is also working on support for ADOdb, but it is still not officially supported.
It is highly recommended to run phpList with "safe mode" in PHP off. This should not be an issue with small operations, but with more than 500 users safe mode will not work. In addition, safe mode will prevent automatic bounce processing.
Installation is relatively straightforward and phpList documentation will guide you step by step.
You simply need to download the distribution files from phpList, unpack it and allow it to recreate default directories and subdirectories, then upload the contents of the lists directory into your web folder.
The next step is to create a database compatible with phpList. This can be done from the prompt or with the help of phpMyAdmin. In case your host does not allow the creation of new databases, you can use an existing one by specifying a prefix for table names in the config.php file. This is done with a simple text editor, but it can take a while. Luckily detailed instructions are available on the phpList website.
Once the configuration is complete, you can initialise the installation process by pointing your browser to the web directory where the phpList backend is located. From then on, it is all down to the installer.
The process may differ for OpenBSD users, but it is still relatively straightforward.
Don't forget to backup and upgrade
The upgrade process is not entirely automated, so the operator still needs to backup the database and old config.php file.
Another alternative is to backup phpList entirely, so you can rollback the update in case it starts misbehaving. It is recommended to download the contents of the entire phpList directory from your server to your hard disk for recovery.
The next step is to download the latest phpList version and unpack it while deleting all files from your phpList folder. It is also necessary to create a new config.php file. Although the old config file can be reused, this is not recommended.