Using Amazon Simple Email Service

My company develops a software suite for retailers. Part of this application suite is the requirement to send emails. Emails for order confirmation, emails for delivery notification, special offer emails and so on. Nothing difficult in this you many think. Technically no, but…. Delivering a high volume of emails on a regular basis will often result in your mail messages being blocked by your Internet Service Provider (ISP) as the will deem it as spam if appropriate measures are not taken. A number of companies provide bulk email facilities to prevent your emails being blocked and charge for this service.

Part of Amazon Web Services is the Amazon Simple Email Service (SES). This service lets you send bulk emails with a reduced likelihood of them being blocked. The service is elegant and cost effective but requires a good knowledge of its workings to use effectively. It will not for instance allow you to send large amounts of email immediately. Firstly you will need to be granted production access. This requires validation of senders and initially email recipients. Once validation has been passed, then your account is place in the Amazon sandbox.This is a restricted environment that prevents unlimited sending of emails. The initial quotas are:

  • Only send/receive from verified addresses
  • Maximum of 200 messages per 24 hour period
  • Maximum of one message per second

To increase this quota, production access must be requested. This involves completing an application form to Amazon. Once production level has been granted, the volume of emails that can be sent per day can grow up to 1000000 per day – assuming metrics based on email quality are met. The associated send rate can also grow to a maximum of 90 emails per second. To ensure the appropriate mail quality, users of SES must monitor the quality of traffic using metrics such as

  • Bounces
  • Complaints
  • Delivery attempts
  • Rejected send attempts

To determine these statistics Amazon provide a script that can be used. Alternatively, they have just announced support from the Amazon management console for SES management. Here a dashboard is provided where trends in the statistics can be visualised and analysed.

As with all Amazon AWS, SES is an elegant, cost effective, scalable solution to a common infrastructure problem. The service enables sending 2000 emails per day for free and then costs $0.01 per thousand emails after. Data transfer rates will also apply though. To use these services effectively requires a deep knowledge of how they work, how they are monitored and tuned to perform in the best possible manner for your organisation. It is exactly this knowledge that Learning Tree’s Amazon AWS course aims to provide. If you are interested in using AWS then I would recommend attending.

Chris Czarnecki

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