Web Software Architecture and Engineering – Life on the Bleeding Edge

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My Notes on Finding a SaaS Email Company

Our ColdFusion-based SaaS application sends out roughly 8,000 – 10,000 emails per day, and even more on the weekends.

I wrote the code in 2007, and since then worked hard on improving memory usage. We optimized queries, re-worked string concatenation to use JAVA’s StringBuffer and StringBuilder classes, and so much more. But to tell you the truth, we always wanted to work with some other software to do the hard work for us. We have templates, to which we pass in variables and shoot that off to a slice of our clients.

Originally, we worked with WhatCounts back in 2008 to get this done. Unfortunately, their API wasn’t as mature as we thought, and batch processing was a pain. I spoke with the CEO on the phone back them, and we decided after working together for months to part ways.

I have to say our current solution is a work of art, but I’d like more. It would be nice to get email analytics – information on opens, clicks, etc. We could do that internally, but its not our core competency. So for a long time, I kept my eyes open for any new companies I could work with.

Originally, I thought that maybe I could make due with the ConstantContact and VerticalResponse’s of the world. But they are not built for this type of work, and are geared more for marketing campaigns.

Fortunately, there are some new players in the field. I narrowed the field down to half a dozen players, and did proofs of concept with the top 3: SendGrid, PostmarkApp, and PostageApp. They all feature APIs and could meet some of my needs. What wasn’t clear, was how mature the feature set was. But the great thing about them was they allowed for no-cost trials, so I went ahead and tried them.

My primary use case was the following. Remember when you first learned Microsoft Word, and that one of the neat features was doing merging… you could create a template or form, and passing an address book for example, and it would create a ton of letters? Well, that is the sort of use case I had with email. I wanted the 3rd-party system to house my templates, and for me to pass in via API – users who would receive the emails and variables with the content they would receive. Simple I thought – I mean I could write something like that in ColdFusion if I had to. The great plusses were the deliverability improvements, anti-SPAM measures, and of course the analytics and logging.

I’ll be featuring a few posts on my experience working with the 3. There was a clear winner, and some astonishing things that became quite apparent with a few – especially those written in Rails.

Does something like this interest you?

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