SoftLayer E-mail Delivery Service Overview

What is it?

SoftLayer’s Email Delivery Service is a Smart Host (or mail relay) service that allows clients to utilize a Smart Host to relay their outbound mail services. This is not “just a relay” as the service also generates metrics, tracks email lists, tracks email activity (bounced, clicked, dropped, opened, etc), assists with newsletters, provides authentication, and much more.

Theoretically, a client can maintain better Internet reputation and improve mail deliverability if they can tightly monitor the status of mail being sent, as well as provide some sort of authentication. Client’s using the Email Delivery Service should have an interest in these things as the service is intended for this purpose, versus just being a spammer’s external relay host. Additionally, understanding the nuances of this service and of email services in general will greatly help you use and maintain this service.

Types of packages

There are a few packages to choose from that differ in price, volume and features. Pricing varies and should only be discussed with our Sales team. More information on the packages can be found here: http://www.softlayer.com/email-delivery

  • Free Package 25,000
    • Bounce Tracking
    • Unsub Tracking
    • Click Tracking
  • Basic Package 50,000
    • 30 Days Free
    • Bounce Tracking
    • Unsub Tracking
    • Click Tracking
  • Advanced Package 100,000
    • Bounce Tracking
    • Unsub Tracking
    • Click Tracking
    • Open Tracking
    • Dedicated IP
  • Enterprise Package 250,000
    • Bounce Tracking
    • Unsub Tracking
    • Click Tracking
    • Open Tracking
    • Dedicated IP

The PRIMARY differing factor is that the last two allow the you to manage your reputation with a dedicated IP. The first two packages do not, and you will be utilizing shared IP space. This is an important factor and should definitely be weighed heavily upon when a trying decide what package would be best.

Ordering

Some details may change over time as the portal is modified and service packages are modified.

After you have selected the desired package, you will need to supply an email address (for contact purposes), and a unique username (a valid email address) and finally a password. After the service has been provisioned, it will be accessible via the “Email Delivery Service” link from the “Services” menu:

https://control.softlayer.com/services/emaildelivery

Accessing the Services

SoftLayer Portal

An Email Delivery Service account can be expanded to reveal an account overview, email credit usage, general statistics, email lists and a test email can be sent directly from here as well. This is currently the limit at which the vendor’s API is tied to our portal. Additional features that will be of great interest are accessible via the vendor portal login link on this same page.

Vendor Portal

The greatest amount of service configuration and service maintenance will performed in the vendor portal. This will be discussed at greater length in the following sections.

Viewing, Configuring, Using the Services

The Email Delivery Service is not just a simply relay host, but offers reputation tracking, add-on applications, statistics, API, and different sending options.

Sending Options

You will need to send mail traffic to the Smart Host (smtp.sendgrid.net) with the account credentials you set up when ordering your Email Delivery Services Account. This configuration is available with a SMTP server, mail client, web-app, or other programing language that can handle the SMTP protocol.

SMTP

  • Link to some server configs: Smart Host
  • The simplest email relay option with little configuration or effort on the client’s part.
  • Does not fully utilize the Email Delivery Service's capable options.
  • Smaller number of concurrent connections.
  • Each email being sent will consume additional resources.
  • Global settings created by the available Apps (such as the Unsubscribe app) will affect all email.
    • This is something to consider if you are also sending billing emails via the same account and someone was to click "unsubscribe" on a billing email!

SMTP API

  • Link to vendor docs: STMP API
  • Just slightly more complicated than standard SMTP
    • You are required to add API coding to the email header
    • Enhances the email being sent.
  • Provides a more utilization of the Email Delivery Service's capable options.
  • The number of individual emails being sent can be greatly reduced.
  • Add recipients in bulk to one email via API.
  • Smart Host receives this and will then send out the individual email to all each recipient.
  • This can greatly reduce local resources.
  • Global settings created by vendor applications can be turned off via the API level.
  • Should be limited to the broad scope of type of emails.
  • Tracking individual emails can be done by adding a unique identifier.
    • Event Notification App can be utilized with unique identifiers.
  • Add a category to groups of outgoing emails to allow for more finite statistics.

Web API

  • Link to vendor documentation: Web API
  • Much more complex.
  • SoftLayer Support will be limited here.
  • Most inquiries will need to be directed to vendor documentation.

NewsLetter Application

  • Link to vendor documentation: NewsLetter
  • Simplest in terms of all the sending options
  • Requires no local resources.

Reputation

The vendor's reputation score for the your account could be considered a “report card” and is based on several factors, including number of emails sent, bounced, reported as spam, unsubscribed, flagged emails as invalid, etc. The vendor will also monitor account reputation for abuse and undesirable sending practices.

Statistics

Statistics are essential for you to take responsibility for your reputation and correctly use your Email Delivery Service as it serves as the gauges and dials that give the reading of sending effectiveness. With it, you should be able to see if you are losing sending efficiency which WILL lead to damaging your reputation scores. You can use it to track what specific emails have reached their destination, have been clicked, bounce, unsubscribed, etc. This is also not just limited to simple, mass metrics as it can also be used if you need a custom category of emails or even a specific single email to trace if it was sent, received, opened, etc (which consequently also assists in troubleshooting).

  • Access your statistics in graphical and table views via both SoftLayer’s portal and the vendor’s portal.
  • Date ranges can be set.
  • Specific statistics can be selected.
  • There is also a category section that allows you to pull statistics of a specific custom category.
    • When using the API, you can add a category to the header that can be singled out when viewing statistics.
    • It is important to note, that the category is better used for broader ranged email metrics. Some clients will use this for more granular metrics of specific emails, but this not the best practice.
  • To gather more granular statistics, you should add a unique identifier to the header.
  • When using API, the client can add a unique identifier to the email header that be used to gather individual statistics.
  • This can also be used with the Event Notification App.

Email Activity Definitions

Requests

  • A request is made by your server or application for mail to be sent.

Delivered

  • Limited to the ISP accepting the mail as traffic to be delivered to the end recipient.
  • DOES NOT imply the mail reached the recipient’s INBOX .

Clicks

  • This amounts to the number of clicks on the links in the mail received by the recipients.
  • Counts EACH click no matter how long the recipient has had the mail or how often they have clicked a link.

Unique Clicks

  • This amounts to the number of “first time clicks” on the links in the mail received by the recipient.
  • Counts the FIRST or NEW clicks on each link, and NOT repeat clicks by the same recipient in the same mail.

Opens

  • BASED ON AN LOADED IMAGE. If the recipient chooses to disable automatically loaded images, an open will not be reported.
  • This amounts to the number of times mail has been opened.
  • Counts EACH time the mail is opened no matter how long the recipient has had the mail or how often they have opened it.

Unique Opens

  • BASED ON AN LOADED IMAGE. If the recipient chooses to disable automatically loaded images, an open will not be reported.
  • This amounts to the number of NEWLY opened mail received by the recipient.
  • Counts the FIRST time the mail is opened and NOT repeat times the same mail is opened by the same recipient.

Unsubscribes

  • Compliance rule for following CAN-SPAM laws for bulk, mass email requires mail to include an unsubscribe link.

Bounces and Repeat Bounces

  • Mail that is rejected by EITHER the sending or receiving server.
  • Consists of Hard and Soft bounces.

Spam Reports and Repeat Spam Reports

  • Occurs when mail gets directly flagged and reported as Spam.

Invalid Email

  • Recipient’s address being used is malformed and does not meet Internet standards.

Email Lists

This section will allow you to manage and even troubleshoot you sending conflicts. There are 5 email lists that can be managed:

  • Bounces
  • Blocks
  • Spam Reports
  • Invalid Emails
  • Unsubscribes

Consistently sending mail to email addresses on these lists can hurt reputation status and should be taken very seriously to improve deliverability and sender reputation percentages.

Here are a couple of lists that have unique traits that some people may not realize or understand.

    Bounce List
      Bounced mail is rejected mail from either the sending or receiving mail server for any number of reasons, from misspellings to full InBoxes. The vendor also filters for mail in the bounce list to generate repeat bounces. So even though there is a bounce on an email, does not mean it was bounced outside in the Internet, damaging your reputation with the ISPs.
    • Hard Bounce
        A hard bounce is the same as an error 500 reply, meaning there is no possibility of the mail being delivered, thereby does require further attempts to deliver. For example, if the user does not even have an email box, this will return a 500 error.
    • Soft Bounce
        This bounce will get redelivered over a short period of time because it is possible that there is a minor, temporary issue such as a full InBox. After this time, the mail is then listed as a hard bounce.
    Block List
      A block notification indicates that a black list has blocked the domain or IP mail is being sent from.
      IMPORTANT NOTE: This list logs a moment in time of when a single notification was received and does not hold any implied perpetual value as compared to the other lists (ie Unsubscribe List). So just because there is an event listed does not mean that a block is still in place.

Apps

This is a major part of the Email Delivery Service offering and although not every client is going to find every application useful, there are a few important ones that will be used by many.

Listed below are some of the more commonly used apps. Here is a link to the vendor documentation for all the apps.

  • Address Whitelisting
      By Address or Domain.
  • BCC
  • Only one address allowed.
  • IMPORTANT to note that links will be overwritten to point to vendor’s servers.
  • Allow the client to sign emails with a private key
  • DNS modification is needed to publish public key
  • Simply adds HTML wrapper to emails
  • Can be coupled with a unique identifier added to API
  • Will publish to designated URL.
  • Click Tracking
  • Mail sent with invisible image at the end of the email.
  • Works only when clients allow images in email.
  • Will publish results to designated URL.
  • Domain Keys
  • Email Template
  • Event Notification
  • Google Analytics
  • Open Tracking
  • Spam Checker Filter
  • NewsLetter

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