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Cloud email service price comparison (willj.net)
57 points by wlll on Nov 30, 2011 | hide | past | favorite | 25 comments

Pricing is hard. We've thought about it a lot at Mailgun.

First of all, alexknowshtml makes some essential points about comparing a commoditized sending service like SES vs. more full feature services. The biggest one is delivering vs. sending.

But, maybe the answer should be to move towards ala carte pricing.

If you want just basic sending, then the price is somewhere around the current floor of $0.10 per 1k messages. But then you can add services like dedicated IPs, analytics, enhanced delivery, whitelabel domains, etc. for extra. These services could be fixed or variable costs based on the feature.

Makes the billing system a lot more complicated, but this seems to make the most sense for the customer. Allows them to tailor their email service to exactly what they need.

I chose Postmark over Sendgrid because Postmark supports bounce callbacks for any volume, but for the same feature from Sendgrid we would have to pay $80/month, and we didn't need to send even a small fraction of the emails that that plan includes. You should compare prices based on your expected volume, not on some hypothetical maximum.

Something else to keep in mind is that some of these services reviewed are explicitly not intended to be used for bulk mail marketing campaigns but only for individual user targeted emails such as order confirmations.

I totally agree, price is only one factor and that features offered will be a major factor making in the decision of which provider to choose.

That said, we send 10s of million emails a month (not bulk or marketing campaigns) so the price is going to be pretty big factor.


Our price per 1000 drops with large credit purchases, and all features/benefits stay the same. If you've got a monthly send-count you can share more detailed than "10s of millions", email me alex@wildbit.com and we can talk about volume credit pricing options.

We use Postmark for a side project (http://minusm.com) and the support has been awesome. We like the simple price plan and the API is very good.

You should add MailGun to this comparison and the graphs

[1] http://mailgun.net

[2] http://documentation.mailgun.net/faqs.html

[3] http://mailgun.net/pricing


Curious about incoming email. Not even a price comparison, just a list of companies.

We/Mailgun focus a lot on incoming mail parsing and routing. Honestly, we find it more interesting than just sending/delivery. Although, there is clearly more market demand for sending. We also allow you to create IMAP/POP3 mailboxes programmatically. We wrote a blog post about it recently[1] and you can also check out our docs for more information[2].

The other companies that I am aware of with incoming email capabilities are Sendgrid with their Parse API[3] and I believe Cloudmailin[4] focuses exclusively on handling incoming email.

Edit: Postmark[5] has incoming email in beta as well. Added links, too

[1] http://blog.mailgun.net/post/12482374892/handle-incoming-ema...

[2] http://documentation.mailgun.net/user_manual.html#receiving-...

[3] http://docs.sendgrid.com/documentation/api/parse-api-2/

[4] http://cloudmailin.com/

[5] http://postmarkapp.com/

> We also allow you to create IMAP/POP3 mailboxes programmatically.

This sounds cool - is there a non-obvious (at least to me) case for this beyond providing your customers with fully-functional inboxes?

Some customers use it for redundancy. So if we POST a message to them and they mishandle it, they can go back and search the inbox.

What do you want to do with incoming mail? Just outsource the mailboxes to check from your computer/phone, or are you looking for some kind of preprocessing service for connecting mail to your apps?

Check out Context.io, they have a unique and interesting take on "incoming email". Basically, they turn mailboxes into databases.

One I can think of offhand is http://cloudmailin.com/

Postmark is offering this as well. It's been in private beta for a number of months but is solid. It's been in production on our other app, Beanstalk, as well our customers apps including the issue tracker DoneDone (http://www.getdonedone.com).

Beta is closed now until we open the feature to the public, which is planned to be very soon.

Hey, it's Alex from Postmark here. I posted a response in a recent Quora thread[1] wondering why Postmark was "so expensive", so I'll move some of those answers here.

First and formost, there's a bit of an "apples vs. oranges vs bananas" comparison here. We need to start by drawing a line between email sending engines and email deliverability engines. Then, we'll draw a line between the delivery of transactional email (that your webapp sends) and bulk email (your marketing campaigns).

While Postmark's price per 1000 sends is "higher" than some of our competition, we provide our customers with access to the full deliverability & diagnosis stack that we provide for our accounts regardless of how much they spend monthly. Also, our price per 1000 sends drops to $1.00 for bulk credit purchases starting at 500k credits, $0.75 for 1MM+, and $0.50 for 2MM+.

When you compare Sendgrid (along with SES, Mailgun, etc), you need to look at what we each offer at each price point.

In Tim Falls' answer on Quora, he says:

>"If you want the best possible feature set we have to offer, which includes a dedicated IP, our entire suite of APIs, an exhaustive collection of stats and more, you can sign up for our Silver plan or higher - Silver gets you 100k emails/month for $79.95, and everything we have to offer.

> In conclusion: yes, our Lite plan is similar to SES and is very basic in terms of features - which could put it in the "commodity" category. However, at higher price points, you can get everything you need to operate a fully functional email system - without the hassle of doing everything yourself and with access to our team of experts, who are available by phone, live chat, and email."

Tim's right. SES is very basic and is in the commodity category. It's an email sending engine, NOT a deliverability engine.

Tim also points out that in order to get what they consider "a fully functional email system", Sendgrid customers need to spend at least $80/month.

Postmark is $1.50/thousand (or less) with no minimums. You can literally spend $1.50/month with us and get the same level/quality of service as someone spending thousands of dollars/month with us.

In addition to our specialized delivery infrastructure, and the tools we provide that can help you with self-diagnosis of delivery issues, our team has over 7 years of email delivery experience and has an extremely strong track record for pinning oddball delivery problems that arise even with best-of-breed delivery infrastructure. Our customer service isn't just fanatical and friendly, they're experienced in the problems you're likely to have.

How does this "transactional vs. bulk" mail conversation affect you bottom line?

Sending an important transactional email from the same infrastructure as your marketing email queue increases the likelihood that your transactional emails will be throttled as if they were part of a bulk campaign. A missing or slow-to-deliver "forgot password" email, for instance, could be the loss of a customer to a competitor while they can't get into their account, which obviously affects your bottom line. Further, transactional email gets read, which means if you're going to put "marketing" in an email, it has much more value in a transactional email because it's more likely to be read (with the caveat, of course, that it's done tastefully).

So in addition to our low tolerance, we also strictly prohibit bulk/marketing email sending on Postmarks infrastructure to keep our reputation for transactional emails as high as possible. Our laser focus on a specific email delivery category keeps our delivery rates as high as possible for customers who abide by our sending guidelines, and that premium informs our price point as well.

And how do we know all this?

We ran an email marketing service for 7 years and learned a lot about what works and what doesn't. We ALSO run one of the most popular SVN/Git/Mercurial hosting services - Beanstalk. Beanstalk sends significant volume every single day, and was one of Postmark's first "customers". And when we have ZERO deliverability problems ourselves, we have huge confidence in our ability to provide that to others by following our own guidelines. And it's not just our own apps - we've had people come to Postmark after being dissatisfied with others' deliverability rates, and have been pleased with Postmark's performance.

[1] http://www.quora.com/Why-are-Mailgun-and-Postmark-so-much-mo...

Thanks for the detailed writeup.

> Postmark is $1.50/thousand (or less) with no minimums. You can literally spend $1.50/month with us and get the same level/quality of service as someone spending thousands of dollars/month with us.

Again, this is exactly why I chose you guys over Sendgrid. Very simple pricing with no arbitrary feature segmentation by plan.

You're welcome :)

>Very simple pricing

This isn't always talked about as part of "design", but we consider simple pricing an element of design and a benefit as well and many of our customers agree.

In our mind, Will shouldn't have had to draw diagrams to figure out what would cost more.

I even started sending personal mail via Postmark SMTP to further decentralize. Having no minimum and using a concept of pre-paid credits is genius. Since I send very small amounts of mail, even the free quota will last me a loong time. I feel like I am abusing/taking advantage of the service in this way :)

$1.5 per 1K emails include Custom DKIM? If yes, then it is really a great deal.

We let any customer have DKIM signed messages on their own domain, if that is what you mean. If not, can you clarify?

People need to pay SendGrid at least $80 per month for the silver plan in order to get rid of the (via sendgrid.info) header in Gmail (sometimes people only need to send a few K emails..)


Also, do you support mass newsletters sending to subscribed users? I use sendgrid because many other providers like MailChimp said they don't allow it.

To be fair, sendgrid's service is also very good, e.g. customer support, reliability etc.

Ah, okay. Yes we support custom DKIM for all accounts.

We do not allow newsletter (or any bulk style) sending - I explained our reasoning behind separating and only sending transactional email through Postmark - by definition of transactional, the recipient is expecting the email and it is a custom response to an action.

Edit: typo.

"Cloud" email? Seriously? If I have to endure someone calling something "the cloud" one more time I'm going to shoot myself! Since when did the web turn into the cloud? It's still nothing but a bunch of damn servers! That just bugs me.

Anyway, thanks for the price info and thanks to the guys from Postmark and Mailgun for explaining why their pricing looks so skewed in this post.

Would you prefer SaaS, or web service? Will that soothe you?

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