The 8 Questions You Should Ask Before Choosing an Email Delivery Service

Brent Sleeper
Apr. 19, 2017 by Brent Sleeper

There are many reasons why SparkPost has become the world’s fastest-growing email delivery service. And we’re certainly proud of the technical and business benefits we deliver for developers and enterprises.

But we know you have options when you’re integrating email into your app or web site. In fact, the number and variety of choices sometimes can seem a little overwhelming. That’s why our team has put together a list of questions you should be asking us—or any email delivery service—to see which is the right fit for your business.

  • Does the service have a robust email API? This one should be a no-brainer, but you might surprised at how limiting some APIs can be, especially when they’ve been bolted onto an older platform. A modern technology stack should be built API-first, which is a key requirement for real-time, data-driven transactional email delivery.
  • Does it supply real-time data and analytics? Savvy senders understand that email metrics go way beyond “sent,” “opened,” and “clicked.” And in today’s world, an email service provider needs to supply that data in real-time. It should also give you access to detailed event history for each message, with the ability to access data via API. And if you’re really looking for data-driven insights, ask about the ability to stream activity with webhooks to as many webhook endpoints as you need.
  • Do they really understand email deliverability? A lot of ESPs consider an email “delivered” even if it ends up in a spam trap. The reality is that a provider with deep expertise, strong technology, and great relationships with global ISPs can help ensure as many emails as possible get to where they count— the inbox. A good email delivery service should be able to tell you their inbox placement rate, how they use technology to automate processing of deliverability signals from ISPs, and what they expect from you as a sender to ensure great email deliverability.
  • Is the service you’re considering a true cloud platform? Implementing an on-premises solution made sense a decade (or longer) ago, but it sure doesn’t today. And even a lot of service providers rely on a traditional data center model that’s become less viable every day. When you’re talking with prospective email delivery services, ask them directly about their platform. Are they built on a cloud native platform like Amazon Web Services (AWS)? Can they tell you about cloud auto-scaling and how it delivers radically better scalability, elasticity, and latency?
  • Does it incorporate security by design in every aspect of its platform? A strong perimeter defense should be a given (but ask anyway). Still, every wall can be breached somehow, somewhere. A modern cloud-based platform can defend the “squishy middle” inside its perimeter defense by incorporating security by design throughout its service, and when a provider compartmentalizes its service, it limits runaway vulnerabilities. Ask for certifications. And really do ask about that squishy middle.
  • Does it provide a meaningful service level agreement (SLA)? If email drives revenue for your business, you should ensure that your email delivery service has your back. That includes SLAs with teeth, burst rate guarantees, publicly available uptime history. Ask any service provider you’re considering to explain if they offer an SLA that covers just a narrow piece of their infrastructure—or if they cover the things that really matter, like end-to-end service and business continuity.
  • Does it offer the level of support you need? Whether you’re looking for great API docs and developer-friendly communities like Slack or dedicated account management by a team you know and trust, the right support can make all the difference to your success. So ask a prospective ESP whether they’ll give you support on your terms. And if a problem arises, will you know who you’re talking to, and will they understand your business?
  • Does it have happy customers? Don’t overlook intangibles like business growth. A track record of success backed by happy customers who are willing to publicly sing its praises is better than any marketing claim. And when you speak to references, be sure to ask what other email delivery services they’ve left in the past. You might notice a pattern that should tell you something.

I hope you’ve found these questions to be a helpful starting point when you’re looking at your options to integrate email delivery into your own app or business process. What do you look for when you’re evaluating options for email delivery? I’d love to hear what qualities matter to you—just leave a comment below.

—Brent
@brentsleeper

P.S. Want to learn more? We’ve made a downloadable guide that builds on these questions to help you choose the right email delivery service. (Pro tip: it’s great for sharing with your colleagues.)

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