Don’t Fear The Reaper! Fear & Loathing Changing MTAs

Sparky
Oct. 14, 2014 by Sparky

Imagine for a moment that you were sitting in a meeting listening to a post-mortem on a delivery incident. Your team was busy chewing through a litany of issues from mail injection failures to unknown bounce codes and throttling issues that resulted in a simple fact: your emails didn’t reach your customers. Thoughts race through your mind:

‘I should fire everyone!’

‘Maybe it’s time to get an ESP?!’

‘My grandmother could tune those MTAs faster!’

‘Open source = open heart surgery with obsidian knives and no anesthetic…’

‘Calgon take me away.’

And then it hits you like a ton of bricks: maybe its time for a new MTA. Yeah, that’s the ticket, it’s time to switch our entire mailing infrastructure, the one we’ve been working on for 2-3 years that looks like the kind of Jackson Pollack art left on a wall when you throw a plate of spaghetti marinara in anger.

Excitedly you stand up and announce that you’ve come up with a solution to the ongoing deliverability problems facing your company: “Team, it’s time we scrap our current MTA and switch to a more sophisticated platform purpose built for high volume sending and deliverability!”

A tense moment passes; sweat begins to trickle down your forehead. The lights dim and your colleagues shed their innocence—they’re no longer your colleagues—you’re staring at a frightened and crazed mob!

However far fetched this fictionalized account of an MTA swap might sound it isn’t too far from the truth either. Switching an MTA can inspire, in the best case, heated debate; worse case scenarios might be closer to what happened to poor Caesar in the senate. In truth, an MTA swap can be just the antidote your organization needs in a time of crisis.

Short Term Pain For Long Term Gain

Overcoming organizational challenges to MTA swapping varies depending on how your mailing infrastructure has evolved, and the kind of footprint it now has.

The Open Source Frankenstein

It started with a couple engineers and a Gnu license but has since taken on a life of its own. It no longer resembles the original product, or is used for whatever it was originally meant to do. Lots of code went hand in hand with lots of cooks and engineers that have since flown the coop. You spend upwards of $500,000 a year in customizing it, maintaining it and throwing more hardware at it when you need more capacity. It is, for all intents and purposes, a Frankenstein—a monster built from scraps and salvaged parts and kept alive by a supernatural force that comes straight out of your wallet. And, like the 19th century creature’s namesake, it’s about as efficient as a delivery engine as a horseless carriage.

The Fuselage Without Wings

Five years ago someone knew someone that knew someone and that someone said you should buy this thing that would change your email into something awesome. So you spent the money on a second rate MTA—you’re a hero because you saved the company money! Then it arrives. You get the box, read the manual and realize that this spruce goose comes without wings. So you rope in your Director of Engineering; he’s not thrilled that you pulled him into this IT project because he’s busy ensuring your product actually makes money. Your cost savings just went down the toilet and your Director of Engineer is now breathing down your throat like Attila the Hun. Congratulations, you’re building the wings for your plane and wondering if it wasn’t more cost effective to go DIY all together. I mean if you’re going to inspire the ire of your director, you might as well save more money to pay for the resource suck you’ve just created.

The ESP and Me

Your ESP sends your email—you’re happy with them so long as the mail arrives on time. But, like all vendors they need to make money, and since the CPM market is all but stabilized and the best you can do is save a quarter cent per million by changing vendors, they charge you for account management, deliverability, data exports and more. It’s a nickel and dime fiesta and you’re the only one not dancing. Since it’s 2014 and not 1999 you feel your data should be accessible anytime, anywhere and as soon as an event, like an open, occurs. Unfortunately the best your ESP can do is give you a nightly export or a data dump every four hours as their system parses through your data and the hundreds of other customers they service. Your business is definitely valued, don’t forget that, it’s just not as valuable as the customer that pays them a half million a year and has a four-hour SLA and five account managers at their disposal.

In all of these scenarios, the real costs are not the pain and suffering, the man-hours and resources required to make the switch. No, the costs and the pain are rooted in correcting a terrible mistake that has cost you (and will continue to cost you) real dollars and countless man-hours. Switching an MTA isn’t just about acquiring the ability to send email based on modern sending standards, security and having access to data in real time. It’s about coming to terms with the idea that good enough isn’t good enough and won’t be good enough two or three years from now when you’re so far behind the times, the cost to change will be soul crushing.

That’s right, the pain you suffer today, or think you will suffer by switching to a future-proof email platform, is nothing compared to the fire drills you will avoid because your platform isn’t ready to evolve with the market. Email hasn’t changed all that much, but the technology to secure the channel, authenticate and analyze the medium’s efficacy has evolved beyond anything its creators’ envisioned when they sent those first emails 30+ years ago.

Email is part of a robust and complicated ecosystem of outbound communication channels and feedback loops that fast track data into repositories for crunching and analysis against other customer metrics for distillation into new campaigns and communications. Email is more than just email—email is the outward manifestation that you’re a company capable of doing business in a manner that has been accepted as the gold standard on the Internet. What’s that worth to you?

Looking to make a switch? Find out what questions you should be asking to make the right decision in Finding the Ideal Email Solution Provider.

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