Dedicated Servers for Email Marketing

For high-volume email marketing campaigns a dedicated server may be a good alternative to sending email through an email service provider. A dedicated server offers a fixed cost regardless of how many emails you send.

However, with a dedicated server comes server administration, maintenance and support costs.
Still, it might be cheaper than an ESP depending on your specific needs.

As an email marketing company we have experience in both using dedicated servers configured for email blasts and sending campaigns through a service provider.

This post will compare pros & cons and provide links to recommended vendors.

Email Marketing Dedicated Servers

Setting up a dedicated server for email marketing is a little bit tricky but not too difficult. You start with a leased or owned web server in a data center then customize it for email marketing.

An Email Marketing Dedicated Server is not all that different from regular dedicated web server.
A common misconception is that you can just get a dedicated server and start sending out email blasts.

Short term it will probably work but long term there are major problems with that approach.

One problem most people encounter is that web hosting companies and data-centers have strict mass or bulk email policies. This means that if you purchase a cheap dedicated server and then start blasting out emails, you will probably get flagged and your account will be terminated.

When that happens you loose all your stats, lists and time spent creating and programming campaigns. It’s not uncommon for hosting companies to just pull the plug on your server and send you an email saying your account is now canceled.

A second problem is configuring your dedicated server correctly for email marketing. There are many highly technical details that must be correct in order to have high deliver-ability. If your messages get flagged as spam, then your efforts will be wasted because no one will ever get your email campaign.

Let’s look at the monthly costs:
Dedicated Server (self managed): ~ $120
On demand server admins: ~ $100 – $200
Email Marketing Software: $400-800 one time purchase

Out of the gate, it’s probably going to cost $1000 to get a dedicated server configured for email marketing. If you have a high-quality opt-in list that you know you will send on a regular basis, then it could be worth it.

Realistically sending more than 500 messages per hour from one server is going to get you on a watch list. Let’s calculate your monthly volume for one server assuming a conservative send rate of 400 messages per hour, running 24×7.

400 messages/hour x 24 hours/day x 30 days/month = 288,000 messages per month.

Bottom line: for around $500 + $200-300 per month you can have your own dedicated email marketing server, but you run the risk of having deliver-ability issues, your account being canceled at any time and possibly being fined if you violate your hosts terms of service.

If you plan on using your server to spam people or to send to purchased lists, there is a high probability that your ISP will terminate your account. If you just happen to have a really large customer house list, you will be fine, but you won’t be able to have all your email delivered all at once. For drip marketing that is fine. For promotions and sales, it just won’t work.

If you want to go this route here is a setup we have used successfully:

12all by ActiveCampaign – 12all is the best email marketing script for dedicated servers we have found. This manages the lists, templates and sending. This software is installed on a web server and does most of the configuration work for you, turning your dedicated server into an email marketing server. Plus you can hire them to configure your server and they offer really good dedicated support.

ServerPronto – ServerPronto is probably the cheapest dedicated server provider on the net. We asked them about using their dedicated servers to send email marketing campaigns, and were told that 400 messages per hour would be OK. They have self-managed dedicated servers for less than $50/month.

Email Service Providers for High Volume Senders

The reason Email Service Providers cost more is because they typically have server arrays (entire racks of servers) that send your email blasts. This allows them to send out massive quantities in a short time.

You also don’t have to deal with any of the technical server management side of email marketing. Most ESPs have a high level of deliver-ability – your messages will make it thru spam filters and traps.

If you are going to use email marketing to promote sales or send time based offers (come in today for 10% off…), you must use an ESP. Using a dedicated server just wont work right. The messages will either take too long to get delivered or will get flagged as spam.

Here is how to get the best pricing with the Email Service Provider route. Some service providers charge based on actual number of messages sent. Other charge based on the number of contacts on your list.

That means that if you have a large list (or multiple lists) that you are going to send once or twice a month, you want to go with pricing based on actual volume sent. If you have a smaller list that you send frequently, the unlimited sending pricing will be cheaper.

Free Trial Links

Use the links below to get a free trial of the email service providers reviewed. By using the links below you will get a free trial with out having to give your credit card info and you will be able to send a couple hundred emails for free.

Email providers that charge on actual volume sent:
(ranked cheapest first based on price of 100,000 emails sent)

  1. StreamSend – charges on actual email sent plus a very reasonable fee if you send more than you anticpate (as low as $1.60 per 1,000 messages). Free 30 day trial, excellent pricing.
  2. Benchmark Email Marketing – easy to use platform, also does video and surveys. Free 30 day trial.
  3. Vertical Response – offers both pay for actual email sent and pay for unlimited sends based on size of list. Free 30 day trial.

Regardless of if you have a large or small list, in order to compare you are going to have to guess the size of list and number of sends per month. All of the service providers have slightly different pricing tiers, so you have to know your list size and total messages you will send per month to estimate.

Email providers that charge based on the size of your list:
(ranked cheapest first based on price of a contact list of 25,000)

  1. Vertical Response – offers both pay for actual email sent and pay for unlimited sends based on size of list. Free 30 day trial.
  2. Constant Contact – personally we do not like Constant Contact due to the way their editor works. It’s very good for people with no programming experience. We have had problems using custom templates from scratch. Their system makes it hard to implement. 60 day free trial.
  3. iContact – charges based on size of the list, but also has a frequency cap of 6x – meaning if you buy the 250 contacts package, you can send them 6 times before you hit the cap. For some reason their auto responder messages don’t count towards the cap (good for drip marketing), not so great for sales or promotions. Free 15 day trial.

* Interestingly when doing the pricing research, the three above are exactly the same price – $150. So we ranked iContact last because its not a truly unlimited sending plan. They don’t claim to offer unlimited sending, but a couple people have signed up thinking that it is.

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