Using Amazon SES SMTP to Send Email

In December 2011, Amazon Web Services added a new feature to help sending email in a easy and cost saving way through the Amazon SES (Simple Email Service). They provided the SMTP interface to allow users to directly use their existing SMTP to do mass emailing without the need to change the users’ existing programs. So, I decided to try it out.

SES: Email sending service from Amazon
SES: Email sending service from Amazon

Amazon SES can be found in the AWS Management Console. If this is the first use, there will be message saying the SES account currently only had “sandbox” access. Although full access to the Amazon SES API is available in the sandbox mode, only 200 emails, at most, to be sent out each day. Also, the email addresses of sender and recipients can only be those from the verified email addresses and domains. Thus, there is a need to request a production access to the Amazon SES.

To apply for the production access, we need to submit a registration form to Amazon. After that, their team will review the application before approving it. For my previous application, they approved it the day after I submitted the form. Thus, the reviewing process is actually very fast. The registration form is simple. We only need to provide some user information as well as the types of emails that will be sent using Amazon SES, such as marketing, subscription, transactional, and system notifications.

After the application is approved, we have to create SMTP credentials to start sending emails. The credentials will be used when we connect to the Amazon SES SMTP interface later. To do so, just click on the “SMTP Settings” tab located at the left hand side of the web page. The SMTP credentials created can all be found in the AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) page.

After all these have been done, we just need to use the SMTP credential in our existing programs to send emails.

Create SMTP Credentials
Create SMTP Credentials

The good thing about Amazon SES is that the sending quota is 10,000 for each day. In addition, Amazon SES will automatically increase the sending limits as we continue to send greater quantities of email. The maximum of message size is 10MB per message, including the attachments in the email. Unfortunately, the maximum number of recipients per email is only 50, unlike Google Apps for Business allowing up to 99 addresses in To, Cc, and Bcc fields of a single email. For more details about the sending limits in Amazon SES, please visit its official documentation page.

Finally, there are graphs available to understand the statistics regarding the number of emails that are sent successfully, rejected, bounced back or marked as complaints. There is a thing that needs to be taken note is that if there are too many bounces and complaints, our Amazon SES account would be terminated. Thus, it is necessary to keep monitoring the bounce and complaint rates and keep them as low as possible. Currently, the average bounce rate of one of my SES accounts is around 0.5% and the average complaint rate is less than 0.5%. It should still be fine, I guess?

Bounces and Complaints Graphs
Bounces and Complaints Graphs

So, why are there bounces and complaints? As stated on Amazon SES FAQs, bounces are usually caused by attempting to send a nonexistent recipient. For complaints, they arise when our emails go into recipients’ spam box. That means the recipients indicate that they do not want to receive our message. Normally, a notification email will be sent from Amazon (complaints@email-abuse.amazonses.com) to tell us to look into the problem and recommend us to stop emailing to those email accounts.

Yup, this concludes what I have learnt so far about the Amazon SES. Besides smtp.gmail.com, now there is another option to choose to use as SMTP.

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