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We have just been informed by Sparkpost that their free service which gave us up to 100k/mo emails with a max of 25k/day will be discontinued. We use the CiviDesk Sparkpost extension 1.3 on CiviCRM 5.12.4 under WordPress 5.2.2. The new Sparkpost pricing plans are shown at https://www.sparkpost.com/pricing/us/. We are borderline between the 50K/mo Starter plan (almost all months average ~25k/mo but we have peaks that go slightly over) and the 100K/mo Premier plan. These 2 plans are respectively priced at $30/mo and $75/mo US$. My main question concerns whether the webhooks that the CiviDesk extension uses work without change regardless of which plan chosen. Is anyone else in a similar boat and considering changing their mail service? We've only used Sparkpost from the get-go and would entertain comparably priced services that other CiviCRM sites recommend. Thanks to anyone for any advice.

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    I also noted this 2016 blog civicrm.org/blog/andrewhunt/alternatives-to-mandrill that was created ~3 years ago when the mandrill free service disappeared. A current update to that blog, taking into account current Sparkpost and other pricing would be super useful. – Karl Rudnick Jul 15 at 22:20
  • I should have added that we are very happy with Sparkpost and the CiviDesk extension. Very easy to setup, maintain, etc. Changing services is our least favorite option unless we can save significantly. So our main question is if we select the less expensive $30/mo service, is the change in our account completely transparent to our CiviCRM configuration? – Karl Rudnick Jul 16 at 21:38
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    This is an answer to my question about continuing with Sparkpost, just switching to either paid plan. I queried Spakpost support and got this response: "Thanks for writing in! Nothing in your account will change except your billing, so your present configuration with CiviCRM should remain in place." Has anyone else made the switch to confirm it was transparent and as painless as Sparkpost claims? – Karl Rudnick Jul 16 at 22:14
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Two weeks ago I would suggest Mailgun but the plugin supplied for webhook settings seems to be updated to work for new CiviCRM versions.

But if you somehow make it work (and so integrate the service with Civi successfully) the service itself is quite successful for most of the mail providers.

Here comes the last two weeks... Yahoo (and AOL) domains keep rejecting the newsletter I sent because I was sharing an IP with some bad players. People at Mailgun are quite helpful and respond very quickly. They've changed the IP assigned to our account and the mails were accepted, but in another bulk sending, we had the problem all over again.

So I was tired of trying out providers and set up a postfix myself, I'm sending my mails with my own server. It needs maintenance and a bit experience to set it up but I think it was worth the effort. I can compare better in few months when new mailings will be sent.

The ironic part is, Yahoo has a program for bulk mailers and I had to enroll to that in order to have some positive reputation for my server and it was not based on IP address. So maybe I could try to add my domain to the program while I was using Mailgun and it could change something but I was already done a lot in server side, so this worked for me...

Hope it helps...

  • Thanks for the advice. Because the Staff that uses CiviCRM daily is not too technical, your DIY approach won't really work with us and Mailgun sounds awfully sketchy, plus would not be that different, cost-wise, than Sparkpost on months where we might have heavy emailings, since we have about 6,000 contacts in our largest mailing lists. Also, our domain has a solid reputation with with Sparkpost via DKIM and their other recommendations. So my inclination is to just go with the $30/mo and pay a little extra some months. It has worked perfectly for us for 2.5+ years. – Karl Rudnick Jul 18 at 17:45
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My recommendation is that you pay for SMTP services with a dedicated IP address. Your domain being blacklisted and marked as SPAM would end up far more costly.

  • I'm curious about your comment about our domain being blacklisted. Part of the Sparkpost service is to ensure that this doesn't happen through our Sparkpost settings and DNS records for our domain, all independent of an actual IP. I also get weekly blacklist reports from mxtoolbox.com and we always have ZERO on the blacklist audit. Is there something I don't understand? Thanks for explaining. – Karl Rudnick Jul 18 at 19:49
  • Free SMTP services are using a shared IP. That means that your reputation is affected by anyone else sending email from that IP. If someone sends out a large SPAM email from the same IP address you’re using your reputation will tank. – KarinG - Semper IT Jul 18 at 20:24
  • To be accurate: the reputation of the IP address that you’re also sending from will tank. – KarinG - Semper IT Jul 18 at 20:32
  • I still don't understand. We are not using SMTP through a shared IP for our CiviMail bulk emails. Sparkpost handles that for us with the webhook via the CiviDesk Sparkpost extension. I think we are not communicating well. I purposely have anything to do with sending via SMTP turned off. – Karl Rudnick Jul 19 at 0:12
  • @KarlRudnick Sparkpost is sending your mail through a server that is shared with other folks. If some of them are spammers, Yahoo et al will blacklist the IP of the Sparkpost server. For a fee, Sparkpost will send your emails from an IP address that's not shared with their other customers. – Jon G - Megaphone Tech Jul 19 at 0:43
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Have you looked into amazon ses? It's not free but afaik by far the lowest price. A couple of steps to set up (and more complicated than others) but works well.

  • Thanks, netzih. I have not looked into that yet, but was wondering if others were using amazon ses. Are the steps for Civi integration documented somewhere? If so, please point me to it or maybe explain the steps in detail here. Appreciated. – Karl Rudnick Jul 19 at 0:15
  • I use it. There is an Amazon ses extension and it basically involves setting up an sns in Amazon and put the site we hook into the sns and configure it to send notifications to that topic. I know I'm not being so clear but if you end up wanting to do it I'd be happy to help you with the steps I did to set it up. – netzih Jul 19 at 7:47
  • Sorry forgot to link the extension github.com/mecachisenros/civicrm-ses – netzih Jul 19 at 7:51
  • Regarding KarinG's answer recommending a dedicated IP, does Amazon ses also give you that or is it run off a shared IP pool like the less expensive Sparkpost plan? Thanks for the link to the extension. – Karl Rudnick Jul 19 at 15:21
  • Amazon SES offers dedicated IP I think it is under $30 a month for the IP. I also just saw another extension that might integrate with SES (which has more details regarding set up) it's github.com/aghstrategies/com.aghstrategies.airmail – netzih Jul 19 at 18:30

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