How to Choose a Hosted SMTP Relay Service – [Use This 5 Point Checklist]

SMTP Relay Service

If you’re looking for a hosted SMTP relay service to help support your email delivery efforts, you’ve come to the right place.This blog post will help guide you on the journey of choosing the best SMTP provider for your company.

In this post, we’re going to give you our 5 Point Checklist for choosing the right hosted SMTP relay service the first time around.

If you’re not familiar with what a hosted SMTP server is, then start with our blog post, What’s an SMTP Relay?

Otherwise, let’s continue…

Benefits of Choosing the Right Hosted SMTP Relay Service

By choosing the right hosted SMTP relay service the first time around, you will…

Save Time

The last thing that any IT Pro or developer wants is to spend hours looking for the right SMTP relay service, only to change providers at a later date because a configuration isn’t working as desired. Or worse, because the outbound mail stops flowing.

Switching SMTP providers may end up costing you a significant amount of time, depending upon how your service integrates into your existing infrastructure.

Avoid Email Deliverability Issues

When choosing a hosted SMTP relay service, it’s important to understand that the delivery of your email over SMTP is directly impacted by your service provider.

For example, if your provider has a poor reputation or infrastructure problems, then your ability to reach inboxes could be affected.

That’s why it’s important to choose the best SMTP relay service that will do everything possible to help your emails reach inboxes, not spam folders.

Maintain Your Professional Reputation

Choosing an SMTP relay service is not only an important technical decision, but it’s a professional decision as well.

Whether you’re making this decision as an employee, or as a consultant on behalf of your clients, Choosing the right hosted SMTP relay service the first time around can make you look like a real hero!

Now that you understand why choosing the right SMTP relay provider is so important, here’s a five point checklist to help you make the right choice.

5 Point Checklist To Help You Choose the Right Hosted SMTP Relay Service

1) Ease of Integration Into Your App or Website

When it comes time to choose your hosted SMTP relay service, you should look for a provider that’s easy to integrate into your existing application or website. This will allow you to get setup in a matter of minutes, rather than days.

Unless you’re planning on setting up your own email infrastructure, chances are that you’re going to use a hosted SMTP relay service that is setup and ready to go right out of the box.

When choosing a hosted SMTP server provider, look for one that has SMTP credentials readily available in your account. This will allow you to easily give your application the ability to start relaying email.

how to find SMTP credentials

2) Level of Support Provided by Your Hosted SMTP Service

In a perfect world your hosted SMTP service will work for you without any problems.

However, the world of email is far from perfect.

For example, the IP address that your provider puts you on could get caught in a blacklist, which causes deliverability issues.

And even if your SMTP service is performing great, you could be affected by a force outside of your control…

Like Gmail suddenly flagging your emails as spam.

This is why support is such an important factor to consider when it comes time to use a hosted smtp relay service.

You should definitely look for an expert who is qualified to support all of your needs. A qualified expert will be able to speak intelligently about DKIM, SPF configuration, and email deliverability.

If you’re planning to use an Email Service Provider (ESP) to host and manage the relaying of your email, then look for a service provider who is responsive and knowledgeable.

3) Features That Your SMTP Relay Service Should Provide

Not all hosted SMTP relay services offer the same standard features. So, when choosing your SMTP provider, you should also think about the features that you’re going to need.

Here’s a list of features to look for:

  • Domain authentication and link branding
  • Multiple sender addresses
  • Reverse DNS
  • Real-time analytics & reports
  • Open, click, & complaint tracking
  • Bounce rate, spam, & blocked message reporting
  • Custom DKIM Keys
  • ISP feedback loop data
  • Automated IP warm-up
  • Suppression management and automated bounce handling
  • GDPR compliance if you’re located in the EU

4) Deliverability [Will Your Emails Reach the Inbox?]

There’s more to sending over SMTP than what meets the eye.

For example, deliverability (your ability to relay messages to the inbox)…

If your messages are routed to spam (where nobody is looking) then what’s the point of sending over SMTP in the first place?

Your emails need to reach the inbox, even if you’re sending simple email from your scanner.

That’s why deliverability is one of the most important factors that you should consider when choosing a hosted SMTP relay service.

Keep your eyes open for a provider that:

  • Maintains a high Sender Reputation across leading ISPs like Gmail.
  • Doesn’t have any IP’s listed on a reputable blacklist like Spamhaus.
  • Has a team of deliverability experts who are happy to assist you and give advice.
  • Provides dedicated IPs if you’re sending over 100K emails per month. This way you won’t have to share your reputation with other senders.
  • Is open and honest about when to use a Dedicated IP Address versus a Shared IP Address (note: some email providers will attempt to mislead you in effort to upsell you into a dedicated IP when it’s really not appropriate).
  • Helps you monitor your sender reputation (at SocketLabs we call this Quality Score).
  • Is restrictive about who they allow to sign up and send email over their network.
  • Underlying technology has tools like Suppression Lists and Automated Bounce Processing, so you can avoid sending to bounced emails repeatedly.
  • Gives you the ability to separate mailstreams. For example, there’s a deliverability benefit to separating your transactional email from your marketing email.
  • Is an established provider who has been around for a long time. At SocketLabs, we are one of the pioneers of SMTP technology. We have seen many services come and go. You definitely want to use an SMTP provider that will stick around.

5) Pricing of Your Hosted SMTP Relay Service

Finally, let’s discuss the last thing that you should consider when choosing your SMTP relay provider – pricing.

Prices in the email industry range from expensive to free.

Some of the largest SMTP implementations on the market are open source SMTP, meaning that they are freely available.

Examples include Sendmail SMTP and Postfix SMTP. Both provide a completely free solution to setting up an outgoing mail server.

However, keep in mind that the open source options are usually very complex and hard to configure. You’ll need to pay a team of experts to setup your server, in which case it no longer is truly free.

Unless you’re willing to go through the hassle of setting up an open source solution, it makes sense to pay for a service that’s setup and ready to go. It could even be cheaper for you in the long run!

We hope this checklist helps guide you in your journey when it comes time to get an SMTP relay service.

If you have any questions about choosing service, then feel free to reach out to one of our deliverability experts through live chat.

SocketLabs’ Hosted SMTP Relay Service is scalable and easy to get started with. Simply plug your SMTP credentials into your application and start sending.

Learn more about how to get an smtp server >>