Weighing the Differences Between SMTP Servers and Hosted SMTP Relay

Email communication is crucial for businesses of all sizes, there’s no doubt there. Whether you’re sending transactional emails, marketing campaigns, or important notifications, your email needs to be delivered securely. Once you understand simple mail transfer protocol (SMTP), you’re ready to move on to understanding the right SMTP setup for you. You can set up your own SMTP server or use a hosted SMTP relay service. We might be a little biased but we’ll give you the facts.

Understanding SMTP and SMTP Relay

Before diving into the comparison, don’t forget to watch our Teach Me Email: What is SMTP if you’re unsure of what we’re talking about. But, in a nutshell, SMTP is the industry standard for sending email messages across the internet. It defines how email clients and servers communicate and transfer messages between them. SMTP relay refers to the process of using an intermediary server to deliver email on behalf of the sender. This is often done to enhance email deliverability and overcome potential limitations associated with sending emails directly from your own server.

Setting Up Your Own SMTP Server

Building and managing your own SMTP server should give you full control over your email infrastructure. You can tailor it to meet your specific requirements, integrate it into your existing systems, and have complete visibility into your delivery. However, consider these several factors very closely before making your decision.

  1. Time and resources: Setting up an SMTP server from scratch requires significant time and expertise. You need to understand the intricacies of email protocols, configure DNS records, handle security measures, and monitor the server’s performance. This can be a complex and time-consuming process, especially if you lack the necessary experience. Does your IT or product team have time to step away from their objectives to set this up to help you meet yours?
  2. Infrastructure and scalability: Building an SMTP server requires robust infrastructure to ensure availability and scalability. Reliable hardware, network connectivity, and sufficient storage capacity to handle the growing volume of emails is a must, period. And, after that, managing IP reputation, handling bounces and spam complaints, and maintaining compliance with email standards are ongoing tasks demanding continuous attention.
  3. Deliverability challenges: Maintaining high deliverability can be a daunting task when managing your own SMTP server. Internet service providers (ISPs) and mailbox providers (MBPs) have strict spam filters and sophisticated algorithms to protect their users from unwanted emails. Maintaining a good sender reputation, complying with email authentication protocols (SPF, DKIM, DMARC), and overall adherence to best practices require constant monitoring and adjustment. Take a moment to really evaluate email’s role in your company’s success and consider whether the time necessary is time you have.

Using a Hosted SMTP Relay Service

Let’s say you can’t realistically spend enough time and resources to keep SMTP servers running smoothly. You’re not alone. So, your other option is to opt for a hosted SMTP relay service provided by reputable email service providers (ESPs). These services handle the complexities of email delivery on your behalf, allowing you to focus on your core business activities. Since we…you know, do this ourselves, we can give you the facts about why this could be a good solution for you.

  1. Time and effort savings: By using a hosted SMTP relay service, you can offload the burden of infrastructure management, server configuration, and maintenance tasks. This frees up your and other teams’ time to focus on other critical aspects of your business. The service provider takes care of all the technical complexities, better ensuring smooth delivery and optimal performance.
  2. Deliverability expertise: Hosted SMTP relay services have dedicated teams of experts who specialize in email deliverability. They continuously monitor email delivery rates, maintain strong relationships with ISPs, and implement best practices to maximize inbox placement. And here, we have actual experts in EMAIL, not some knowledge of email, and we don’t leave people needing support waiting for days.
  3. Scalability and flexibility: Hosted SMTP relay services are designed to handle large volumes of email traffic. For example, we have robust infrastructure, redundant systems, and scalable resources to accommodate your growing needs. We also have incredible reliability. Whether you’re sending a few hundred emails per month or millions of emails per day, the service can scale effortlessly to meet your requirements.
  4. Advanced features and integration: Hosted SMTP relay services usually provide additional features and integrations enhancing your email capabilities. This could include real-time analytics and reporting, bounce handling, spam complaint management, list management, and API integration. Using these features can streamline your email processes and improve overall efficiency.

Choosing the Right Option for Your Business

When deciding between setting up your own SMTP server or using a hosted SMTP relay service, you really need to evaluate your specific needs, resources, and goals. Consider factors such as time, expertise, infrastructure requirements, deliverability expectations, and scalability. Assess the level of control and customization you require versus the convenience and expertise offered by a hosted service.

The main thing is this: Do you want the level of personal control you need for setting up your own SMTP server? It’s not for the faint of heart.

In most cases, small to medium-sized businesses and organizations with limited resources find significant value in opting for a hosted SMTP relay service. It eliminates the complexities of managing an SMTP server, provides professional support, and better ensures consistent deliverability rates.


The availability of resources should be your main factor in a decision about SMTP. Can you pay for help, can you afford pulling other teams into email, or can you gamble with email delivery?

At SocketLabs, we offer a reliable and scalable SMTP relay solution to enable you and other teams to do more valuable things with your time. We can take it from here.

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