High email deliverability, bulk email sending, increased security — if that sounds like what you’re looking for, you need a SMTP server.
High-volume email senders need something more reliable than a basic email marketing platform. SMTP service providers enable you to send bulk email campaigns and transactional messages at high speed, without having to worry about deliverability issues.
We’ve reviewed the six best SMTP service providers for high-volume sending and transactional emails. Read on to find the best service provider for your company.
What the Best SMTP Servers Do
A Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) server is an application that sends emails from senders’ to recipients’ email servers. Simply put, SMTP transfers emails across the internet.
There are regular SMTP servers, like Gmail or Outlook, and dedicated SMTP relay servers, like Sendinblue. While Gmail is good for sending personal emails and occasional campaigns, sending bulk email campaigns and transactional emails is best with a dedicated SMTP relay server.
So how do SMTP servers work?
Without going too deep into the technical details, here’s what happens when you send a business email through an SMTP server:
- Your Mail User Agent, or mail client, connects to your SMTP server.
- The mail client communicates with the SMTP server and gets all the necessary information about the sender and recipient.
- The Mail Delivery Agent takes the message information and sends it in a proper format to the receiving mail client.
- The message reaches the receiving Mail Delivery Agent’s inbox.
The Top SMTP Servers at a Glance
|SMTP Service||Free plan||Prices start at||Other email marketing capabilities|
|Sendinblue||300 emails/day forever||$25/20,000 emails/mo + Unlimited contact storage||Full suite included; available on Free plan|
|Amazon SES||No||$0.10 for every 1,000 emails||Only email sending services|
|SendGrid||100 emails/day forever||$19.95/50,000 emails/mo||Full suite accessible in Marketing Campaigns Plans (extra fee)|
|Mailgun||No||$35/50,000/mo||Only email sending services|
|Postmark||No||$10/10,000/mo||Only email sending services|
|Mailchimp (Mandrill)||No||$20/500,000/mo + $17/mo for Mailchimp’s Standard Plan||Full suite accessible in Mailchimp (extra fee)|
Choosing an SMTP Server
How do you choose the right SMTP server as a non-tech specialist? Actually, you don’t have to be tech-savvy to choose and successfully use an SMTP relay server for your campaigns. You just need to be aware of the following factors.
High deliverability is the number one reason why anyone uses an SMTP server. The SMTP technology ensures better deliverability than regular marketing campaigns.
So check reviews to make sure users don’t report deliverability issues. Then, send a few trial campaigns and use a deliverability testing tool to measure it yourself.
Without a solid sender reputation, you can’t expect high deliverability from an SMTP server. It’s important that your SMTP relay server provides all the necessary tools for maintaining your sending IP address and helps you avoid recipients’ spam folders.
A proper SMTP server requires new account validation, enables domain name authentication, and follows email authentication protocols (SPF, DKIM, and DMARC).
Retention logs are the metrics of the campaigns you send. It’s best that your SMTP email service retains logs for as long as possible. This way, you can always go back and check them if issues arise.
Most SMTP servers have a 30-day retention period. Some apps, like Sendinblue, allow for unlimited log retention, enabling users to configure their retention period by themselves.
Ease of use
An SMTP server should be easily accessible by non-tech marketers and business owners as well as tech-savvy developers. It’s supposed to simplify the process of email sending, not overcomplicate it.
A user-friendly interface, responsive support, and proper onboarding are among the key features you should be looking for in your SMTP server.
Are There Free SMTP Servers?
Some SMTP servers are available for free. On this list, only Sendinblue and SendGrid offer free SMTP relay services.
6 Best SMTP Servers
We’ve compiled a list of the best six SMTP service providers that help businesses to send large volumes of emails without roadblocks.
“If you have a WooCommerce store, it’s one the best investments you can make for peace of mind with your emails and automation.”– Review on G2
Sendinblue offers a transactional email service called Sendinblue SMTP. It lets you send a wide range of transactional emails and bulk campaigns:
- Signup confirmations
- Order confirmation emails
- Password recovery emails
- Payment confirmation emails
- Bulk emails
Sendinblue has an established sender reputation among email clients, including Gmail and Outlook. It’s introduced all the necessary procedures to help you maintain your sender IP reputation. With Sendinblue’s SMTP server, you don’t have to worry about the deliverability of your emails.
Sendinblue SMTP pros
- Full control: Access dedicated IPs for high-volume senders.
- Sender reputation: Split transactional and promotional emails by sender or IP address.
- Automation: Build automation workflows based on user activity and website behavior for email and SMS marketing.
- Unlimited log retention: Access logs and previews with no time limit.
- Unlimited contacts: You don’t have to pay for the size of your email list.
- Functionality: Sendinblue is more than an SMTP service — it’s an all-in-one marketing automation platform for growing businesses with capabilities for lead capture, email templates, A/B testing functionality, a drag-and-drop email editor, and other critical features for email marketers.
- Integrations for ecommerce: Use custom-built email plugins for WordPress sites and ecommerce platforms to promptly send notifications and updates.
Sendinblue SMTP cons
If you’re looking for an SMTP server without many bells and whistles, you might want to choose a more basic solution.
Sendinblue SMTP pricing
Sendinblue offers a free SMTP server. You can send up to 300 transactional emails and marketing messages per day without paying a cent. Paid plans start at $25/month and include 20,000 emails per month with no daily sending limit.
2. Amazon SES
Amazon Simple Email Service (SES) is a transactional and bulk email sending service. It allows developers to build email functionality into any application. It’s particularly good for companies that run applications on Amazon Web Service (AWS).
Amazon SES pros
- Dedicated IP addresses: Request a dedicated IP address to manage your own IP reputation.
- Reputation & deliverability dashboards: You can track issues that might impact your reputation and the delivery of your emails across two dashboards.
- Mailbox Simulator: Run tests to see how your application handles different scenarios, such as bounces, unsubscribes, or complaints, without making a real impact on your sender reputation.
- Affordable: Amazon SES doesn’t include typical marketing automation features, and therefore, the service is very cheap.
Amazon SES cons
- The implementation process requires a lot of manual work.
- Steep learning curve for non-tech users to set up and use Amazon SES.
Amazon SES pricing
Amazon Simple Email Service (SES) offers a pay-as-you-go model, where you’re charged based on the number of emails sent and received. You can expect to pay $0.10 for every 1,000 emails. No subscription is needed.
SendGrid is a cloud-based transactional and marketing email delivery service. It provides an SMTP service for reliable delivery and scalability.
- Reputation and delivery monitoring: Get insights into your sender reputation, delivery even data, and engagement analytics.
- Real-time email analytics: Access real-time performance data in your personal dashboard or via API.
- Documentation: The setup process is made easier with comprehensive documentation, open source libraries, and a clear setup flow.
- Segmentation: Segment email and SMS audiences alike.
- After-sale support: Users report that the SendGrid support team isn’t very helpful when you sign up.
- Pricing: Since being acquired by Twilio, SendGrid got more expensive.
SendGri’s SMTP service is free for up to 100 emails/day. Along with SMTP relay, APIs and webhooks are also available on the free plan. To access more email credits, you can upgrade to a paid plan starting at $19.95/month for up to 50,000 monthly emails.
Mailgun is an email service offering a set of powerful APIs for sending, receiving, and tracking emails. Known as a transactional email service “built for developers, by developers,” Mailgun has comprehensive API documentation and an easy SMTP integration.
- Reliability: Mailgun is one of the most reliable services on the list.
- Dedicated mail server: Send both marketing campaigns and transactional emails alike.
- Real-time reporting: Access hourly data on your email performance.
- Enterprise-focused solutions: Create a custom enterprise-grade solution for sending emails at scale.
- Mailgun is built for developers. It’s not designed for non-tech teams.
- In cheaper plans, the log retention period is only five days, and the minimum message retention period is one day.
Mailgun doesn’t offer a forever-free plan. A free trial lasts for 30 days and includes 5,000 free emails. Email APIs, SMTP Relay, and webhooks can be accessed during a free trial and are included in every paid plan. Mailgun’s pricing plans at $35/month.
Postmark is ActiveCampaign’s email service built for developers and product teams. The platform offers a simple but quality SMTP relay service for sending transactional email.
- Deliverability: Postmark has a narrow focus on deliverability, which means your transactional emails will most likely always be reaching recipients’ inboxes.
- Control: Promotional campaigns and transactional emails are sent through separate sending infrastructure.
- Documentation: Postmark offers concise documentation, making it easy to start sending emails using SMTP.
- Message retention: Access email previews and recipient information within a 45-day window.
Functionality: If you’re looking for an all-in-one marketing platform, Postmark won’t fit your needs.
Postmark doesn’t offer traditional packages and pricing tiers. You simply pay for email credits and access all the features. However, to get a dedicated IP address, you’ll need to purchase an add-on for $50/month.
Mailchimp Transactional Email (formerly Mandrill) is Mailchimp’s add-on providing SMTP and transactional email services.
- Functionality: If you need a comprehensive marketing automation solution, Mailchimp might be a good (but pricey) option, and the add-on makes sense.
- Email tracking: The platform lets you track the key metrics, like deliverability rates, bounce issues, click rates, and other stats.
- Deliverability: Similar to other SMTP servers, Mailchimp Transactional Email has no problems with email delivery.
Pricing: to access the SMTP service, you’ll need to pay for Mailchimp’s email marketing functionality and buy transactional email credits as an add-on.
Mailchimp has a forever-free plan with a monthly sending limit of 2,500 emails and limited features. To access Mailchimp Transactional Email, you need to upgrade to the paid Mailchimp plan (Standard, Premium, or Legacy Monthly) and purchase transactional email credits. New users can send up to 500 transactional emails for free.
Find out more: Best Mailchimp Alternatives Compared
How to Choose the Right SMTP Server?
What are you looking for in your SMTP server? Do you want it to be a comprehensive marketing automation solution? Do you simply need an add-on to connect with your current email marketing platform? If you’re seeking marketing automation software with SMTP relay service, try out Sendinblue SMTP.