Skip to main content

What is Amazon SES?

What is Amazon SES?
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

As companies grow, they sometimes rely on methods that don’t make sense anymore. One example of that is how businesses process outgoing emails from email clients. Distinguishable from normal web-based email, these transactional emails include the monthly newsletter you might send customers or the reminders an app sends to inform customers about a support issue.

Small companies certainly can still use Google Gmail to queue up their email communication and even schedule emails using third-party apps. However, this doesn’t work when you are sending thousands of emails per month because of the complexity of the infrastructure.

Often, this complexity is due to how a business needs to scale up or down as the business changes. It’s related to the business apps you use that send out emails on a routine basis and the marketing campaigns you conduct -- all of which involve more than the simple act of sending emails and includes analysis and tracking, reporting, and a way to respond to messages.

Enter Amazon SES, which stands for Simple Email Service. The service is designed for marketing campaigns, company communication, web application transactional emails, and any other activity that involves sending emails to customers, partners, or internally.

For those who already use Amazon EC2 (Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud) for hosting applications on the serverless cloud computing platform, you can send up to 62,000 emails per month for free. After that, the service works in a pay-as-you-go model with a low fee per thousand emails. The basic idea with Amazon SES is to provide a complement to your existing IT infrastructure that allows companies to focus on the content of the emails and not on the infrastructure that’s required to process and analyze them.

And, due to the scalability of the cloud, there are no concerns over storing email content, performance related to how the transactional emails are sent, or issues with the back-end analytics and reporting you might need to do after sending the emails.

Benefits of Amazon SES

Email is a fact of life for many businesses, even as some have moved into the age of Slack and social media. It’s expected that any customer-facing application will communicate with a user by sending official emails that explain new features, notify them about security concerns, or provide a way for customers to provide feedback and obtain support. Email is the well-known, official channel for communication for apps, and it’s often used for marketing services and campaigns because of how companies can track the success of the campaigns.

The problem is that email is also a complex endeavor for companies that need to send thousands and thousands of messages per month from multiple apps, for official company business, and as part of marketing efforts. It’s complex in part because of the massive number of messages being transmitted but also due to the strain email can place on platforms.

There are concerns over reliably sending the messages, compliance with email marketing regulations, and dealing with the incoming email deluge.

Fortunately, Amazon SES has the back-end infrastructure to keep up with the flow. It uses cutting edge content filtering techniques, reputation management features to guard against any issues with regulatory compliance (avoiding being labeled as spam, since customers opt-in to receive the messages), and a vast array of analytics and reporting functions. Amazon SES is a console app that admins can manage and configure for the business needs.

Dealing with incoming email is also not a Herculean undertaking. Amazon SES can store incoming messages in an Amazon EC2 bucket, and companies can then use AWS Lambda to process the email using custom code. For example, if your company uses an app to send out an email about new features routinely, and customers reply with questions, you can run a report and create a new email that answers the questions -- for example, by using another service called Amazon SNS (Simple Notification Service) that looks for keywords.

The most important benefit here is related to cost. As mentioned earlier, Amazon SES uses a pay as you go, model, so even after companies that use EC2 process the free tier of email sends, the costs are extremely low for a business that process thousands of more emails per month or even into the tens fo thousands. The cost is about 10 cents per thousand emails.

This scale is where cloud computing is a major asset for companies that might experience quick growth as they add new services or offer more customer-facing apps. As you host each app in the cloud, you can then rely on Amazon SES to handle all of the email processing for you. There’s no “gotcha” as you grow and expand services and offerings.

In the end, every company will continue to process email for customers as they accepted and reliable form of communication and as a method for dealing with transactional emails sent from an app (both from mobile or on the web). It’s a technology that is here to stay.