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[IPS] IP.Board 3.4 Dev Update: Bulk Mail with Mandrill


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IP.Board has for a long time allowed administrators to send bulk mails to members, including the ability to filter recipients and use variables to customise the message sent to each member.

This is an important tool for communicating with the members of your community and in 3.4 we've made it even better.



The problem with bulk mail

Sending vast amounts of email through your own server is troublesome.
Firstly, it takes a long time (you can't just send out thousands of emails in one go) and due to the way PHP works, you need to have activity on your community to initiate the sending of each batch of emails (you could set up a cron, but you'd probably only want it running when you actually have a bulk mail sending, and they're fiddly to set up).
Secondly, if you're on shared hosting, other sites on the same server may have given your server a bad reputation and caused it to be placed on blacklists, this causes the emails you send to be more likely to be marked as junk.
Thirdly, sending vast amounts of email through your own server is an expensive task - most communities we see use the same server for sending emails as hosting the community itself, meaning resources are being used for the sending of those emails and not serving your users.

Fortunately, these problems are well-known throughout the internet and a number of companies offer services to send mail for you, through their servers to alleviate these problems.
In addition, these services provide web applications where you can view statistics, and track how many of your emails have been opened, rejected, etc.

We're really pleased to announce that in IP.Board 3.4 we've built in integration with Mandrill, a service of well-known and respected MailChimp.



How it works

Setting up integration with Mandrill is really easy. In the new "Community Enhancements" section of the Admin CP (which we've mentioned in earlier blog entries), there will be an option for Mandrill:


After creating an account on their site, all you do is enter your account details:


IP.Board will from then on send all bulk mails through the Mandrill service.
And it's not just bulk mails. You can even configure IP.Board's normal email settings to send all outgoing emails via Mandrill's SMTP server.


Sending bulk mails

As part of our improvements, we've also:

  • Tidied up the interface for sending bulk mails
  • Improved the unsubscribe link sent in emails to be a one-click link (rather than requiring users sign in and uncheck the box)
  • Built extension capabilities the filter options available when composing a bulk mail, meaning 3rd party applications can add their own filter options (we'll use this for example, in a future version of IP.Nexus to allow you to send bulk mails to anyone who's purchased a particular item).
  • Added a tab on the confirmation screen to allow you to view the list of recipients before actually sending the bulk mail.

All these improvements are present even if you choose not to use the new Mandrill integration.






Statistics and Tracking

You can view statistics via the Mandrill web application. Emails sent from IP.Board's bulk mail system automatically enable tracking for opens and clicks.



They even have iPhone and Android apps available.




Pricing

Full pricing details are available from Mandrill - for up to 12,000 emails per month though, the service is completely free.


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