Mailgun: The best free mail server alternative

After the hassle of trying to set up a mail server on my own, I was lucky enough to stumble upon a mail server that’s free and requires no complex setup. Here’s why it’s great.

a blue and pink illustration of an email icon with the words "Free emails with mailgun"

Email has had a proper resurgence in the late part of the 2010s thanks to the advent of Smatphones. Nowadays our emails go wherever we go and most of my peers check their inboxes daily if not hourly.

For the end user, creating an email address is very simple. The process doesn't differ from creating an account on any other site as companies like Google and Microsoft have long streamlined the process.

The limits of free email services

Gmail and Outlook are pretty great: they serve their purpose perfectly and it's likely a normal user will never realise their limitations. The problems start to appear when your emails stop being a 1 to 1 means of communication. For instance, purchase or account confirmations must be automatic. These are called transactional emails.

It's likely that you've received transactional emails without knowing what they're called. Here are a few examples:

  • Confirming your email to activate your account
  • Changing your password request
  • Informing you that someone has replied to your comment

Transactional emails are not new, but your inbox becoming a repository for website notifications is. And depending on the size of your website it's likely you will be sending quite a lot of these out.

This is where a free mail server can help. Both Google and Outlook have limits on how many emails can be sent in a certain time. While this can be fine for simple transactional emails, problems will certainly arise when newsletters need to be sent out or when your site grows.

The obvious solution: Doing it yourself

If you have your own server (Which would ideally be the best option if you want an interactive site), starting to send out emails is as easy as installing something like Postfix.

After installing it, most Content Management Systems such as Wordpress will be automatically able to send email without any setup.

Why you shouldn't do it yourself

As you can imagine, if it was as easy as that I would not be writing this article. While your site is now able to send email, it's very likely that if you tried to do so your email would not reach its destination.

Instead, it goes straight to the recipient’s spam folder, which might as well mean no email was sent at all.

Why does my email go to the spam folder?

There can be many reasons for this. Modern email providers have a lot of spam filters in place which require extensive research and setup to get around such as Reverse DNS, SPF, and DKIM. And the list goes on.

There's so much stuff to setup you will probably get lost finding your way through it.

I personally tried to get them to work for a week, and even after managing to get everything in order my emails were still getting blocked by Outlook which has a famously harsh spam filter.

The consensus around the web on setting up your mail server is simple: Don't bother.

There is a much simpler route.

My favorite free mail server alternative

After much research I unintentionally stumbled upon Mailgun and I was blown away by what they offer.

1. Mailgun is free to use

Surprisingly enough, Mailgun is the only mailing service that offers up to 10000 free emails a month. This is more than enough for any starting business.

Even if you do surpass the 10000 mark a month, each email comes at a minuscule cost. So you won’t spend a fortune - unless you want to.

2. Mailgun allows you to use multiple domains for a single account

Aside from letting you send a generous number of emails per month, Mailgun also makes it very easy to add multiple domains to the same account. This streamlines the process of managing newsletters for multiple sites, and transactional emails for more than one company.

3. Mailgun offers a built-in mailing list functionality

While it might be a bit confusing to get started with, Mailgun allows you to add any number of email addresses to a list and then send en email to each one at the same time. You can even track the open and click rate of each email.

Other services (like the much more famous Mailchimp), offer up to 2000 emails and one meager audience for the same pricepoint.

4. Mailgun has a beautiful API

One of Mailgun’s most appealing properties is its open and easy to use API. With support for anything between Python to Node.js, Mailgun allows you to interact with your account on an unprecedented level.

Thanks to this fantastic API, it's extremely easy to integrate it with any kind of existing software and allow it to collect or send emails. For a free mail server, this is impressive.

Try Mailgun

As free mail server alternatives go, Mailgun is a cut above the rest. It even comes with a sandbox domain upon registration so you can test the service and its API to your heart’s content.

If you're struggling to get your emails out there, this might just be the solution you've been looking for. So give the Mailgun website a visit!

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