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Amazon Simple Email Service Feedback Loops

Amazon Simple Email Service (SES) is a lean, low-cost option to send bulk email. However, the low cost of SES comes at a cost; it lacks many features that are built into SendGrid or other email services. You have to build your own “features” with combinations of other AWS services. The figure below summarizes some useful integrations that provide monitoring and feedback loops.

Diagram showing how Amazon SES integrates with other services to monitor email sending, bounces, and abuse complaints.

CloudWatch

The Dashboard you see in SES is very primitive, with a very limited time series of data. CloudWatch allows you to create your own dashboard to monitor critical parameters, such as bounce and complaint rates. SES will put you on probation or terminate your service if you are suspected of sending spam. CloudWatch also lets you set events that will be triggered when a threshold is crossed.

Kinesis Firehose to S3

Kinesis Firehose is a “data bus.” It accepts data from various sources, transforms it (if necessary), and passes it on to other endpoints. In the context of SES, you can set up a Kinesis Firehose to push email notifications into Amazon S3 storage. It automatically creates a datetime-based folder hierarchy within S3 and stores a JSON file for each event. This maze of folders makes it rather hard to navigate the data by hand.

Logging email events to S3 is not very useful, in my experience, but there might be use cases that I haven’t thought of. Maybe you could set up an AWS Lambda function to watch for abuse notifications that appear in a bucket and take some action-but if you are doing that, you might as well use SNS to send directly to Lambda.

Simple Notification Service

Simple Notification Service, or SNS, is probably the most useful destination for SES data. A SES configuration set can send data directly to an SNS topic. An SNS subscription can listen to one or more topics and send data to a destination, which is one of the following:

  • HTTP
  • HTTPS
  • Email
  • Email (JSON)
  • Amazon SQS
  • AWS Lambda
  • Platform application endpoint
  • SMS

Personally, I like the HTTPS endpoint the best. You build an API endpoint that receives email feedback, and SNS will POST JSON to your endpoint every time an email bounces or a complaint is registered. Then, your application take immediate action to flag the address and stop sending to it, which is good for your sending reputation.

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