That Cloud Looks Ominous

I’ve been seeing a few posting about Amazon EC2 Cloud lately, most recently from Word to the Wise about a the experience of Reddit.

In fact, we have had a couple clients that recently have explored this option and found themselves in difficult situations with ISPs and DNSBLs not wanting to accept mail being sent by Amazon EC2 IPs. In one example, the marketer spent a great deal of time getting set up with Amazon EC2 and the first email launch was blocked by a number of ISPs as well as being listed with a major blacklist.

I have to admit, when I first heard this, I actually thought “I’m not very surprised, they gave away control.”

What is the Amazon EC2? Basically it allows users to rent virtual computers on which to run their own applications. EC2 allows scalable deployment of applications by providing a web service through which a user can create a virtual machine, which Amazon calls an “instance,” containing any software desired. Including, as it happens, mail servers.

One of the keys to successful delivery at any ISP is to control as much about your program as possible, which includes having dedicated IPs and building a solid reputation. In a “cloud”environment, one thing that can happen is you are rolled in with other users, and you take on reputation that may be coming from a marketer that doesn’t share the same values that you do. So, all that effort you took to build a permission list of customers that really do want your mail could just be tossed out the window if you happen to be unlucky enough to be sharing space with an outright spammer.

What choice do ISPs and DNSBLs have but to block these IPs? Unfortunately, spammers know that this is an environment they can take advantage of, and spammers don’t really care about building good reputation, they only want to get out email and they will find any way to do that… for example, floating around on a cloud of multiple IPs and hopefully riding on other marketer’s reputation.

So if you are considering using a service like this, keep in mind you are giving away a certain amount of control, and you are at the mercy of others. So make sure you understand the company, how they operate, research the IPs they use and stay informed.

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