Guidelines for operating a bulk email list

Let's get rid of any thoughts of SPAM first... Here at ANNO, we have a zero-tolerance policy towards SPAM. Because we hate SPAM with a passion, we filter out SPAM emails trying to enter our servers at every opportunity. Likewise, we do not tolerate SPAM being sent from any of our servers.

Our definition of SPAM includes any unwanted, unsolicited email. SPAM could be from a mailing list with several thousand recipients, or it could be a single unsolicited email. Though bulk transmissions run higher risk of being perceived as SPAM, it does not automatically classify them as SPAM.

We reserve the right to be the sole judge of whether an email transmission from our servers constitutes SPAM. You may argue that you have done your homework and are not breaking any laws, but if recipients of your bulk email complain you are obviously doing something wrong. Please refer to www.anno.com/about/termsofservice.php for our general Terms of Service.

In this background, we have compiled the following guidelines and requirements for operating and managing mailing lists on our servers. We are not lawyers. We believe that we are responsible people, and like to think the same of you, our client. So let's consider these guidelines in the spirit of a gentlemen's agreement.

We like using PhpList (www.phplist.com) because it does things the way it should be done. For that reason you will find several references to PhpList in the text below.

Mailing List Guidelines/Requirements

1) Opt-In Subscribers Only

Transmit bulk email only to people that have requested it. Never send email to addresses on a list you bought somewhere, harvested from web sites, or obtained in any other questionable way. Well-targeted email can be very rewarding, but be do not be greedy and overstep the line.

We recommend a "Closed-Loop Opt-In" subscription model. Under this subscription model, the client submits his email address on your web site, and then confirms his subscription by responding to a link provided in a subscription verification email from your web site.

The SpamHaus website has nice definitions of this and other concepts at www.spamhaus.org/faq/answers.lasso?section=Marketing%20FAQs.

PhpList makes closed-loop opt-in subscriptions a breeze. One can also, with relative ease, integrate PhpList with an existing web site; there is no need to reorganise a lot of things.

2) Opt-Out Capability

Your subscribers must have a method for removing themselves from your mailing list. Unsubscribing should be easy. It should also be permanent, and no further mailings should be sent to a particular email address again.

Do not be guilty of a dysfunctional system for subscription management (e.g. relying on imperfect human beings to remove subscribers), suspicious practices like "your request will be processed within 30 days", or any other practice that does not immediately honour a person's wish to unsubscribe.

PhpList has excellent "do-it-yourself" subscription management features. It's all automated with little or no effort on your side.

3) Bounced Email Management

Some of your mailings may bounce. We understand that subscribers sometimes change their email addresses without updating their details in your mailing list. And we also trust that there will be no bounces because of email addresses you "acquired" somewhere and turn out to be no good after all.

Undeliverable messages can clog the mail queue, add to the server load and prevent transmission of other emails.

Bounced emails should be processed, and repeat bounced addresses removed from your mailing list. On a large mailing list, this cannot be done manually, so do consider automating this in your mailing list software.

Key to making bounce management work right, is to set a valid "return-path" for all your mailings. In layman's terms, this essentially boils down to sending emails with a valid, functional "from" address.

PhpList has a bounce management function that can automatically remove invalid email addresses from your mailing list.

4) Server-friendly Transmittals

Transmission of mailings, especially large lists, can put considerable load on a web server. Instead of mailing to everyone in a list at once, set up batches that will spread the load over several hours.

On a shared server (ANNO Basic, Advanced and Premium packages) we will allow no more than 1,000 emails per hour. The recommended batch setting is one batch per minute comprising fifteen messages each (total 900 messages per hour). For mailing lists with more than 20,000 subscribers, you should discuss with us other options available, e.g. a dedicated server.

On a dedicated server, we estimate that a safe transmission rate will be around 25,000 emails per hour. The actual number will vary with the message size (e.g. graphics included or text only) and ease of delivery (mail queue could become clogged with undeliverable messages). This gives about one batch per minute comprising 400 messages each.

PhpList has a throttling function that ensures server-friendly your bulk email broadcasts.

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