Considering AWS-based SmarterMail servers?
Question asked by TrevorSaldana TrevorSaldana - July 27 at 10:43 PM
Answered
Are you considering an Amazon AWS-backed SmarterMail server? Well then; I'm sure you've heard the mixed reviews! In the early days of AWS - it was clearly not a good choice for cloud based email servers - and the user experiences proved it. These days things have changed dramatically and AWS is now a completely feasible environment to run SmarterMail in with a few caveats:
Performance: You'll want to set up a Windows server running on at least t2.medium for best performance. A t2.micro will function (I have a couple of them running for test purposes) but performance is severely degraded even with a single user online.
SMTP Restrictions: AWS blocks outbound port 25 access on all newly deployed AWS servers by default. What does this mean? It means you'll get 4 hours into your migration and be thinking to yourself "thats it, right? That was the last click!" But, you'd be wrong, and users will not be receiving email due to port 25 being restricted at the network level. To correct this you'll need to first make sure:
  1. Server has been completely deployed, secured properly, and fully updated.

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John Marx Replied
We have used Azure and AWS. Both worked well. Amazon is where we are now and for our outbound we use Mailgun which does take some initial setup but fixed our outbound settings as well as gives us some nice reporting for each individual domain.
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Rod Lasky Replied
Employee Post
SMTP Restrictions: AWS blocks outbound port 25 access on all newly deployed AWS servers by default. What does this mean? It means you'll get 4 hours into your migration and be thinking to yourself "thats it, right? That was the last click!" But, you'd be wrong, and users will not be receiving email due to port 25 being restricted at the network level.
FYI:  This KB article explains how to request Amazon remove your AWS SMTP Throttling.

Rod Lasky
Technical Support Specialist
SmarterTools Inc.
(877) 357-6278
www.smartertools.com
0
Eric Stoffers Replied
This is a good thread. I'm in the middle of trying to figure out if I should go AWS OR buy a new server and co-locate it (considering everything involved it's about $4k upfront plus $125/month co-lo costs). I can wrap my head around that price even though it's high I know the hardware is good, 4-hour support, etc and the price won't change or surprise me.

What isn't clear is the cost for AMS EC2 instance say running t2.medium, 2TB drive, etc. I know the hidden transfer and other fees can be a real gotcha for cloud hosting. Currently I have 450 users and at any given time my email spool has 3-10 emails in it and CPU is 2-5% utilization. I think this is fairly low????

I'm using about 170GB of email storage space and like to fully backup my email directory every night and save a few days of retention. Once a month I also copy the email to an offsite location for that extra level of security worst case.

I'm worried that there's too much data transfer and backup happening here for AWS but I honestly have no idea. Does anyone experienced with AWS and Smartermail have any insight to share or guide me? I'm just a website developer and this is a little above my paygrade. I wish I could just pay someone to migrate and make this all work for me, lol. Ugh.

Thank you,
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John Marx Replied
We use Amazon EC2 m5.xlarge with 10 TB of storage. We push a button and add more storage as we need and can easily upgrade the hardware as well. It's worked well for us and we used to do the hardware ourselves. This has saved us many times over.
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Eric Stoffers Replied
Thank you! How much extra does it cost you a month with I/O and data transfer type of stuff? I'm a very small business (myself basically) and cost is one important consideration. Currently my Smartermail admin says I do about 15GB incoming and 15GB outgoing a month (give or take).

I guess I could spin up an instance, install SmarterMail trial and do some testing, move some large amounts of data around to simulate and just see what happens for a month.

For $4k of hardware and $125month co-lo that probably buys me a lot of AWS time and I don't have to worry about hardware. Seems like the way to go????
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John Marx Replied
We've NEVER had a data transfer issue (500+ users) and total several terabytes total of space. We pay roughly 300-500 per server (we have 7).
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Kyle Kerst Replied
Employee Post
Definitely recommend checking out the AWS cost calculator as well, big help in estimating what things will actually run you: 

Kyle Kerst
Technical Support Specialist
SmarterTools Inc.
(877) 357-6278
www.smartertools.com
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Eric Stoffers Replied
I ran into the fact that Amazon EC2 IPs are pretty much blocked everywhere even if you do everything right and are on no blacklists. Terrible, an absolute nightmare. I even switched IPs a couple times and same issue.

So what I'm doing right now is testing using SendGrid or Amazon SES for the outgoing gateway. Amazon SES looks like the cheapest option if you use their other services. So far going this route bypasses the IP issues. It does add some extra cost though, I don't think a lot though depending on your volume.

So be warned before you dive it regarding their IPs!!!!
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John Marx Replied
Marked As Answer
We started with SendGrid and after 30-days they "fired us" as we sent too many emails in the month. Since we've used Mailgun and wish we knew about it earlier. Our Amazon server works great for inbound and for outbound everything goes through Mailgun. Perfect setup (for us) and I would recommend it to anyone else.
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Ben Gilstrap Replied
Employee Post
John,

Thanks for sharing that tip.  As of right now, pricing in the US-WEST region for Amazon SES is as follows, assuming you're also hosting your SmarterMail server with AWS:

Sending email:  $0 for the first 62,000 emails you send each month, and $0.1 for every 1,000 emails you send after that.
Ben Gilstrap
Regional Sales Executive
SmarterTools Inc.
(877) 357-6278
www.smartertools.com
1
Kyle Kerst Replied
Employee Post
Quick tidbit of info for you on AWS IP addresses! Yes, the vast majority of the elastic IP addresses you will be issued have at one point been leveraged for spam purposes, so you will need to go through a bit of a cleaning process on any new IPs you receive. To do that simply request delisting on any blacklists you are currently listed on, and where possible implement whitelist entries for your server while you're waiting for the IP reputation to clear up. 
Kyle Kerst
Technical Support Specialist
SmarterTools Inc.
(877) 357-6278
www.smartertools.com
1
Eric Stoffers Replied
Thanks for the tips and I'll check out Mailgun. I'm hoping to use Amazon SES due to low cost (we're well under 62k emails), waiting on them to take me out of the sandbox. Ultimately I hope to clean my normal IP and get whitelisted. I'll post back on this thread as I learn more. There's not a lot of help online regarding this subject strangly. With the popularity of Azure and AWS I feel like we need some How-To docs from Amazon or SmarterTools.

0
Kyle Kerst Replied
Employee Post
Agreed Eric. I actually put together a couple of unofficial guides on SM deployments via AWS over at the Smartermail subreddit. Since it falls more on the server administration side though its largely being done in spare time! If you have any specific questions I'd be happy to help answer!
Kyle Kerst
Technical Support Specialist
SmarterTools Inc.
(877) 357-6278
www.smartertools.com
3
josh levine Replied
I also recently moved my SM server to AWS and it has been working great. Maybe I am just lucky, but the elastic IP address I got was clean so am doing SMTP straight out (after following the amazon process for opening port 25). 

I am running a `t3a.medium` EC2 instance with a bunch of ECB block storage devices (system, email, web, logs broken out onto different drives). 

My costs have been about $100/month for about 100 domains, 250GB storage, 100K emails per month. 

I also moved all my DNS onto AWS Route 53 which makes things slightly easier, and seems to work well. The only hiccup I had here was that I host a few domains that I am not able to update the authoritative NS servers for. In these cases, I set up a forwarding DNS server that gets requests from the internet and then asks route 53 for the answer. This works almost all the time, but in a few places in the world it does not and I can not figure out why. If you are a DNS master, please get in touch!

Here is some very rough (only needed it to work once!) code I wrote to automate most of the steps...


Probably not directly useful, but maybe a good starting point for someone facing a similar migration. Feel free to ask any questions!

-josh

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