I have to distribute a mailing list of circa 150 000 email clients and wondered what alternatives I have to in-house system. This has lead to some research of various options for mailing customers.
First there are 3 types of software I might use: web-based services, server based newsletter/mass mailing applications and PC software.
web-based mass mailing services are quite expensive for bigger lists. For example, icontact.com offers plans costing $699.00 for 100 000 users per month. Aweber.com is about the same (at least for smaller plans). It would be a good choice for a smaller permanent list.
Also I can’t tell how well web-based services would perform under my constraints. I need Lithuanian encoding, handling weird email addresses of One.lt – popular Lithuanian social network with emails that uses its own email engine. And it has its own spams filter as well.
Another choice would be installable php scripts that would offer mass-mailing or newsletter handling. A clear choice would be phplists – a free php script for that. It looked very promising at first, however I met couple problems. First, it is not as user friendly as you would expect from distributed php software. I had to change lots of things in php scripts manually, even disabling test mode or changing encoding. That is not acceptable. Second, its import scripts suck. I have not managed to import mailing list properly even after I removed couple checks. Overall, its interface is lacking and I would not recommend this software for no-techie.
I have tested PC software as well, for example SendBlaster. It was quite promising except the way how it handles international encodings. I have received empty letter in my spam box.
So, the question remains open : should I try to make something working from phplists, search for its alternatives or use our in-house mailing system.