With a countless number of available options, choosing the best service for sending email is hardly ever a piece of cake. While it might feel like any option will do, don’t just pick whatever appears first in a Google search as the details matter. We’re going to try to make the process easier for you by comparing the pros and cons of the two major players on the market. Sit tight and enjoy this Amazon SES vs SendGrid comparison!
What’s Amazon SES?
Amazon SES (short from – Simple Email Service) is a very popular cloud-based service offered as a part of AWS. It allows for both sending and receiving emails and is suitable mostly for transactional emails. Its users often use it alongside other AWS services such as SQS or EC2 and take advantage of seamless integrations. It also works perfectly fine as a standalone offering.
SendGrid is also a cloud-based tool focused strictly on sending emails. This Twilio-owned giant can be used for sending mass marketing emails (such as newsletters or product updates) as well as transactional emails. Numerous integrations (both company- and user-made) make it a great option for integrating with various programming frameworks and 3rd party tools. We’ve recently covered the basics of SendGrid on our blog, check it out here.
Are they really that different?
It probably won’t come as a surprise but both tools offer plenty of similar or identical functionalities. Each lets you choose between a shared and a dedicated IP, each offers a full set of email authentication methods (DKIM, SPF, and DMARC). If you wish to send lots of transactional emails, both will do a fairly compelling job in this regard.
Where are the differences? Each tool is targeted to a different audience. SendGrid is more of an all-inclusive tool, suitable for sending all kinds of emails, while Amazon SES does mainly transactional emails (but it does them really well). SES works with pay-as-you-go pricing, while SendGrid offers pre-designed plans. The rates also differ, of course.
Each tool also comes with additional functionalities that might make a difference for some but will be redundant for others. So, which will be best for you? Let’s see.
Pros of Amazon SES
Integration with other AWS services
One of the biggest advantages of Amazon SES is how it perfectly integrates with other AWS services. You can use it with an EC2-hosted website, SNS-based notifications, and custom reporting coming from Amazon Cloudwatch (among others). You don’t need to look for the right services and then try to figure out how to get them to work together. It all comes out of the box. Of course, if you’re hosting your website elsewhere and don’t utilize any other services, it won’t benefit you much.
Amazon SES is widely considered to be one of the cheapest (if not the cheapest) among the major players on the market. Choose to host an application on EC2 and they’ll toss in 62,000 free emails per month, no strings attached. For some smaller companies, it might mean sending emails completely free of charge.
If you need more than that or don’t use EC2, Amazon charges $0.1 for every 1,000 emails sent with the pay-as-you-go subscription model. You don’t need to purchase any plan and submit advance payments, you simply pay for what you use. To give you an example of how cheap that is, here’s a simple table:
|Emails sent / month||50,000||200,000||1,000,000|
|Price with EC2||0||$13.6||$93.6|
|Price without EC2||$5||$20||$100|
Allows for receiving emails
A unique feature of Amazon SES is that it can be used not only to send emails but also to receive them. This way, you can keep all your communications on one platform and save on subscription fees you’d otherwise pay to other providers. Emails received are charged separately, though, with 1,000 freebies granted every month.
Can help you with email testing
Amazon SES can be used together with Amazon’s Mailbox Simulator. We’ve mentioned many times on this blog how important it is to properly test an email campaign before it is delivered to clients. Mailbox Simulator does the testing pretty well, saving you from unnecessary failures. Emails sent for testing count toward your quota but don’t affect the daily sending limit. If you need more features and even better testing, try Mailtrap too.
Cons of Amazon SES
Email sending is all it does
Amazon SES was built with one simple thing in mind – sending emails over API. Aside from that, it doesn’t offer much more (at least out of the box). If you were hoping for extensive analytics, drag&drop builder or robust email templates, you might be a bit disappointed. The dashboard comes down to configuration and rather basic numbers to visualize the success of a campaign. Of course, 3rd-party tools can be connected quite easily and they can bring to the table many additional functionalities. It’s always an extra effort and cost.
Impossible to use for less technical users
SES isn’t really known for being a very user-friendly tool. The dashboard itself can feel overwhelming and difficult to move around for those unfamiliar with Amazon’s service. The setup itself and handling email campaigns without 3rd parties are virtually impossible for non-developers too. Amazon SES along with the rest of the stack are tools for developers and feel exactly like that.
Pros of SendGrid
SendGrid is designed as a tool for all email communications of your company. One of your colleagues can handle newsletters, another can send product updates to users, and a separate team can be engaged in setting up automation and measuring them. SendGrid is good in each of these sectors and allows you to use a single tool for all of your email needs.
As you would expect from one of the world’s leading marketing automation tools, SendGrid offers tons of features for measuring the success of your campaigns. These include real-time analytics, spam reports, detailed breakdown of opens, clicks, bounces, unsubscribes, and more. All of these are packed into a visually appealing dashboard that content teams can take over without much introduction.
Tools for customizing campaigns
SendGrid also offers plenty of options to plan and execute marketing automation campaigns. This involves setting up triggers and building multi-email campaigns to nurture your leads. When sending those as well as mass marketing campaigns, you can take advantage of user segmentation, A/B testing, and scheduling. All of these are built into a platform.
Easy to get started
SendGrid offers lots of educational materials, such as guides and videos to help everyone get started quickly. On top of that, they offer 24/7 phone, chat, and email support, also for those on a free-forever plan. API is also easy to use and understand thanks to well-written and complete documentation.
API libraries available for numerous frameworks
It’s very easy to integrate SendGrid with various popular (and less popular) frameworks. SendGrid maintains libraries for Java, Node.js, Go, PHP, Python, C#, and others. On top of that, there are dozens of community-built libraries to seamlessly integrate with other languages. Check out the entire list here.
Cons of SendGrid
SendGrid works with pre-paid plans that grant you a certain number of emails sent and various functionalities. The pricing is different depending on whether you want to add the email sending to your website/app or want to use a full set of tools for building campaigns and automations. Let’s see how much both would cost with the same amount of emails we wanted to use Amazon SES for:
|Emails sent / month||50,000||200,000||1,000,000|
|Email API plans||$14.95||$79.95*||$399.95*|
|Marketing campaigns||$50||$200||Custom pricing|
* note that with 100,000+ emails sent monthly, you’re moved to a higher plan, with a dedicated IP and subuser management included free of charge on top of the features of a basic plan. See the pricing for the detailed breakdown.
For the sake of comparing both tools, let’s compare them side by side, including Amazon SES pricing without a free tier granted by EC2 hosting and SendGrid’s API plans.
|Emails sent / month||50,000||200,000||1,000,000|
|SendGrid Email API||$14.95||$79.95||$399.95|
|Amazon SES w/o discounts||$5||$20||$100|
Even without 62k free emails, Amazon is a clear winner.
No environment for testing
SendGrid doesn’t offer any tools for validating emails before they’re sent or even viewing those that were already sent and delivered. Of course, you can preview the template before it’s sent but broken formatting is just one of the things that can go wrong. You’ll need to utilize external tools such as Mailtrap.
Finally, let’s look at what users for each platform have to say about a given solution. We’ve gathered in the table below the average ratings from 4 popular sites for comparing products and services.
As you can see, even here they’re pretty close.
Which one should you choose?
As you can see, each tool comes with plenty of unique features and benefits. So which one should be “the one?” It all comes down to your specific use case and what you need from such a tool. It’s also about who on your team will be using a tool and, of course, how much your budget allows for.
Choose Amazon SES if you…
- Already work with AWS and are familiar with an environment
- Have an application hosted on EC2 or are considering moving there
- Need a reliable tool just for sending lots of emails and can live without all the additional features
- Are looking for the most cost-effective solution and have developers ready to work with this tool
Choose SendGrid if you…
- Need to send all kinds of emails – newsletters, transactional messages, and everything in-between
- Require advanced analytical tools to see the progress of your campaigns and improve them on the go
- Want non-technical team members to be able to handle the tool with little to no involvement of the development team
- Have doubts how to integrate your application with Amazon SES and SendGrid has a library built specifically for this purpose*
* We regularly cover how to send emails with various frameworks and libraries in our blog. When in doubt, see if we have what you were looking for. Chances are we do.