Life After Mandrill – Lessons We Can All Learn About Free Software

By 26th February 2016 April 22nd, 2016 News

iControlWP WordPress Management LogoOn the 24th February, Mandrill made a bold move. It’s is no longer an independent service, but is to be a paid add-on to Mailchimp.

There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth about the abruptness of it all and the principle of the decision.

I’m not going to go into that aspect in detail, but I will say a few words about what it should mean to you, then outline how we will respond within our business operations.

Lessons to learn from the Mailchimp / MandrillApp move

Frankly, I think that the decision behind the move makes a certain amount of business sense. Could the finer details and implementation have been better for a lot of people? Sure.

In the early days, MandrillApp was free for up to 12,000 emails. Then that was downgraded to 2000. This sort of free-for-all invites the riff-raff in alongside the legitimate users. That demands a lot of resources when you’re operating at their scale.

Moving it under the Mailchimp umbrella as a paid add-on solves this problem (though of course there are other ways to do so).

But what are some lessons we can take away from this?

For us, the biggest lesson is in business continuity. If you think the web apps and service providers you’re using today will be around forever to serve your needs, then you’re dead wrong.

Our infrastructure is built on MandrillApp, and until late last year we were built on Mailchimp too. We’ve already moved off Mailchimp as our primary news/marketing platform. And, we’ve built in the processes necessary to switch again easily if our latest choice doesn’t serve.

And this is for paid services. Imagine your infrastructure and processes are built on free services! Mandrill was free for many people.  2000 emails a month would serve the majority of small use-cases.

You’ll see a lot of people (though of course not all!) raging against MandrillApp for their decision aren’t actually paying customers themselves – or at least represent clients who aren’t paying MandrillApp a penny.

If you use free services, you should expect them to disappear. You should build this into your business continuity planning.

You see, there is no such thing as a free lunch.  You might be able to limp along and use free services, free plugins, free X, Y and Z, but you will ultimately pay the price.

Why iControlWP doesn’t offer free or freemium

When you call the plumber out to fix a leak in your house, you don’t expect a free service, do you? Perhaps if he can fix it in the first 10 minutes, you shouldn’t have to pay him.

When you go shopping for groceries, perhaps you should be allowed some of the basics like bread and milk for free. After all, you need it.

For some reason the logic that applies to the “real world” doesn’t seem to translate to web services. Free is almost expected. When you consider the WordPress ecosystem, ‘free’ is practically demanded by many people.

We don’t offer free because we want to still be here in 6 months, 12 months, 5 years. Like everyone else, we can’t get free bread, milk, and plumbers either… so we must charge for our services.

We never try to compete with organisations that tout how ‘free’ they are.  They’re not free. It’s a bit like when your dealer gives you your first hit of heroin for free. If you want to get serious about it, you still need to get your wallet out.

As a business you’ll ultimately need to pay for professional services.  If you don’t, and you’re only prepared to use free services, then you’re not a customer – you offer no value exchange.

If free suits your needs, you should certainly consider it an option. Just don’t expect it to be around forever and don’t get upset when they do finally leave you hanging.

Life After MandrillApp – MailGun with SendInBlue

Mandrill Shield

Bye-bye MandrillApp

We have a month to find a replacement to MandrillApp.  We’ve already replaced Mailchimp with SendInBlue and we don’t intend to go back there for the sake of transactional emails from MandrillApp.

We’ve considered SendGrid and also Amazon SES, but for now we’ve settled on MailGun. The main reasons we’ve gone with MailGun are:

  • We’re already invested in the Rackspace infrastructure and MailGun makes sense as we’ve no extra accounts to setup
  • They have a nice and simple API
  • They provide a complementary WordPress plugin that’s simple to configure
  • The dashboard is thorough – logs, tracking and loads more. In fact, I prefer this to the MandrillApp interface at the moment

We’ll probably evaluate other services over the next month or so while we decide where to move to.  Our final solution will probably be a combination of more than 1 service.

SendInBlue also offers transactional email services and we’ll likely build our App to use both SendInBlue and MailGun interchangeably.  We pay for both and so we can operate with a fair degree of certainty that either 1 or both will be around for some time to come.

Who will you choose?

So what about you? Who are you considering and why?  What do you think of Mandrill’s latest move, and how does that make you feel about Mailchimp?  Will they always be there and deliver the services you expect?

There is a lot to consider with this move and some hard questions we need to ask ourselves about our use of online service providers.

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