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4.3 Removing SparkPost


goldmorphin

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Hello!

In 4.3 version direct support for SparkPost will be removed.
I would like to raise this topic, because I think this is really important. 
We a big project, we sent tens of thousands email every months thru SparkPost and it's just working! 
Once upon a time (when we install IPS), it was proposed to choose a system for sending: SparkPost or SendGrid, we chose SparkPost and all was good, but now IPS management said: 

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Direct support for Sparkpost has been removed. Anyone currently using Sparkpost will automatically have their settings converted to the Sparkpost SMTP mode so your email will still work.


The main question: why? Why do you dislike SparkPost  so much that you want to remove it? It's just working. Why touch something that is not obsolete, that is not broken, and more importantly - used by people. I'm very upset. Today we end develop new module for Commerce. In the near future, we will begin moving hundreds of products from the old site to IPS. This is a very risky step, because after 3-6 months I'm afraid to see the message like: "We are removing Commerce support because we want it." I would like to ask management if there are any guarantees that this will not happen?
 

@Lindy @Matt @Mark

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  • Management

We have received a lot of complaints about SparkPost from clients and also have had less than helpful support from their end when trying to resolve issues. On the other hand SendGrid has been very helpful and there have been no issues.

You can of course still use SparkPost, or any other email provider, using the SMTP options.

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You'll still be able to use it :)
Spark provides support for SMPT and if you used the SparkPost Community Extension, you'll not notice any difference in the way how it works for you once you upgrade to IPS 4.3.
Your Mail Settings will be changed from Spark to SMTP (with all the necessary data) automatically while the upgrade.

 

 

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6 minutes ago, Daniel F said:

You'll still be able to use it :)
Spark provides support for SMPT and if you used the SparkPost Community Extension, you'll not notice any difference in the way how it works for you once you upgrade to IPS 4.3.
Your Mail Settings will be changed from Spark to SMTP (with all the necessary data) automatically while the upgrade.

 

 

 

7 minutes ago, Charles said:

We have received a lot of complaints about SparkPost from clients and also have had less than helpful support from their end when trying to resolve issues. On the other hand SendGrid has been very helpful and there have been no issues.

You can of course still use SparkPost, or any other email provider, using the SMTP options.

Thanks for reply!

Guys, the main question is, will not the same happen to your other modules ?, for example Commerce.

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9 minutes ago, goldmorphin said:

Guys, the main question is, will not the same happen to your other modules ?, for example Commerce.

I don’t see where you draw the conclusion that IPS modules/apps are at risk because they are discontinuing support for SparkPost. It’s a 3rd party service. Commerce is not. Or do you mean 3rd party services like Stripe in Commerce?

Edited by Tom S.
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I've had the opposite experience so this is surprising to me.

We chose SendGrid first and we were immediately blocked before even using the service.  We've never used email correspondence outside of password resets until late 2017 when we decided to utilize the email system with IPS.  After we signed up and read their documentation, we were blocked less than 24 hours later.  I contacted their customer service and they kept copying and pasting the same replies each time we asked why we were blocked.  We were then transferred to a higher authority after several emails and us getting nowhere, to which they said they couldn't tell us why we were blocked and would be transferred again...  I asked once more for more information and what we could do to resolve what seemed to be a misunderstanding and was never contacted back.

We switched to SparkPost and haven't had a single issue since.  :unsure:

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  • 2 weeks later...

I still can't get my head around this decision, either. There have been so many members saying they are perfectly happy with Sparkpost. The misleading topic title on one thread here probably didn't help stating they were ending free tier accounts when in fact they were honouring existing free tier accounts, it should really have been corrected. Some massive companies use Sparkpost.

I do appreciate there is indirect SMTP support but am I wrong to wonder how surplus crap like Viglinks (that ruins web pages all over the Net) can retain a coveted spot in Community Enhancements, when a far more useful and less intrusive service like Sparkpost gets the boot? Even Amazon Web Services barely gets a glimpse of the AdminCP

Sparkpost have added a lot of new features and improvements since IPS added supported like extra sub-accounts, additional bounce and tracking domains and their guidance recommends warming up IP addresses which is fair, you just expect to can't grab a free service and then hammer them from day one with 10,000's of emails from the outset.

They also make occasional recommendations in their email updates requiring changes to flags and settings in their API to improve deliverability, but I've no idea if they are amended by IPS software updates, perhaps the AdminCP doesn't make too much use of the API to need changing.

I looked at Sendgrid recently and was disappointed they only provide a 31 day free trial, no real look at their Admin or Analytics Dashboard, and according to their documentation you have to contact support first if you want to configure some of their equivalent features, which you don't with Sparkpost.

Whilst switching off Sparkpost and trying the default options in AdminCP (which made me recall complaints of members not receiving email notifications which is why I tried Sparkpost in the first place), I've found it impossible for AdminCP to email members notifications using GMX.net, despite my server achieving full 100% green light scores in email checking services like the Domain Health tool at MX Toolbox.

I'm not convinced the grass is greener, just yet.

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On 2/20/2018 at 6:05 AM, Tom S. said:

I don’t see where you draw the conclusion that IPS modules/apps are at risk because they are discontinuing support for SparkPost. It’s a 3rd party service. Commerce is not. Or do you mean 3rd party services like Stripe in Commerce?

THIS!!!

" "We are removing Commerce support because we don't want it." "

How do we know this won't happen.

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35 minutes ago, SJ77 said:

THIS!!!

" "We are removing Commerce support because we don't want it." "

How do we know this won't happen.

Because IPS itself uses Commerce support.

Besides, even if it does happen, they would likely replace it with something better. Or you can just get a dev to build it again.

SparkPost isn't being removed, it will still work for everyone. It's simply being "moved" to manual SMTP mode.

Edited by David..
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If you’re using it, your settings will be changed automatically while the 4.3 updste and you’ll continue to use it with 4.3.

New clients will also be able to use it by using their SMTP details...

  It was already mentioned several times in this topic :)

 

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I have multiple clients using Sparkpost, and not one complaint or issue. 

I understand that they'll be able to use the SMTP settings, but this is not the reason that clients pay for Sparkpost in the first place. The entire purpose here is for bulk mailing, which will not be accommodated with the standard mail

You are actually forcing clients to either switch to another service, or pay for something useless. 

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There was a few issues:

  • We frequently received complaints that communities were getting banned
  • Their API would often take a long time (several minutes) to respond to requests which was known to cause timeouts on some hosts and emails to never get sent (we reached out to Sparkpost about this and they said they consider this intended and had no intention of changing it, recommending that people contact their host to extend the timeout length)
  • Their spam check following links in emails which would sometimes auto-confirm validating emails causing email validation to not be working properly (they also confirmed they consider this intended)
  • When we added them, they had a free tier which they did away with which dramatically reduced the demand anyway (which in itself wouldn't be an dealbreaker but if a service is problematic and unpopular, it certainly has an impact)

We integrate with third parties that solve a problem and we feel confident recommending to our clients. Sparkpost didn't meet that criteria any more.

As noted, it will still work (though SMTP) and you are not forced to switch. While this will be a little slower, it actually won't be much. Because of the issue with their API being so slow we had already significantly reduced the amount of emails we send per cycle to 100. For SMTP we do 50 per batch, but you can change this with the BULK_MAILS_PER_CYCLE constant if you like. For comparison, for Sendgrid we send 1000 per cycle and it handles that fine.

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On 3/2/2018 at 8:34 AM, Mark said:

There was a few issues:

  • We frequently received complaints that communities were getting banned
  • Their API would often take a long time (several minutes) to respond to requests which was known to cause timeouts on some hosts and emails to never get sent (we reached out to Sparkpost about this and they said they consider this intended and had no intention of changing it, recommending that people contact their host to extend the timeout length)
  • Their spam check following links in emails which would sometimes auto-confirm validating emails causing email validation to not be working properly (they also confirmed they consider this intended)
  • When we added them, they had a free tier which they did away with which dramatically reduced the demand anyway (which in itself wouldn't be an dealbreaker but if a service is problematic and unpopular, it certainly has an impact)

We integrate with third parties that solve a problem and we feel confident recommending to our clients. Sparkpost didn't meet that criteria any more.

As noted, it will still work (though SMTP) and you are not forced to switch. While this will be a little slower, it actually won't be much. Because of the issue with their API being so slow we had already significantly reduced the amount of emails we send per cycle to 100. For SMTP we do 50 per batch, but you can change this with the BULK_MAILS_PER_CYCLE constant if you like. For comparison, for Sendgrid we send 1000 per cycle and it handles that fine.

Thank you for that, it was extremely informative. I'll link my clients to this post so that they can see exactly what's been going on and so that they can make an informed decision. Several clients have asked me to write a plugin that will allow them to continue to use the API; the above may give them some additional things to consider.

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I've reactivated Sparkpost too. I was having problems after I started using my own server's EXIM to email some member's networks like GMX in the US and Germany, even though I aced every DNS config and SMTP email tester I could find. Reactivated Sparkpost but just via SMTP instead of the full API and no sending problem, 100% of emails now get straight through. 

Besides concerns that I may lose out on some functionality by using Sparkpost via SMTP instead of their API, the only difficulty has been trying to sort out and verify multiple CNAMEs for click domains instead of their default when you have set up successfully set up 'bounces' domains, for www pointing to non-www, for aliasing Amazon S3 and Cloudfront, and obtaining AutoSSL Lets Encrypt certificates. It becomes a right, confusing juggling act!

IPS have never steered us wrong and Lindy was kind enough to add some substance behind the some might say controversial, removal of Sparkpost but I've never had an issue with them.

It's not good Sparkpost failed to engage IPS properly but a few things still bug me enough to hope the API can get a reprieve or someone can make a free add-on:

Quote

When we added them, they had a free tier which they did away with

  • The topic referred to was never renamed although it should have been after misleadingly (but unintentionally) stating they were ending the free policy. It was simply untrue at the time and still is, Sparkpost honoured the free tier for all existing accounts (nice one, remember it was Mandrill who f*ked everyone over in the first place for not doing that!) and launched a new 15K free messages/month plan for new customers. These free 'developer accounts' include 30 days of email support "to start sending email quickly". Although referred to as a 'developer account', it's just semantics, and 15k is a lot of emails to send for free a month. My 4 sites send around 500 max, if I wanted to send 100k every month or more, I would expect to have to pay for the privilege. Sparkpost said that most users of their free service sent far lower than 100k of emails a month, and those who did upgraded to paid accounts anyway for the extras.
  • Sendgrid don't offer a free tier, only a 30 day trial but Sparkpost do.
  • The topic complaining about suspensions in fairness reflected the opinions of only a handful of complaints from people who had, however unintentionally, by their own admission had technically broken or failed to follow the best practice guidance and rules, that exist to protect the reputation and integrity of the Sparpost network and therefore its customers. Perhaps only Sparkpost  really know those account holders really warmed up IP addresses before larger bulk sending, fully verified their SPF, DMARC, SMTP Settings and associated DNS settings, security protocols and configurations, honoured and imported existing suppression lists, followed published best practice and monthly blog guidance etc.
  • In one example in that quoted topic, an admin blames them for wrongly suspending him for emails that contained spam and malware links in a moderator approval notification email as a result of a guest who had posted them. That's purely down to the admin risking non-registered guests to post content, and the apparent failure (or misconfiguration) of the anti-spam measures supposedly enabled like reCapcha and Spam Defence. It's hardly Sparkposts' fault that the Admin chose to risk guests not being spammers, no offence to the admin but you pays your money (not forgetting it was a free service) and you takes your chance!
  • If you look at their guidance, every point is fairly reasonable and designed to rule out spammers, scammers and unethical use of their system. They be quick to take action, but the system seems to work.
  • I've never experienced slow transmission, (more tea vicar?) but what does it matter honestly? Most things are never that critical and dependant, and if they were, you would certainly not expect it from a free service. If your paying specifically, fair point if sending times are proclaimed. 
Quote

We integrate with third parties that solve a problem and we feel confident recommending to our clients. Sparkpost didn't meet that criteria any more.

That's certainly understandable, I go with the flow and you've never done me a disservice but I do feel some of the points made behind the decision aren't exactly what you could call fully robust and we know that aside from those who've said they have only had a good service, the majority of feedback never comes from the content, more so the few who are unhappy or whom have genuine gripes.

:)

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On 3/2/2018 at 5:34 AM, Mark said:

As noted, it will still work (though SMTP) and you are not forced to switch.

Will there be a tutorial posted for folks who use sparkpost explaining step by step how to switch to SMTP?

Needed so we can be ready when IPS 4.3 rolls out!

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If you do want to test, I'd recommend making a note of your current settings and finding your Sparkpost API Key or create a new one, then you can switch to SMTP at any time and enter the details Sparkpost give you in their Dashboard's SMTP Relay Page:-

251A907E-EA83-4BAE-BE2A-98893669B06C.thumb.png.fcbe0b9bac5128e6c5d40e43cfd66ce4.png

So in my AdminCP - Email Settings when I switch to SMTP I enter:

SMTP Host: smtp.sparkpostmail.com
SMTP Protocol: TLS
SMTP Port: 587
SMTP Username: SMTP_Injection
SMTP Password: (Use the long API Key as the password)

You can also use port 2525 if 587 doesn't work for your server, as they suggest.

You always switch back to the Sparkpost API option if you want, until it's removed.

Try a test email. 

There's a lot more to configuring your DNS Settings when using any email service or provider, especially if you add the recommended click/tracking and bounce domains, so it's worth going through the options in the Dashboard to verify your various CNAMEs, TXT, DKIM, SPF records are correctly set up once you have confirmed you can send email via SMTP.

Whichever email service you use, a really useful set of free tools can be found at MX Toolbox:

 https://mxtoolbox.com/NetworkTools.aspx

You can create a free account there and the results page nags go away, then you can add a free monitor to check your SMTP settings, get reports etc. It will help you nail down any additional things you may have missed to help maximise your deliverability like PTR records (it seems some networks check this so you need to set it to match your IP address to the server hostname, not your website name for example).

I've found the Domain Health tool quite handy and I think you get access to more useful tools after registering:

https://mxtoolbox.com/domain/

Hope this is useful!

 

 

 

 

 

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