Create a Mailing List with AWS Pinpoint – Virtualization Review


Create a Mailing List with AWS Pinpoint

You can easily set up an email campaign with Amazon Web Services Customer Engagement Service.

While it’s true that no one likes to receive spam, mass emails have their place. For example, one of the professional associations I belong to uses a mailing list to send out a monthly newsletter to its members. Amazon Web Services (AWS) makes it relatively easy to create an email campaign through a service called Pinpoint.

Before you start showing you how to use Pinpoint, there are two things you should know. First, Pinpoint isn’t just limited to sending emails. You can also use it to send SMS. Second, the cost is based on the number of messages you send. Like most other AWS services, Amazon charges you based on your usage. Having said that, let’s go ahead and get started.

The first step in the process is to create a Pinpoint project. To do this, open the Pinpoint service in the AWS console (it’s in the Customer Engagement section). When the Pinpoint interface opens, enter a name for your project in the space provided and click the Create Project button, as shown in Figure 1.

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Figure 1. Enter a name for your new project and click the Create Project button.

At this point, you will be taken to the Configure Features screen, which you can see in Figure 2. This screen allows you to configure various aspects of your mail campaign. I mentioned earlier that Pinpoint can be used to send both emails and SMS. While SMS messages are beyond the scope of this article, I wanted to at least point out that the SMS configuration option appears on this screen.

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Figure 2. This is the screen used to configure the email campaign.

Putting aside Pinpoint for a moment, think about how email works. When you receive a message in your own mailbox, the first things you probably notice are the sender and the subject line. When you create an email campaign using Pinpoint, messages sent by Pinpoint also specify a sender and a subject line. The reason I’m mentioning this is because Pinpoint requires the address for your bulk messages to match an actual email address that you actually own. As such, the next thing you will need to do is verify that you are the owner of the email address that the messages you send will appear to come from.

To verify your sender mailbox ownership, click the Configure button located in the email section of the screen in Figure 2. In doing so, you will be prompted to enter an email address. Messages sent by Pinpoint will appear to come from this address. Click the Check button, displayed in figure 3, and a verification message will be sent to the specified address.

As you can see in Figure 4, verifying the email address is simply a matter of clicking a link in an email message.

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Figure 3. Enter the email address of the sender of your email campaign.

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Figure 4. This is what the verification email message looks like.

Once you’ve verified the sender’s email address, the next thing you’ll need to do depends on the nature of the messages you’re planning to send. The reason is that AWS places quite strict limitations on Pinpoint in order to prevent it from being used for spamming or fraud. The default limitations are:

  • You need to send messages from a verified mailbox (and that mailbox should already have been verified at this point)
  • You can only send messages to verified addresses
  • You can only send 200 messages in a 24 hour period
  • You can only send one message per second

AWS allows you to work around these limitations, but to do so, you must open a case with AWS and request an increase or removal of the limits. You can do it here.

One of the best ways to shorten the verified address requirement is to verify an entire domain. Say, for example, you want to send out a corporate newsletter or something like that. Most recipients would likely have email addresses that belong to your business domain. Domain verification would allow you to send messages to these recipients without having to verify them individually.

If you want to verify an entire domain, go to your project’s web interface and click Settings, then Email as shown in Figure 5. Now click on the Edit button located in the Identity Details section. When you reach the next screen, set the Identity Details parameter to Domain, as shown in Figure 6, then follow the remaining prompts to complete the domain registration process.

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Figure 5. The email usage and restrictions page.

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Figure 6. Editing identity details for verification.

So now that I’ve talked about the email verification process, I want to move on and talk about the process of setting up the actual mailing campaign. I’ll cover this in part two.

About the Author

Brien Posey is 20 times Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of computer topics. Prior to becoming independent, Posey was CIO for a national chain of hospitals and healthcare facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the largest insurance companies in the country and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in computer science, Posey has spent the last few years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate for a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from the space. You can take his space flight training on his website.


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