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Delivery delays due to congestion

Now that we’re deep in the middle of the Christmas shopping season, I’m seeing more and more complaints about delays at ISPs. Mickey talked about everything the ISPs have to consider when making hardware and buildout decisions in his post The hard truth about email on Spamtacular. When, like on cyber Monday, there’s a sharp increase in the volume of email, sometimes ISPs don’t have the capacity to accept all the email that is thrown at them.

ISPs and other receivers build their data centers with the needs of their customers in mind, and you are usually not their customer. When every relative your customer has wants to send mail inviting them to Christmas dinner (all at the same time) and you and every other marketer in the world want to send them mail inviting them to shop at your all-important sale (all at the same time), it overloads the available capacity of your customer’s ISP. While they do build their systems (more or less) robustly and with many normal, seasonal surges in mind, you have to understand that sometimes something happens that means that your email will not arrive instantaneously.

Al Iverson tweeted yesterday alluding to the same complaint from one of his customers.

Hey, don’t yell at your ESP when we can’t make ISP X accept your mail faster…. we don’t run the entire universe yet.

There are certain bits of delivery a sender or ESP can control, and there are some things a sender or ESP can’t control. Capacity at the ISPs is one thing a sender can’t control, and when everyone is sending mail at the same time, everyone is going to see delays.
One commentor on that Spamtacular post claimed that anti-spam was “a racket” and that there were simple solutions to the spam problem. In response to that comment, Annalivia wrote an detailed rebuttal, talking about exactly what was happening on the ISP side of the fence.

ISPs are laying people off right and left. The premise of allowing spam to flow just to justify the purchase of expensive new toys is nonsense. It takes money to buy additional appliances to handle the overhead of unwanted email. ISPs don’t *have* that money. Mickey’s original post was all about the reasons why email is sometimes delayed. One of those reasons is the lack of sufficient resources to handle the flow. Why are those resources lacking? NO MONEY. There’s a major economic crisis going on […]

Email marketing may be one area that isn’t being hit hard by the current state of the economy. But the ISPs are struggling, and expecting them to invest money they don’t have so that marketers can have instantaneous email delivery is folly.
There will be delivery problems due to network congestion and too much mail for ISPs to handle. Marketers can’t do anything about this except send mail and wait for it to be delivered. In an ideal world there would be sufficient resources for all. We don’t live in an ideal world, and in the cooperative environment of the Internet, everyone has to be respectful of the resource limitations of everyone else.

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