Self-Hosted vs Cloud-Hosted – Conclusion and Summary

This article is Part 9 of a 10-part series on Email Marketing: Self-Hosted vs Traditional Cloud-Hosted Options.

So, there we have it. Thank you for coming along on our self-hosted email marketing journey and we hope you’ve found plenty of useful stuff to inform your decision if you do opt to make the jump to a self-hosted solution. In summary, here’s what we chose to run with, and a quick reminder about why we selected each option for our specific needs…

For Preneur Group

We chose Interspire (and SendGrid and HostGator) for our Preneur Group email marketing, for a number of reasons. Primarily, it was because we found it easy to use, and we liked it. We do a lot of affiliate marketing, and it was key for us to be able to retain control of our emails so that we could choose how they looked, what we attached with them, when they were sent out to our customers and how we could embed calls to action, images and all that kind of thing. Ultimately, the decision about which solution to choose depends upon what you want to achieve but, overall, we felt that Preneur Group would be better off with Interspire because of its enhanced functionality, and the control it afforded us.

For and the Network

For these two businesses, we decided to stick with MailChimp. This is really down to the fact that they constitute smaller portions of our business and MailChimp is friendly, pretty reliable, and easy to use. Over the past couple of years we’ve learned our way around the interface, and grown to trust it to deliver what it promises. MailChimp is great for integrating with Magento, which is our number one choice for shopping cart capabilities, and the system still lets us upload bulk lists of any offline buyers.

Even though we’d like to have the ability to embed images in our email messages to customers, it’s not a deal breaker. And, because we only promote our own products, we don’t have any issues with the affiliate limitations that MailChimp imposes.

Actually, since we implemented our solution across our eComm businesses, we’ve learned that ActiveCampaign have announced that they are adding Magento integration. If we hadn’t already invested so much in MailChimp, it’s highly likely that we would have chosen ActiveCampaign because of this! Find out more about the update here:

In Summary…

By now, you’ll have a really good idea of the pros and cons of selecting a hosted email marketing solution, or opting for a self-hosted solution. Really, it always comes down to the individual needs of your business; how big you intend to become, how many subscribers you have at any given time, and your personal preferences for deliverability, choice and control. All that said, here’s our recommendations based upon our own Hosting 101 journey…

For the Fledgling Marketer

If you’re just setting out on your email marketing journey and you’re looking for an easy, intuitive and very user-friendly platform for getting everything kicked off, we’re massive fans of AWeber. It’s really simple to use, has all the functionality you could ask for to get set up quickly and easily, and it features great integration with the range of plugins and apps you’ll be looking to link with.

It’s also pretty cheap, you can try it out for free to see if it suits you, and doesn’t start to incur costs until you’ve built your subscriber list up and expanded your customer base to mid-level marketing scales. We’ve used it for a while and it’s never let us down. This is the choice for you if you want a reliable, friendly and fully supported tool to take your email marketing to first base.

For the Intermediate Marketer

If you’ve been working your online business for a while now, and already have an email communication and marketing strategy in place, you’ll probably want that little bit more functionality in place than AWeber can offer. It’s also a good idea to think about switching to a new solution if you’ve managed to build up a decent sized subscriber list, as AWeber gets more expensive as you expand your business and need more power for your email marketing.

For this reason we highly recommend the hosted ActiveCampaign service. It’s easy to use, highly functional and you can get everything set up without too much hassle. Another great alternative would be OfficeAutoPilot but, as we’ve already mentioned, you might need access to a good developer if you want to tweak it to get the most out of your mailing integration and customisation.

For the Expert Marketer

If you’ve moved up to the position of a serious marketer and need a really robust service to manage all of your emails, subscriber lists and automation, so that you’re freed up to focus on your business while retaining absolute control over your marketing solution, we’d really recommend a hosted solution, using Interspire with a customisation and SMTP service via SendGrid. We’re really happy with our choice and it’s helped us make the move to high-end marketing with the minimum of hassle and no disruption to our service.

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  • Nirav Mehta

    Thanks for the excellent series Pete. We’ve found Interspire email marketer to be quite useful too. Though is an option we are considering now.

    In terms of SMTP providers, our experience with Sendgrid was not good. Emails simply did not reach.

    Switching to Mandrill (from MailChimp) suddenly improved deliverability and engagement. We are loving Mandrill and sticking with it now!


    • Pete Williams

      Ahh cool Nirav.

      We didn’t come across as part of the research – does it allow for all the features we mentioned in this post: like sending attachments and embedding images ?

      The issues with SendGrid; did you have an account with a dedicated IP address that was in good standing ?

      • Nirav Mehta

        We didn’t try an account with dedicated IP as it was expensive for our needs. Mandrill proved to be the best combination of cost + features for us.

        Frankly, the best thing I liked about your analysis is that you bring attention to the benefits of using a self hosted software. Too many people promote cloud services and new people believe they are the only option.

        • Pete Williams

          Thanks Nirav.

          We’ve had a dedicated IP account with SendGrid, and had no problems with deliverability – but you’re right Mandrill’s pricing looks pretty special!

          Self hosted definitely isn’t for newbies, but for moderate to advanced marketers, it’s a fantastic way to go!

          Appreciate your thoughts and contributions!

          Stay awesome.


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  • Steve Goldberg

    Hey Pete, I’m surprised you didn’t include arpReach in your research (

    It has most of the features Interspire has and a lot of big name marketers use it, Armand Morin, Tim/Susan Bratton, etc.

    • Pete Williams

      Steve you’re a superstar.

      No one in our team had heard of APR Reach – but it does look pretty cool!


Pete Williams is an entrepreneur, author, and marketer from Melbourne, Australia.

Before being honored “Australia’s Richard Branson” in media publications all over the continent, Pete was just 21 years old when he sold Australia’s version of Yankee Stadium, The Melbourne Cricket Ground For Under $500! Don’t believe it? You will! Check out the story in the FAQ section (it really is our most asked question).

Since then, he’s done some cool stuff like write the international smash hit ‘How to Turn Your Million-Dollar Idea Into a Reality’ (+ the upcoming ‘It’s Not About the Product‘) and he’s created a bunch of companies including Infiniti Telecommunications, On Hold Advertising, Simply Headsets and Preneur Group.

Lots of other people think he’s pretty good too! He’s been announced as the Global Runner-Up in the JCI Creative Young Entrepreneur Awards for 2009, the Southern Region Finalist in the Ernst & Young 2010 Entrepreneur of the Year, and a member of SmartCompany’s Top 30 Under 30.

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