Great Circle Associates List-Managers
(December 1996)

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Subject: Re: Large Mailing Lists
From: Michelle Dick <artemis @ rahul . net>
Date: Mon, 09 Dec 96 05:14:28 -0800
To: list-managers @ GreatCircle . COM
In-reply-to: <199612091054 . CAA01732 @ miles . greatcircle . com>

Eric wrote (summarzing the issues involved in using a smarthost):
> Perhaps I should  clarify what the process Brent described  does and does
> not do:
> 1. It quickly  FORWARDS the delivery chore  to your ISP. This  makes it a
>    very convenient way  to run a list over dial-up  (presumably the ISP's
>    machine has 24h uptime).
> 2. Your  ISP bears the  (resource/bandwidth) cost of  actually delivering
>    the mail. This means you had  better check with them beforehand unless
>    it is very little traffic, or they might just send you a bill.
> 3. It does  not DELIVER anything. It  may give the illusion  of fast mail
>    delivery because the messages leave your machine quickly, but they are
>    just  being moved  around to  the machine  that will  actually deliver
>    them.

As I see it, there are two main resources used when running major
mailing lists: bandwidth and cpu.  It often makes sense to seperate
these two, which is what using a smarthost does.  A low-end PC can
easily handle the cpu load of most mailing lists and is probably the
lowest cost way of handling a few large lists.  The marginal and
average cost of bandwidth, however, falls with the size of the pipe.
The lowest cost here is usually obtained at sites with multiple T1/T3

I started my list 3 years ago and it now is of moderate size, 3200+
members.  It was bumped off of two ISPs, not for bandwidth usage, but
because of cpu load issues.

My solution?  Same as Brent's: run the list on a PC runing *nix (I use
Linux and a 24hr/7day 28.8 link) and use a well-connected smarthost
with large bandwidth capacity.  My ISP was happy to allow me to use it
as a smarthost only and relieve it of list-processing load.  The ISP's
cost of bandwidth is about 100 times less than mine would be.  I also
had a few offers from other sites willing to let me use them as
smarthosts.  It is, of course, important to get consent -- unlike
spammers who use relays without consent.

It makes a lot of sense to use smarthosts in many cases: it moves the
cpu load to where the cost of cpu time is low and the bandwidth load
to where the cost of bandwidth is low.  Specialized mailing list sites
can combine the two, but when I looked into the cost of using such a
site, it was 10 to 50 times higher than my costs of hiring a smarthost
and buying my own PC.  And none offered all the features I
require in a mailing list of my size.

Michelle Dick             artemis @
 rahul .
 net              East Palo Alto, CA

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