Is Open Source Email Marketing Worth It? A Comprehensive Guide 

Open source email marketing software

When you’re running a business, every penny counts. And harnessing the power of email marketing is one of the most cost-effective ways to reach and engage your audience. 

But, at the beginning, you don’t have the budget to pay huge recurring fees for full-fledged email marketing software. Now, you’ve heard whispers about open source email marketing solutions that come without hefty price tags. 

The thought of cutting down those expenses while still connecting with your audience is enticing. But venturing into the open-source universe can feel like walking into a dense, uncharted forest with a map you can barely read. The questions start pouring in: Is it secure? Is it reliable? And the big one – can you handle the technical parts? 

Let’s answer those questions and more. 

What is an Open Source Email Marketing Solution? 

With open-source software, anyone can see, modify, and share the software code. This open nature fosters a collaborative environment where developers from around the world contribute to improving the software. 

An open source email marketing solution is an open-source software that lets you manage email marketing campaigns and send bulk email. It functions like any email marketing platform but with a different pricing model and more control on your part. 

The biggest advantage is that you don’t have to pay a licensing fee to use the software. So, your email marketing costs won’t become unsustainable, especially as you grow your email list.

However, you might have to pay for data hosting services, additional features, or professional support. Plus, you might need to roll up your sleeves and tackle technical tasks that email marketing platforms usually handle behind the scenes, such as: 

Open source email marketing software tends to be more flexible but also more complex. You might have to spend a few hours learning the basics, exploring forums, or watching tutorial videos before you can set up your system. You need some patience and perseverance. 

Here’s a table outlining the key aspects of open-source and proprietary email marketing software: 

CostOften free + costs for hosting, support, and additional featuresSubscription-based, recurring fees
CustomizationHigh Limited 
SupportCommunity support + paid support Professional support 
Setup complexityHighLow 
Email deliverabilityRequire setup and monitoringManaged by the provider
Data ownershipFull ownership over dataData hosted by the provider
ComplianceMay require manual setupOften built-in
Risk of spamHigh without the right setupLower, depending on the provider
Comparing open-source and proprietary email marketing solutions 

What is Self-Hosted Email Marketing Software? 

Open-source and self-hosted often go hand in hand, but they represent different concepts. 

Open source is all about the freedom to modify software’s code. But when we talk about self-hosting, we’re talking about where the data and code are stored. 

When you opt for self-hosting, you buy or rent your own servers instead of relying on servers managed by the email marketing company. You can sometimes self-host closed-source software, but it’s much more common with open-source software. 

With self-hosting, you don’t have to worry about the platform’s subscription tiers or sending limits. You also have stronger data privacy, and you can customize the server settings to fit your business needs. 

But like open-source software, self-hosting isn’t without challenges. You’ll need to manage the server, handle security measures, and troubleshoot issues. 

Is Open Source Email Marketing Software Worth It? 

The choice between open-source and proprietary email marketing software boils down to your specific needs, technical skills, and resources.

Open-source software is worth it if you:

  • Prefer full control over your data and software.
  • Can invest time in learning and managing the software.
  • Have a tight budget and prefer avoiding recurring subscription fees.
  • Have technical expertise on your team to set up and update the software. 
  • Value customization and want to tailor the software to your specific needs.
  • Need a solution that can grow with your business without additional licensing costs.
  • Have the patience to wait for community support responses, or you’re willing to pay for professional support when needed.

On the flip side, proprietary software is a better choice if you:

  • Prefer a ready-to-use solution with a straightforward setup.
  • Have the budget for recurring subscription fees and value having professional support. 
  • Want a polished user experience with less of a learning curve. 
  • Need pre-built templates, integrations, and email automation features.
  • Are looking for a solution that complies with industry standards and regulations out of the box.

The choice isn’t always clean-cut, though. You might come across open-source solutions that are well-designed, user-friendly, and comply with industry standards right out of the box. Similarly, not all proprietary software is flawless or has a high price tag. Some may offer competitive pricing or even freemium models to accommodate smaller budgets.

You may even come across hybrid solutions: an open-source core with proprietary extensions, templates, and plugins that add extra functionality. 

Best Open-Source Email Marketing Tools

Here’s a lineup of the best open-source email marketing solutions and tools to fit different needs and skill levels. 


Listmonk is a high-performance, self-hosted newsletter and mailing list manager with a modern dashboard. Listmonk’s simplicity doesn’t take away from its capabilities; it offers a good range of features, including templating, analytics, and segmentation, while maintaining a user-friendly interface. Multiple hosting providers, such as Elastio, offer native support for Listmonk. So, it’ll be the simplest option if you don’t have technical expertise. 


  • Compatible with multiple operating systems. 
  • Scalable to millions of users. 
  • Simple setup thanks to out-of-the-box support on multiple hosting platforms. 
  • Subscribers can opt-out of your emails and wipe their data permanently. 


  • Lacks advanced analytics. 
  • Template designer is on the simpler side. 

Dada Mail 

If you’re looking for a straightforward mailing list manager, Dada Mail is a good choice. It isn’t overly complex and gets the job done. You can manage subscribers, create and send emails, and monitor campaigns. It’s ideal for small businesses or nonprofits that need a reliable way to keep in touch with their community without the bells and whistles of larger platforms.


  • User-friendly interface for beginners.
  • Good for basic email campaigns and subscriber management.
  • Offers a free version to get started without upfront costs. 
  • Inexpensive pro version with additional features and priority support. 


  • Not scalable. 
  • Lacks advanced automation. 


phpList is a free php email marketing software for managing newsletters and announcements. Its large community means you have plenty of support. Plus, there’s a hosted service available if you’d rather not handle the technical side yourself. It comes fully maintained and pre-configured. But phpList isn’t designed for multi-step campaigns. So, if you’re looking to create complex automated email sequences, you’ll have to look for a more sophisticated system. 


  • Highly scalable for growing subscriber lists.
  • Strong community support and resources.
  • Focuses on subscriber consent with opt-in and double opt-in features.


  • Doesn’t support multi-step automated campaigns.
  • Mainly suitable for newsletters rather than complex marketing funnels.


Sendy is a self-hosted email marketing tool that stands out for its cost-effectiveness, especially for those with large mailing lists. It integrates with Amazon Simple Email Service (SES), which can significantly reduce sending costs. It’s great for bulk emails like newsletters and promotions. Sendy isn’t open-source, but it blends some open-source principles with commercial software. You make a one-time payment, and with that, you can access and modify the source code as long as you have a valid license. 


  • Cost-effective.
  • Integrates with Amazon SES.
  • Simple features for managing subscribers, running email campaigns, and analytics. 


  • Doesn’t have a support community. 
  • Doesn’t have advanced automation. 


Mautic is a comprehensive open-source automation tool. It’s a solid choice if you’re looking to consolidate your marketing efforts in one open-source platform with the potential to expand. 

It lets you gather and analyze customer data across multiple touchpoints, including email. You’ll get a range of tools for campaign management, lead scoring, and tracking, so you’ll have a full view of your customer interactions.


  • Robust marketing automation across various channels.
  • Flexible and scalable for growing businesses.
  • Active community support and continuous updates.
  • Comprehensive campaign management.


  • Can be complex to set up without technical knowledge.
  • May require additional plugins or integrations for full functionality.


OpenEMM is an enterprise-level open-source email campaign software. It’s scalable, and it comes with various professional support options and services. You can build sophisticated opt-in and double opt-in lists and different email sequences, including newsletters and transactional emails


  • Highly scalable.
  • GDPR compliant.
  • Active community and professional support.


  • Complex architecture that requires technical expertise. 
  • The initial setup might be more challenging compared to simpler solutions.

How to Choose An Open Source Email Marketing Solution 

When considering open source mass email software, any option you consider has to have a few essentials. 

You’ll need reliable tools for: 

  • Subscriber list management. 
  • Ensuring email deliverability. 
  • Campaign management. 
  • Designing emails. 
  • A/B testing. 
  • Analytics. 

But with open-source software, one of the most critical factors to consider is the community behind it. An active community means ongoing improvements, robust security, and a wealth of support and documentation. It’s this community that breathes life into the software, keeping it relevant and functioning. If the community is inactive, the project risks becoming outdated, which can mean security risks and a lack of support, making it a shaky investment for your business needs.

You should also consider the technology stack because it impacts everything — from how easy it is to find expertise for system maintenance to integrating with other tools. A familiar tech stack means easier handling, more available resources, and potentially lower costs for customization and day-to-day operation. 

Open-source projects often use common programming languages like PHP, Java, or Python. These languages have robust communities and extensive libraries, so you’re more likely to find quick solutions. The choice of language has a large impact on your system’s future in terms of scalability, talent, maintenance, and expansion. 

Challenges of Using Open Source Email Marketing Software 

While open source bulk email software can unlock new opportunities, you need to understand its hurdles to see if it’s a fit for your business. Let’s walk through some common challenges you might face. 


With a self-hosted open source solution, you’re essentially setting up your own email marketing system.

This means you’ll incur costs for:

  • Initial setup, like hardware and server configuration.
  • Ongoing maintenance to keep everything running smoothly.
  • Obtaining support from an external organization. 

The upside is that you have control over your setup and can tailor it to your needs.

On the other hand, opting for a service provider simplifies much of this. Your subscription fee covers the setup, maintenance, and level of support. You’re paying for a ready-to-use, well-maintained service which lets you focus on your email marketing campaigns instead of the technical upkeep.

Here’s an overview of the items that’ll cost you in both cases: 

Self-Hosted, Open-SourceProprietary
Initial setupHardware, software, serverPossibly initial setup fees
MaintenanceServer, updates, bug fixesIncluded in subscription
SupportCommunity or paid professionalIncluded or paid professional
CustomizationPlugins, custom developmentPremium features or add-ons
IntegrationManual or integration toolsTypically easier or included
OveragesNoneMonthly/annual + extra charges
Costs of self-hosted, open-source email marketing software vs. a proprietary platform.


Email Deliverability 

Email deliverability is about making your emails reach your recipients’ inboxes instead of ending up in the spam folder or being dropped by mail servers altogether.

Here’s a closer look at what you need to consider:

  • Spam filters: Open-source solutions might not have built-in spam prevention mechanisms, so you may have a hard time adhering to best practices, especially with new requirements coming in 2024
  • Sender reputation: If you’re self-hosting, your domain and server’s IP reputation play a huge role in deliverability. 
  • Authentication: Setting up proper email authentication protocols, like SPF, DKIM, and DMARC, prevents security issues and boosts your deliverability. When you’re self-hosting, you’re responsible for correctly implementing these protocols. 

At Campaign Refinery, email deliverability is our primary focus. We take the guesswork out of reaching your subscribers’ inboxes by offering robust, user-friendly email marketing solutions. Our experts are here to help you through the technical aspects, including domain authentication, so that you focus on crafting compelling messages. If the idea of open-source software feels overwhelming, we invite you to explore our hassle-free, professional services. 

Browse through our pricing tiers and apply to get started with us.

Technical Aspects 

When you decide to transition to an open-source solution, you’ll need someone on your team with a knack for technical work. They don’t need to be a coder, but understanding the basics of configuring software is necessary.

Here’s a breakdown of the technical challenges you’re likely to face:

  • Setup: The initial setup requires server configuration, software installation, and database connection. 
  • Maintenance: This includes routine updates and bug fixes to ensure smooth operations.
  • Troubleshooting: Issues can crop up, like php version updates breaking some components, browser updates affecting how your software looks, or caching issues causing delays. These are hard to predict and 
  • Customization: Modifying the software to fit your needs requires a level of technical understanding.
  • Integration: At the very least, you’ll need a mail transfer agent like Amazon Simple Email Service to send email messages. You may also need to integrate your software with other platforms for analytics, anti-spam, and more. 
  • Migration: If you’re switching from a service provider, exporting your existing data and importing it into the new system is a necessary step. 

Based on our experience, technical challenges come up when you least expect them. So, having a tech-savvy team member is necessary if you want to avoid downtimes and keep your email marketing efforts on track. 

Security and Reliability

When you take the open-source, self-hosting route, you take on the responsibility of keeping your system protected and always available. 

Here are a few things you’ll have to take care of: 

Security Tasks 

  • Firewalls: Set up firewalls to block unauthorized access.
  • Monitoring tools: Use monitoring tools to detect suspicious activity.
  • Regular updates: Keep your software updated to patch known vulnerabilities.
  • User access control: Limit who has access to your system and to what extent.

Reliability Tasks 

  • Regular backups: Maintain regular backups to prevent data loss.
  • Recovery plan: Have a plan to restore operations in case of a system failure.
  • System uptime: Make sure your system runs smoothly to avoid service interruptions.

Of course, you can hire freelancers or third-party companies to handle these tasks for you, but that sort of defeats the whole purpose of going open-source to save on costs. 

When you opt for a service provided by an email marketing company, they handle these security and reliability concerns. They have dedicated teams to manage updates, monitor for threats, ensure system uptime, and provide a recovery plan. This offloads a significant amount of responsibility from your team, allowing you to focus more on your email marketing strategies. 

Stress-Free Email Marketing with Campaign Refinery 

At Campaign Refinery, we respect the open-source community, but we also know the value of time and convenience. With our service, you gain access to top-notch features, dedicated expert support, and a hassle-free experience. So you can focus on what truly matters — growing your business. 

Plus, with our generous monthly credit caps, you won’t have to worry about breaking the bank as you grow. 

And to make sure you’re well-equipped, we’re offering you a free gift: The Inbox Formula. 

It’s packed with insights to help you master email deliverability even if you’re a beginner and want to use open-source software. You’ll discover the essentials for website credibility and domain authentication, and learn strategies from the leading email marketers in the industry. If you find this guide insightful, we’re sure you’ll love our services. 

Grab your copy of the Inbox Formula today! 

If you follow the best practices and do the legwork, open-source solutions might serve you well. But if you ever feel that it’s becoming a bit too much, remember that Campaign Refinery is here to streamline your journey to email marketing success. We’d love to have you onboard. 

Happy Emailing! 

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