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We have a website that monitors weather conditions. A cron job runs frequently, which generates alerts if it's too windy/hot/whatever. We already have all this running with alerts being sent by email, on a shared hosting environment.

If we set up our own web server (most likely linux of some flavor), I'd like to avoid having to run a mail server, as we have neither the time nor expertise to properly maintain it.

I can apparently use an API to send our SMS-based alerts direct to that provider, but some folks want emails as well as texts. Also, this data is extremely time-sensitive; the users must receive alerts reliably and instantly.

What else can I use to send out alerts? What other ways exist for getting data off a server? Can I send email from one user only, without even receiving incoming mail? Or should we bite the bullet and use an external email handling service like Fastmail?

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You can use sendmail look alike to send email using external account (e.g. at gmail).
It should allow you (optional) easy switch to local email server in future.

You may consider

  • msmtp for sending out emails via extermal email account
  • fetchmail for receiving emails (e.g. bounce messages about failed email deliveries)

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