Bridgepoint Education

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Bridgepoint Education Inc. is a higher education company built upon innovation and a passion for learning. By harnessing creativity, knowledge and proprietary technologies, such as Thuze, Constellation and Waypoint Outcomes, Bridgepoint has re-engineered the modern student experience with innovative solutions that advance learning. Bridgepoint Education owns and operates two academic institutions, Ashford University and University of the Rockies, which offer Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral programs online, as well as through traditional campuses located in Clinton, Iowa, and Colorado Springs, Colorado, respectively. Founded in 2004 and headquartered in San Diego, California, Bridgepoint Education is committed to providing high quality, innovative education services to enrich the lives and communities the company serves.

Technology

Tools and technology used:

  • Mail Relay
  • .NET
  • PHP

Challenge

Bridgepoint suffered from an in-house email delivery system that would not scale effectively

Bridgepoint Education serves the needs of nearly 90,000 students, with enrollment expected to continuously increase each year. Bridgepoint communicates to its student population through a high volume of transactional emails, which typically include links to online learning materials and other time sensitive information. These “bulk” emails are distributed on a weekly basis, and are sent through a single Spam and Virus Firewall appliance, hosted in-house. The server responsible for outbound messages had suffered ongoing scalability problems, and CPU utilization would spike to 100% under heavy load.
As its student population continued to grow and email load increased, Bridgepoint’s email system simply could not scale to the volume required to service their vast user base. Weekly email runs had slowed to a crawl, taking nearly eight hours to successfully send 20,000 emails.

In order for the high email volumes not to crash the server, Bridgepoint was forced to send them during off-peak hours and stagger the emails as they passed through the in-house email server. As an institution that prides itself on the secure and timely delivery of its email messages, Bridgepoint needed a solution that could reliably send a minimum of 100,000 emails in under an hour, while tracking sender reputation to avoid blacklisting.Bridgepoint turned to Fairway Technologies to uncover the bottleneck(s) in their email delivery workflow and make improvements that would scale to support their current and future email delivery requirements.

Solution

Fairway Technologies recommended and implemented mail relay

As Bridgepoint’s preferred technology consultant, Fairway took immediate ownership of the problem and worked intimately with the Bridgepoint team, their systems and code to identify areas of concern, propose improvements and implement changes, as follows:

  • Interviewed stakeholders from various departments – collected and analyzed information from interviewees to understand previous attempts to resolve the issue, and determined points of consensus and contention among stakeholders
  • Evaluated current email architecture and environment – met with architecture team to understand IT vision and direction
  • Proposed viable options – which included a) optimize in-house system, b) outsource everything to external provider, or c) send via external mail relay. Bridgepoint decided on a mail relay
  • Conducted in-depth vendor analysis – examined seven different email providers using a comprehensive list of twenty-six questions to identify common features and differentiators
  • Provided a recommendation – SendGrid stood out and was ultimately selected for a combination of leading factors including cost, features, and ability to meet Bridgepoint’s goal and deadline

Fairway worked with Bridgepoint and chosen vendor, SendGrid, to set up the workflow and “warm up” the new Bridgepoint IP address used for email delivery. This process helped establish a solid sender reputation for Bridgepoint, allowing email providers such as Yahoo & AOL to increase their trust in the sending IP. Once implemented, the new system resulted in dramatic improvements of both email delivery speeds and server reliability. In addition, Bridgepoint is no longer forced to throttle (stagger) emails at the server, and delivery is nearly instantaneous at the SendGrid mail relay.

Benefits

Since implementing the new system, Bridgepoint has successfully delivered millions of emails to its student population while maintaining an impressive 100% sender reputation, ensuring both the integrity and security of its outbound messages.

Fairway Technologies also helped Bridgepoint Education realize the following benefits:

  • New architecture can now easily manage Bridgepoint’s increased volume of 3-4 million outgoing emails per month with plenty of room for projected growth
  • Bridgepoint may now allocate more time and resources to strategic growth initiatives, rather than bulk email issues
  • Streamlined email delivery system seamlessly accommodates high volumes quickly and efficiently
  • Reduced reliance on internal, maxed-out mail server
  • SendGrid functionality allows Bridgepoint to accurately manage and track campaign performance with critical analytics including total number of opens, clicks, and bounces

Client Endorsement

“With Fairway we got the full package; a top notch consulting service to provide insight and expertise, a comprehensive and coordinated plan to execute, excellent client support, and a solution that significantly enhanced email delivery efficiency, maintained reliability, and has the flexibility to scale to future requirements.”

– Mark Campbell, Director of Software Development at Bridgepoint Education.