Your WordPress site is live and ready to go. Your design is flawless and your content superb. Everything seems to be running smoothly until you realize your contact forms and password reset emails aren’t being delivered. In fact, all of your outbound emails are MIA. And now, your carefully built-up user base is becoming increasingly frustrated. What’s the problem here? 

If you’re hosting your WordPress site on a DigitalOcean droplet, you may have already pinpointed the issue with emails. While DigitalOcean droplets don't have built-in email functionality, they offer major benefits in scalability, customization, and isolation. And since the customization aspect is one of the things droplets are known for, it’s up to us to set up email delivery. This is a good thing as it gives us greater control. 

DigitalOcean Droplets and Emails: Mixing Oil and Water?

DigitalOcean’s Focus: DigitalOcean’s main focus is on virtual machines, known as droplets. Because of that, dealing with email delivery is not really something droplets worry about. 

Missing Mail Transfer Agent: Unless your droplet was created from a pre-configured image from a third party that happened to include a MTA like Sendmail or Postfix, it is likely that your droplet does not handle email delivery by default.

Security Restrictions: Let’s say you have a MTA, and you’re still having issues with outbound emails. One great thing about DigitalOcean is that it puts a huge emphasis on security. With that said, firewalls might be blocking the ports that are used for outbound emails. Some server setups might also lack a proper hostname or Reverse DNS configuration. This could be why outbound emails are ending up in people’s spam folders. 

There’s Always a Way

WordPress and DigitalOcean droplets can work together and work together well at that. There are so many reasons why someone would want to use droplets, so don’t let any issues without outbound emails scare you away. Here are a few solutions that you can consider when using hosting WordPress on a droplet. 

Hopping on the Transactional Email Service Bandwagon

This doesn’t require server administration expertise, so it’s a super popular choice for those who want simplicity and reliability. You can use third-party services such as Amazon SES, Mailgun, Mailjet, or SendGrid. Setting these services up is relatively straightforward as all you need to do is configure your SMTP settings in WordPress.

In our opinion, Mailjet is the easiest to use and setup but Mailgun is our favorite if you know how to correctly mess with DNS.

Charting Your Own Path

For those who like a little more control or have specific security requirements, configuring your own local mail server on the droplet is an option. This option is more complicated and involves installing and configuring a Mail Transfer Agent (MTA), securing your mail server, and configuring WordPress SMTP settings.

Letting a Hosting Service Take The Wheel

Sometimes it’s easier to let someone else take the wheel. DigitalOcean partners offer managed WordPress hosting services and they also have their own, Cloudways. These services specialize in optimizing and securing WordPress sites and come with built-in email functionality. This is great because it means that the server is already configured with a MTA so email delivery is already taken care of.