Update August, 2011: Since launching several new features in conjunction with a commercial email delivery partner, we found that we were able to deliver emails more reliably and with less latency by sending the emails ourselves. At this point, Harvest has returned to sending emails directly from our own email servers.

Update June 15, 2011: the new email system has been launched!

Harvest sends hundreds of thousands of emails each week on behalf of our customers and 99% of those emails are delivered successfully. The remaining 1% can run into problems – sometimes messages are quarantined, spammed, or trashed on the receivers’ end. Our customers depend on Harvest to track time, then invoice for all those billable hours – and it’s critical that the invoice emails reach the customers’ inbox.

We have worked with several customers, their email providers, and our hosting provider and we’ve completely overhauled our email delivery system, which is launching early next week. This new system should ensure a much higher email delivery rate – and there are a few changes that will impact your workflow.

Unified Sender Email Address

The most significant change is that each email you send to your client via Harvest will no longer be “from” your email address. With the new email system, each Harvest email will be from "Your Name” <notifications@harvestapp.com>. The reply-to field of each message will remain your email address – so your customer can still easily reply to the email message and get back to you as they would normally.

There is a technical reason for this change. Before the new system, Harvest would “whitelabel” the sender email address of each email (i.e. the “From” of each invoice email is from your own email address). This meant that there was simply no way for a system receiving the email from Harvest to verify Harvest as the sender of the email, since the email was “from” your own email address. Sometimes this was sufficient for receiving mail systems to discard the incoming email. With the new system, the receiving email system can look at Harvest’s DNS records (SPF DKIM for the technically minded), certain cryptographic headers in the email itself, and validate that the sender is who they claim to be, ie: Harvest.

Customizable Sender Profiles

With the new set up, we are launching a new feature for you to create different sender profiles, under Invoices > Configure:


You can create different sender profiles, such as: “Accounts Receivable” <receivable@your-domain.com> – and you can choose to send your invoice from that name, and the reply-to address will be the email you provide.

Note that the email address has to be valid, and Harvest does not set up the email address for you.

Improved Handling of Bounced Messages

With our previous setup, we have no way of telling if an email bounced. With this new system, if an email bounces from your client’s email provider, we can now detect it right away and let you know.
What are some possible reasons why an email bounces? A mistyped email address, a full mailbox, client is out of the office, or problems with mail servers. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, Harvest will email you to let you know that the message has been bounced. We will also record the incident under the Invoice History section of that particular invoice.

Apart from the obvious benefits of this new email system, there are a couple of under-the-hood benefits which we believe will make Harvest’s mail capabilities truly world class.

Internal queuing of outbound email

Before handing the outbound emails off to the final delivery service, the new Harvest mail system will first create a queued version of the outbound email on the Harvest systems. This robust system will allow Harvest to resend messages which fail due to any upstream provider issues as well as retry the delivery of email using different services, if required.

More to Come

We will be monitoring the progress of our new email system and we’re striving for the highest deliverability possible. There will be more tweaks and improvements under the hood; the goal is to have a solid mail system, so you can rest easy knowing that all important client messages are delivered. In the near future, we will also be looking at more features on the user front, so you can tell if a client indeed viewed the email message or invoice.

Thank you for your continued support, and please let us know if you have any questions or feedback!