I have researched this on and off since 2005, and there are some good FREE autoresponders available.
There are 2 types of autoresponder software- one you install and host on your server and those that are a service that you sign up for.
Let me say, that I have gone the self-hosted route and the free ones either didn’t install correctly, or worked for a while and then quit. There’s a reason they’re free. I suspect that once the script became buggy, the developer started to give it away rather than work out the bugs. This has happened with Infinite Responder and Parabots, which WAS an excellent program at one time and now problematic since it has become a free program.
The downside of self-hosted autoresponders is that the developers no longer support them when they are free, whereas with a service, the burden is on the company to fix bugs and keep you happy, even if you are a free member. They hope that eventually you will upgrade to a paid level.
1.) PHP List is an open source script- you can either have them host it( Not free) or you can install it onto your own server (free).
I found it easy to install and configure. The one I have is a little old and they have added some new features to the newest version, plus plans to add new ones like email to fax. So I will be taking a second look at this.
My only reservation is that sometimes when server updates happen, the script may stop working and since I am not a programmer and I only have a small working knowledge in this area, I’m afraid that I’ll have an important announcement and I won’t be able to get them out in time.
You do need a little technical knowledge to install these- how to set up a database and edit a few files at the very least. If you are comfortable w/ doing this, go ahead, if not scroll down for some Hosted services.
2.) Parabots – is now free. Installation is not super easy, and many people have had problems w/ the install for one reason or another. I have it on one server and so far have not had any problems with it, but others do.If you’re technically challenged in any way, do not use it.
One big downside id that this script comes with no support and is no longer being developed.
3.) Infinite Responder – Is fairly easy to install and use. many people have complained that it has stopped working after a few weeks. I have only tested it on myself, so I cannot say one way or the other.
4.) lastly, In your own C-Panel – there is a very simple one, much like Gmail’s vacation message, but there is also a full featured (and more) one in “Mailing Lists” . You won’t see it until you set up a mailing list. It is very complex to customize, since there are tons of options and features to choose from. I have some techie friends that found it to be almost overwhelming as ell as time consuming.
I like it, but I don’t have the patience to fully set it up the way I would like it to be and I do not like some of the defaults.
Check back tomorrow for Part 2 for a list of Hosted autoresponder services.