Amazon’s Simple Notification Service (SNS): The 101

If you're looking to build a mobile (or desktop) application that delivers push notifications or SMS messages to mobile devices, then Amazon’s Simple Notification Service (SNS) is for you.

Professionally managed, cloud-based mobile notification services are becoming increasingly popular these days due to the rise in mobile access to the Internet. Amazon’s SNS product is a fantastic example of this due to the ease of which this service can be built into your applications, managed from a simple-to-use console, and used to effectively drive conversion within your apps.

From getting started with Amazon SNS, to message analytics reporting, to device and platform support, we’ll walk you through the capabilities, benefits, and pricing of Amazon’s SNS so you can understand why this service is such a great option for mobile notification infrastructure.

What you can do with Amazon’s Simple Notification Service (SNS)

At this point you’re probably wondering what’s possible with Amazon SNS? Fear not, below we’ve outlined the key features of SNS that you’re going to want to know about when planning, building and deploying your next application.

  1. Easy to use documentation: One of the things we really love about Amazon SNS is how easy it is to get started. Amazon has provided extremely comprehensive yet simple to follow product documentation you can access to help understand how your notification service is going to work and what you can achieve with SNS from your AWS console and within your external applications. We recommend checking out the Getting Started Guide to begin your SNS journey, however if you’re looking to expand on a basic implementation of SNS you will want to review the in-depth SMS and Mobile Push documentation.
  2. Push Notifications: If you’re looking to develop an intelligent application with the ability to send Push Notifications, Amazon’s SNS is a great place to start. SNS’ ability to instantly deliver messages without device polling, combined with Amazon’s free 1 million Push Notifications for new SNS customers is a very attractive option for developers. Implement an SNS that takes advantage of targeted message groups, and we’re sure you’ll find this service an incredibly powerful means of delivering push notifications and SMS messages to your customers.
  3. SMS Messaging: Want to send singular or bulk SMS or MMS messages via SNS? No problem. Access direct-messaging technology whether you’re looking to send to an individual or group no matter how large the customer set. SNS also provides two different SMS pricing models, these being Transactional and Promotional. This gives you the opportunity to investigate potential savings depending on the telecommunications provider you use.
  4. Devices: The great thing about Amazon SNS is that you can send to Apple, Google (including Android devices in China with Baidu Cloud Push), Fire OS, and Windows devices covering the majority of platforms you will ever need to send to. Got another platform you want to send to? Chances are SNS will be able to send to that using Lambda functions, email address lookups, or HTTP endpoints. What makes SNS so powerful is the comprehensive device and platform support the service already offers, and is likely to support moving forward which is a real bonus for developers of web technologies.
  5. Message analytics: If you’re looking to track the performance of your notification service you can do so by measuring your message analytics with Amazon CloudWatch. From delivery rates to dwell rates, you can optimise your SNS delivery over time using simple yet powerful message analytics directly from your AWS console. Because SNS is such a well-integrated part of the Amazon ecosystem, tracking conversions, open rates, unsubscribes, and push-based notification analytics are a breeze, and is something you can refine over time as part of your online marketing strategy.
  6. Your choice of platform: Access SNS using iOS, Android, Java, Python, PHP, Node.js, or .NET SDKs via Amazon Web Services. Save time building your next application using the technologies you’re familiar with via a single code base. As previously mentioned Amazon’s Simple Notification Service is built with the development community in mind, offering widespread support for the majority of popular application development languages.
  7. Pub-Sub Messaging: If you haven’t heard of Publish-subscribe messaging patterns before that OK, it’s a relatively new concept. This topic based means of sending messages is a great way to limit cost by sending messages to those who are interested in receiving specific notifications from you. Not only does this save you on data and messaging costs, but will also likely increase your conversions through the use of segmented marketing topics.
  8. Scalable architecture: SNS has been designed to scale with your business. With no monthly message ceilings in place regarding send limits, data usage or even bounce data, you can get started using Amazon SNS’ using any one of their 3 simple to use APIs. Because SNS pricing is usage based, you can look forward to taking advantage of decreased data costs as you grow, and most likely overall decreases in the cost to send across the board which is synonymous with Amazon’s cloud-oriented products.

Amazon Simple Notification Service (SNS) Pub-Sub Messaging

What are the key benefits of SNS?

Apart from being a highly flexible and easy to configure method of sending, segmenting and reporting on Push Notifications and SMS message campaigns, there is one major feature of Amazon’s Simple Notification Service that sets it apart from the competition.

Unlike platform-specific means of notification management, Amazon SNS is designed so you don’t have to build your notification service multiple times for each individual platform you’re intending on utilising (i.e. Android, iOS or Windows). This of course reduces development time and decreases cost offering major benefits to cross-platform marketers, allowing you to build leaner and release product updates in accordance with rapid product development methodologies.

By utilising the feature set of Amazon’s SNS, customers are able to interact with SNS from multiple device platforms using a single code base. This benefit alone is a huge step forward in the mobile notification arena and one we feel makes this product a great option for multi-platform developers.

Other benefits of Amazon’s Simple Notification Service (SNS) include:

So what does SNS currently cost?

Amazon as an organisation regularly update their pricing pages, however it’s important to note that unlike the majority of market providers often reduce their cost of services depending upon uptake, so it’s reasonable to assume that the costs we’re quoting today may drop. That being said at the time of writing this article our calculations showed that to send 1000 SMS messages using SNS, prices ranged from as low as $60.00 AUD to $108.60 AUD depending on the telecommunications provider you choose, with Telstra coming in at a respectable $82.58 AUD.

If you’re sending out large SMS volumes, Amazon offers negotiable rates to customers sending more than 3 million SMS messages per month. For the average marketer this won’t be an option, however we feel the standard pricing is reasonable enough considering the likely ROI you’ll if you begin to use SNS is unison with CloudWatch and segmented Publish-subscribe topics.

In addition to the quoted SMS pricing, you may be surprised to learn that if you’re looking to send Push Notifications via SNS, Amazon have provisioned a free tier of 1 million mobile push notifications per customer. This free tier is most likely more notifications than you’re ever likely to send if you're building a simple application, however if you do, you’re only looking at a charge of $0.50 thereafter for each additional million notifications making SNS an incredibly attractive option for those looking to take advantage of Push Notification Delivery pricing.

In terms of data pricing, you’ll also be pleasantly surprised to find that Amazon offer free out-bound data transfer up to 1 GB per month. From 1 GB, data transfer up to 10 TB costs approximately $0.14 per GB with a sliding scale pricing model which reduces at the 40, 100, 350, and 524 TB, and negotiable pricing coming in at the 4 PB level. Whoa...that’s a lot of data!

Summing up Amazon SNS

With just a small amount of code in your mobile application you’ll soon be able to communicate with Amazon’s Simple Notification Service and start sending out targeted Push Notifications and SMS messages to individuals, segmented groups and via broadcast messages to your entire list.

With this in mind SNS is a fantastic option for developers and companies looking to scale their use of notification-based marketing whilst keeping a lid on cost. Our team has had great success assisting clients to deliver SNS-based services in the past, and have found if you’re looking to more efficiently structure the way you handle mobile notifications using an independent code base separate from your application of platform, then Amazon SNS is a great option.

For assistance or advisory building your next mobile application utilising Amazon’s SNS, feel free to get in touch with the team at OSE via our contact page.