Email to SMS – What is it? How does it work?

email to sms from fastsmsEmail to SMS is a handy feature of our Fastsms text messaging platform.

Basically it enables you to format an outgoing email so that it arrives at the recipient’s mobile phone as a text message. Equally when used in conjunction with a Virtual Reply Number or SMS Shortcode a text message can be received by the Fastsms system which can then be sent back to the sender’s email address as an email.

How can I send messages using email to sms?

  1. Firstly you need to open up a free Fastsms account which comes with ten free message credits to try the system out. Click here to sign up, no credit card details required.
  2. In your email client enter the number (or numbers) you want to send to in the format 447712345678@my.fastsms.co.uk, assuming the number you are sending to is 07712 345678.
  3. In the subject line you enter the name or label the message is being sent from. This can be no more than 11 alpha-numeric characters and must not include spaces. Typically it will contain your company or brand name or a headline description for the message.
  4. Alternatively the subject line can include a Virtual Mobile Number to enable the recipient to text back a response which can then be forwarded back to your email.
  5. The first three lines of the message body should include your Fastsms user name; the second your Email to SMS authentication token (found in your settings); with the third line containing your message. Each 160 characters of the message will consume a single message credit. Messages over 160 characters or messages to non-UK destinations will consume additional credits.
  6. The three lines in the message body MUST be formatted as plain text or messages may be scrambled or even fail to deliver.
  7. If your email automatically adds signatures, disclaimers and so forth at the bottom of all emails you need to add /eom (end of message) on the line below your message body – i.e. line 4.

Full detail on sending email to sms can be found in the Fastsms Support Centre.

How to receive messages using SMS to Email?

There are two ways to receive messages into your Fastsms account. You can use an 11-digit Virtual Mobile Number, e.g. 44789 0123456, or a 5 digit SMS shortcode, usually in conjunction with a keyword, e.g. 87007 HELP.

In either case it is easy to set up in your Fastsms account settings that messages to a specific VMN or shortcode are forwarded to an email address and/or another mobile number.

Details of both options can be found here but here’s a quick summary:

A Virtual Mobile Number looks like a normal UK mobile number, e.g. 07890 123456, but it can only receive text messages not voice calls. It is allocated to your Fastsms account and messages received can be forwarded by email, text or http forwarding (i.e. to another web application) either globally or triggered by a keyword.

Each VMN costs up to £99 per year although there are reductions if you bulk buy or purchase in bundles alongside message credits. Each Fastsms account can have unlimited VMNs and each VMN can have unlimited keywords.

An SMS Shortcode is a special number usually with 5 digits, although 4 and 6 digit numbers do exist. The number Fastsms use in the main is 87007. End users can have their own dedicated Shortcode but it is expensive and time consuming to set one up – let’s say a thousand pounds and three months paper-pushing and the ongoing cost is about £800 per month. That’s fine you’re the BBC or Lloyds TSB but not really appropriate for most businesses.

The solution is to rent a “keyword” on a shared shortcode. So instead of using 87007 as your inbound text number you can have “87007 KEYWORD” as your reply number. KEYWORD can be anything you want that someone else has not already rented; your company name, your brand name, an action (SIGNUP), whatever you fancy.

Just as with a VMN a message received to your shortcode can be forwarded to a mobile number, an email address and/or a software application. Each keyword costs £25 per month.

You can see more detail on receiving SMS to email in the Fastsms Support Centre.

Why use Email to SMS?

In truth only a small percentage of our messages go via Email to SMS. Most users prefer the web-based messaging Platform NetMessenger or integrate SMS functionality into their own software systems using our API (Application Programming Interface).

However in some circumstances Email to SMS is the most effective, or sometimes the only way for them to send text messages over the internet. Although small in number these users are of great importance to us and we will always strive to meet their needs.

Typical use cases include:

  • Sending text messages in environments where browsing is blocked for the user. For example offices or call centres where workers are prevented from using social media or browsing shopping sites but where email is still accessible.
  • Email to SMS can be used with any software systems that can send or receive emails with little or no programming required. We find many cases where a developer has “disappeared” leaving a user with no means of changing their software. SMS functions can still be added in these cases provided email functions work.
  • Email to SMS enables any device to send a text from anywhere that has internet access even if the mobile network is inaccessible. As a simple example you could use Email to SMS to text from your phone when in the London Underground as, although no mobile signal is available, there is a Wi-Fi connection.

How secure is Email to SMS?

Email is not particularly secure as a messaging medium as it can be prone to interception. If account login details in full, formed part of the message body it could potentially give access to your Fastsms account to a third party, who could then drain your credits. This is a risk with many Email to SMS solutions.

Fastsms mitigate this danger by replacing your account password with an authentication token in the email body. The code can, and should be, regenerated on a regular basis to keep your protection up o standard.

Conclusion

Email to SMS is a very easy way to get started sending SMS messages via the internet. Provided you have an email, an internet connection and follow the simple message formatting rules you’ll be texting in no time.

If your message volumes increase you might find it beneficial to look at the NetMessenger platform or even look to integrate SMS functionality into your other software systems. It’s your call but you can chat with Fastsms from their website or email helpdesk@fastsms.co.uk if you want to discuss your needs.

However if your users don’t have access to browsing but can use email it’s the only solution. If your software supports emailing then you can add SMS to it with re-programming. And if you can’t get at your software to change it then Email to SMS is your only option.

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