Simple Python SMTP mail script – Part 1

TSOHostI host this blog via TSOHost in the UK. On the surface they look like just another low-cost hosting provider, but under the covers they are actually quite programmer-friendly. My cheapo hosting plan has SSH access, cron jobs, up-to-date PHP7 and Mysql and surprisingly good tech support. All good so far and way in excess of the average WordPress user’s needs.

However, I’m not an average (or sensible) WordPress user, so when I started actually writing blog posts I also started thinking about off-site backups and it was far too easy and boring just to install a backup plugin and call it done. As a minor part of my day job I am involved in using Amazon web services, mostly S3 for cloud storage so I started musing about sticking my blog backups in a S3 bucket.

I already had a bash script to create a db backup, tar the wp-content dir, gzip it all up and send it to S3, so stick it on a cron job and pretty much job done eh? … Not quite; I like to get a daily email reminder that the backup ran and some info about the result.

…and that is when things started to unravel…

Shared hosting is cheap, but it comes with quite a few limitations compared to non-shared alternatives1. The main problem is that shared hosting is a magnet for every spammer and scammer around, so the hosting providers have to severely limit access to normal utilities like command-line mail and sendmail. Even when these utilities are there and work, the outgoing mail host is probably on every blacklist around so your mail is going nowhere. This is true for TSOHost too; I couldn’t use any of the easy ways of sending mail from my backup script.

However, all is not lost, they provide an internal SMTP server inside their cloud server farm that can send mails and I already know that works fine as I have used it from one of my PHP applications. Problem solved?

Not quite. Another issue with shared hosting appears – a lot of expected utilities are missing from the command line (ssmtp? – nope) and what is there is old. Like – really old2. They can’t be updated and nothing can be installed except user-land programs.

So how about doing something is a scripting language? TSOHost runs the latest PHP and I could pull down PHPMailer and whip a script up pretty quickly; I’m pretty good with PHP, so that would be easy. It just feels messy though – I started with a single bash script and I’d end up bolting another script and external libraries on the side just to send an email.

How about Perl? Version 5.8.83 is installed and it has the Net::SMTP module. It doesn’t have the Net::SMTP::SSL module though, but that is ok as the TSOHost internal SMTP server doesn’t need encrypted connections. Yes?

No. I don’t really know Perl beyond doing superficial one-liners in shell scripts; plus there is something …painful about Perl4. I’ll consider that as a last resort.

How about Python? Version 2.4.35 is there, the smtplib module loads. Again, SSL won’t work as that didn’t come in until v2.6, but not a problem here. Yes?

Yes! I don’t know Python well either, but that’s what Skynet-Beta Google is for eh?

To be continued…



  1. Yes, I know about VPS hosting – I have AWS and Vultr hosts, but my blog is meant to be a low-maintenance, low-hassle, minimal tinkering solution.
  2. e.g. Tar is version 1.15.1. That’s from 2004 according to the Gnu docs.
  3. The gcc compiler chain is broken too, so I can’t install later versions of anything.
  4. Sorry, but there is!
  5. Same problem as Perl. I tried to get Python 2.7 to install, but no-go.