David Szpunar: Lead Engineer, PC Help Services

David's Church Information Technology

January 2nd, 2008 at 1:46 pm Print This Post Print This Post

How to Schedule Weekly Email Reports to Staff?

in: E-Mail

We have at least one weekly email that gets sent out to staff members each week. It’s a short report that each person fills out and sends to their immediate supervisor. It is supposed to be sent out early Monday morning every week. The administrative assistant that has been tasked with sending these to everyone has an email scheduled in Outlook ahead of time, but not only do these have to be set up manually in advance every week, but they also have not been getting sent automatically.

I could troubleshoot Outlook and try to see why it’s not sending the messages properly. But I’d rather fix the problem at its source, farm the email sending to a server and allow the admin. assistant to turn off her computer over the weekend while I’m at it. I’d also like to make the email appear to come from each person’s supervisor; as it is hitting “Reply” sends replies back to the admin. assistant and not the supervisor. Reply-to would fix this, but that requires compounding the complexity by sending individual emails to each group of people with the same supervisor!

What I want is an email scheduler. I’m open to how it works, but my initial thoughts are:

  1. It should be web-based
  2. It should run under Apache on Linux, preferably with Perl or PHP (personal preference on all of those)
  3. It should send email using our Exchange server as the SMTP server
  4. It should let me set up multiple administrators who may create emails, fill them out with From (or Reply-to), Subject, and Body, and select the time of day and frequency of the mailing.
  5. It should be free and/or open source, or at least very inexpensive.
  6. It shouldn’t try to do everything, unless I want everything that it does (how’s that for a requirement?!).

I’m willing to budge on one or more of those items if given a good reason. I’ve done a bit of web searching and have located a tool called LBE Email Scheduler, which is shareware that sells for $20 for personal use or $200 for business use (a cursory glance did not immediately reveal whether non-profit pricing was available). It’s Windows-based and seems to have the features I’m looking for, but I like the idea of running a server app rather than sending client-side. Server apps are much easier to give multiple users access to. My searching has been hampered by a bazillion (approximate :-) results for spamming tools, which, although some of them could probably be modified to do what I want, really isn’t what I’m looking to support!

I’m willing to consider creative solutions. Possibilities I’ve thought of so far, in no particular order and not particularly connected:

  • Set up WordPress-based intranet and use the cForms II plugin to create the report as a form that could be posted on the intranet. Would still need a weekly reminder email with a link to the form.
  • Find another method that gets away from using email but still sends a reminder each week (I’d like to get away from email entirely, but I don’t think there’s a better way to at least remind people!)
  • A couple of other wacky things using combinations of other open source projects that are probably too complex and that I don’t feel like linking to properly right now :-)
  • Build my own script to the specifications I outlined above.
  • Use SharePoint. I mention this because I know someone will say something about it :-) I’ve used SharePoint Services for about 4 hours two to three years ago, and that’s it (I installed it because it came with Windows Server and I wanted to play with it). I’m not going to be at the SharePoint Training that Jason Lee is hosting for a few reasons, all of them unfortunate and mostly my fault, but it’s not worth crying over spilt milk. Regardless, I know WordPress and at the very least Perl and PHP, so unless there’s a really, really good Windows-based solution that’s free or very cheap, I need a lot more convincing.

Here end my ponderings thus far, and begin the comments from you! (Thank you in advance!)