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Email Access- POP vs IMAP – Which type should I use?

So, you’ve ordered a new domain name and have set up business email, Now you need a way to access it. Most email services offer a variety of ways to connect so you can access your email on almost any device.

However, manual email setup can be overwhelming as it uses lots of acronyms that can be confusing. So today, I’ll explain a few of the most common ones –

POP – Post Office Protocol

This is the traditional type of email access and was the only one that used to be available. Sometimes this is written as POP3 because the current version is version 3.  As its name suggests, POP works somewhat like a post office. When an email is sent to you, it’s held at the server(post office) until you access it. Subsequently, when you access it the email leaves the server and travels to your computer. In other words just like a postman delivering a letter to your home.

By default, this removes the message from the server once it’s delivered to your computer. This copy is stored on your computer – there is no other backup. However, depending on your computer configuration, you may only take a copy of the message and leave the original message on the server for a specified time. This allows it to be downloaded again to other computers that access the email account.

Using POP to access your email requires a fair bit of configuration to ensure consistency. This is especially so if it’s accessed from multiple locations. If it’s not set up right, you could lose emails or have loose emails spread across multiple devices which can make them difficult to track down.

IMAP – Internet Message Access Protocol

We always recommend IMAP to our customers for email access. The way IMAP works is that messages never leave the server, unlike with POP.  When you access your emails you are simply looking at what messages are stored on the server and opening them up to see what’s inside.

The main reason IMAP is useful, is that it keeps messages synchronised. So if you view your email account on a computer, a mobile phone and a tablet, they will all show the exact same inbox at the same time. If one of the devices deletes a message, it gets deleted on the server, meaning it is no longer shown on any of the other devices.

In addition to this, you can set up folders to organise your mail. Furthermore, because it’s located on the central server, these folders (and any messages contained within) also show up on all devices. This can be especially useful for people who work with one email account on two separate devices. For example, as a work computer and a work-from-home laptop.

SMTP – Simple Mail Transfer Protocol

SMTP is different to the other two – they are both receiving protocols – SMTP is a sending protocol. Whether you use POP or IMAP to access your messages, you’ll need to use SMTP to actually send new messages out to other peoples accounts.

The way SMTP works is that it connects the mail software client (Outlook, Thunderbird, etc) to the server so that server will distribute the message. When you push send on an email addressed to, the message content and it’s recipient are sent off to the email server. The email server searches and determines where to send email for the domain name. Once this is done it then tries to send it to the mailbox for joe.bloggs.

If it’s successful, the message is transmitted. However, if it’s not, the email server will send a message with an SMTP error for why it failed. This can be things like the account not existing or a misspelling in the destination address.  Another common one is that the mailbox is full and can’t accept a new messages.

If you would like help with setting up new or existing business email addresses for your website, call Modern Print & Design on 01646 682676.  Alternatively, use our contact form to send us a message.

Email Access

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