IMAP & POP Email Explained

Published by Designzillas on August 21, 2013

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It’s the year 2013; we are all tethered to the internet in some way, shape, or form. Probably one of the most common ways that all of us are connected is through e-mail. In this day and age, it’s the fastest way to do business and correspond with employees and clients.

If you’ve ever set an account on your computer or smartphone, then you’ve undoubtedly seen the terms IMAP and POP floating around, but what do they mean? IMAP and POP are two different protocols of email delivery and most modern email clients allow users to choose which one fits their needs best. If you’re unsure of which one to use (or even which one you are currently using) keep reading! There are benefits to each, you just have to do your research.

POP E-MAIL DELIVERY

POP, or “Post Office Protocol,” is the original email delivery system. It performs exactly the way it sounds: like a post office. In a literal post office, your mail is delivered right to you. There is only one copy of it, and if you lose that letter, it is probably gone forever. With POP mail, the same is basically true. POP mail downloads your messages from the server into your inbox for permanent local storage. With normal default settings, the mail is usually deleted from the server after it is sent to your inbox.

Now, there are advantages and disadvantages to using POP email delivery. If you’re the kind of person that needs to check your email 24/7 and on-the-go, POP may not be the best answer for you. POP is best for users who only check their email from one location, such as a work computer. POP also allows any email that is stored locally to be accessed without internet connectivity.

POP is the more “outdated” of the two, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t work for you. If you do not feel that you will need to check your email from different locations, POP may be the best option. It saves space on your server and allows you to access your already downloaded mail regardless of your access to internet. If this sounds like you, give POP a try.

IMAP EMAIL DELIVERY

IMAP, or “Internet Message Access Protocol,” is the more advanced of the two email delivery systems. IMAP does not act like a literal post office. IMAP acts “in the cloud,” unlike POP which only stores messages locally. How does it work? IMAP connects to the server, receives the content being requested and caches it locally. It then processes any user edits (such as “reads,” “deletes,” or any moved messages) and disconnects from the server.

IMAP allows you to check your mail from multiple devices in multiple locations. Today, it seems that most people are constantly connected, whether on their desktop, tablet, or mobile device. If this sounds more like you, check your email with IMAP delivery. This way, you can look at your mailbox the exact same way across all of your devices. In other words, if you delete a message on your mobile phone, the message should also be deleted from your inbox when you look at it on your laptop or tablet. For the on-the-go user, IMAP is definitely more useful.

IMAP stores all emails on the server and sends “copies” to your inbox. This way, if your computer ever crashes, your email will survive in the cloud. The downside, however, is internet connection. If you do not have a steady internet connection, you cannot access entire messages in your inbox. You may be able to see a header and some text, but any attachments or images will not download.

SO, WHICH ONE?

From the information above, you should be able to determine which delivery system will work best for your needs. If you use your email more like a file storage system, POP might be the way to go. But if you need to be constantly connected and move back and forth between devices, go with IMAP. But no fear! Most email services allow you to switch if you happened to choose one that is not making you happy. Happy emailing!

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