In a previous post, we covered the basics of how email email works–specifically, the path a message takes from one computer to another. A related question we frequently get is: What is an IMAP email account and what is a POP email account? And more importantly, which one should I use when setting up email on my computer?
Both IMAP and POP are two different methods of checking email on a web server. Each one has its advantages and disadvantages, and which one you use will have an effect on how you check your email.
POP email accounts
POP stands for Post Office Protocol. When you click “get mail”, your email client “pops” all of your email from the server to your own computer, then deletes it from the server. Much like going to the post office to get your mail, once you’ve picked it up, the post office no longer has it. Once you have checked your messages via POP, those messages no longer live on the server – they exist only on the computer from which you checked your email.
A standard POP account is generally best if you have one dedicated computer from which you check email.
Advanatages & disadvantages: POP accounts are straightforward, and are faster at sending and receiving email. With a POP account, you can save as many emails as your computer will hold. The disadvantage is that if your computer crashes or is stolen, your emails are also gone forever unless you’ve saved a backup.
IMAP email accounts
IMAP, or Internet Mail Access Protocol, behaves differently. An IMAP client synchronizes the email messages on your computer with the contents of your account on the email server. Instead of downloading and deleting a message from the server, IMAP copies new messages to your computer while leaving the original intact. A message is only removed from the server when you choose to delete it.
IMAP is a good choice for people who need access to their email from more than one location.
Advanatages & disadvantages: IMAP accounts allow you to check and synchronize mail on multiple devices, and access your mail from anywhere. If you lose your local copy of your emails, the server copy is still preserved and can be downloaded again. On the other hand, IMAP is much slower, and you will encounter tighter storage limitations; since a IMAP keeps the mail on the server, your mailbox can reach its storage quota set by the mail server, and your mail will stop functioning until you delete some emails―meaning you might miss out on new mail until you detect the problem. As a result, IMAP requires more maintenance.
Which one do I choose?
The best type of account for you to use is based on your work habits and the type of hardware that you use to check your email.
POP would be a good choice for people who:
- are comfortable checking their email from just one primary computer
- have limited Internet connectivity
- have a mailbox size limit for email storage
You might choose IMAP if you:
- need to check email from another location, such as the office or a mobile device
Sometimes, the answer is both!
It’s an increasingly common scenario to have a main computer with a POP account and then also have a laptop or mobile device for checking email which uses IMAP for checking mail on the go. When this is the case, you can configure your main computer’s POP account to leave a copy of mail on the server for a specified number of days.
This option gives you the advantages of both POP and IMAP accounts, since you can access your new mail from anywhere, then save as much of it as you need on your primary computer.
If you need any help deciding what type is best for you, feel free to contact Brad at Vision Design Group..