As a hosting provider, the first question I am asked is ‘What is the difference between POP3 and IMAP email settings?’. When setting up Microsoft Outlook or any other email client (i.e program that manages your email) the first step usually asks you (or around the first couple of steps) is whether you would like to set up your new account as POP3 or IMAP.
The first thing is know, (which probably doesn’t matter unless you want to sound knowledgeable when speaking with other newbies), is what does POP3 and IMAP actually stand for? POP3 stands for Post Office Protocol 3 and IMAP stands for Internet Message Access Protocol. Now that you know that handy bit of info, which I’m sure will come in handy almost everyday in your life, let’s get into the details of the differences so you can decide which one makes sense for you.
The main difference is POP3 email accounts download your emails from the mail server to your computer (to Microsoft Outlook or whichever email client you’re using) and stores the email(s) on your computer. IMAP communicates with the mail server and reads your emails off the server, nothing is stored locally on your machine (i.e nothing is actually downloaded and saved on your computer).
Now that you know this, which one makes sense for you? Let’s run through some quick points to consider for each:
POP3 quick facts:
- POP3 Emails are downloaded and stored on your computer, so if your mail server blows up, you’re good to go (unless the same explosion blew up your computer..)
- If you have multiple systems checking the same email account, each system will have downloaded a copy, which means you need to manually clean up your emails on every device,
- You can set Microsoft Outlook and other email clients to ‘leave a copy of the message(s) on the server’. This is handy in case you accidentally delete an email from your office computer and need to retrieve it quickly. You can also set your email client to ‘automatically delete messages from the server after XX days’. This is extremely useful as it means your actual inbox, meaning the inbox on the server, will never become full (or at least won’t fill up too quickly).
- You can still use ‘webmail’ (the hotmail like interface) to access your emails on the server, depending when or if you have set your email client to delete messages off the server. For example, if you have set it to delete emails off the server after 14 days, you can still access the same emails on your webmail up until day 13.
IMAP quick facts:
- IMAP emails are NOT downloaded and saved on your computer, they are still sitting on the mail server, so any device connected with IMAP is literally just reading the emails off the server. This means if the mail server blows up, and there is no backup, your emails are gone..
- If you have multiple systems checking the same email account, you won;t have to manually clean up each one. If you delete an email received on your phone, it will be deleted off all other devices automatically, and vice versa. This is handy if you receive hundreds of emails a day and don’t have the time to go through all your emails again and again on each device.
- You can still use your ‘webmail’ interface to access all your emails,
- Since all emails are stored on the mail server, you need to ensure that you either have ‘unlimited’ storage on your hosting package or you maintain your inbox and other folders with the same discipline as a Buddhist Monk – if you become lazy and let emails pile up that you really don’t need, you’ll hit your disk space limit (if you don’t have unlimited storage) and will not be able to receive email!
- If you have many employees who are all using IMAP connections, your hosting server may run into an ‘inode limit’ issue. HostGator.com explains inode limits as “An inode is a data structure used to keep information about a file on your hosting account. The number of inodes indicates the number of files and folders you have. This includes everything on your account, emails, files, folders, anything you store on the server” If your hosting account runs into inode limit issues, it can effect your emails and website.
Generally, I recommend my hosting clients use POP3 as opposed to IMAP so they can be sure their emails are safe no matter what happens. Another important point to consider (that many people don’t consider) is that what if you decide to change hosting companies? If you’re email is set up as POP3 then you have nothing to worry about, all your emails are sitting on your computer in Microsoft Outlook, safe and sound. If you’re using IMAP, you’ll need your new hosting company to create a connection to the old mail server and copy ALL the emails over to the new mail server, which can be a giant pain (trust me, I’ve had to do this for some clients).
Be sure to check with your hosting company or IT professional before making a final decision on which is best for you or your business. When you’ve decided which one you want to use, you now need to set up Microsoft Outlook (or another email client) to manage your emails.. so all this info has been great and informative, but how How to Set Up Your E-mail in Microsoft Outlook?? No worries, we’ve got you covered there too; simply click the title in blue or if you’ve missed it, click here.