eMail has become an essential communication tool for our business and social lives. If you rarely go more than a day without checking your eMail…. then you are a geek. Fortunately, we don’t need to be tied to our computer all day to be connected. Sometimes we can leave the office or even go home.
As a result of not being physically connected to our computers, it is not uncommon to have 2 or more inboxes for our mail. This might mean that you check at the office, at home, from a laptop & possibly from a smart phone. This can be a nightmare to admin all of these accounts. Warning: this is geek speak.
Should I used POP3 or IMAP for my mail? Here is a crash course in two most prevalent Internet standard protocols for eMail retrieval.
First is POP (Post Office Protocol) the other being IMAP (The Internet Message Access Protocol). Virtually all modern eMail clients and servers support both protocols as a means of transferring eMail messages from a server.
With traditional POP (or POP3) eMail the mail server stores the mail until it is checked by your eMail program.
The mail is then copied into your eMail program and deleted from the server. This works great if you have just one computer to check mail. When mail is checked you have a local copy (a message on your computer) without taking up too much space online.
But, what if you wish to check your mail on more than one device?
For the sake of simplicity, I’ve used a laptop as a portable way to have my mail with me. I’ve encouraged others to do the same, but some insist on having a home and and office computer to check their work eMail.
With POP3, people have to decide which was their primary computer to check mail. The secondary or slave would check messages, but not delete them from the server: so that when the user returned to the office the messages will be ready to download to the primary. This works, but it means that you must delete (or store) every message twice.
A hybrid approach is to use POP3 on your primary and Webmail on your secondary computer. This is an acceptable for solution for when you are infrequently away from your primary computer. In the past I’ve used this approach to stay in touch over our annual vacation. But, if you use it more often than a couple times a year, you still have to delete messages twice.
Some are advocates of saving the whales. That is commendable, but I’m a supporter of saving key strokes. Whenever possible I try to help people do the minimal amount of typing to get the job done.
Enter IMAP eMail.
In contrast to POP3, IMAP stores the messages on the mail server until you delete them. When messages are deleted via IMAP they are deleted simultaneously across all devices. This is a beautiful thing if you consistently use multiple devices. You essentially have the same inbox where ever you look. No more “Now which computer is that eMail on?” It is on all of them or none.
The draw back for IMAP is storage. Since all of the messages are stored on the server you can eat up some serious space pretty quickly. I see most POP users doing well with a 20MB box, in contrast IMAP users generally use at least 100MB. (Your favorite publisher uses about 300MB of space). Be sure to ask your service provider how much space you have available and at what cost you can get more. When it comes to storage: more is better!
POP3 or IMAP?
In conclusion, the protocol that you use to check your eMail is largely dependent on how many devices you need to check your mail on and by how much space available. If you use just one computer, that POP3 is where it’s at. But, if you are part of the increasingly connected and mobile users group, IMAP may best fit your needs.
fyi: I understand that a more common way way to write eMail (ok most everyone’s way) is e-mail. I just think eMail looks much cooler.
~ Oscar Myre IV, when not writing this column, checks his eMail on his MacBook Pro and on his iPhone 3G via IMAP. omoriginals.com