IMAP vs POP

Many customers have difficulty choosing between IMAP and POP mail protocols when setting up their email accounts, and for good reason – it can be confusing!

POP (Post Office Protocol) is the traditional method used by email programs to retrieve e-mail from a mail server. The important feature of POP is that when you retrieve your email the messages are moved from HostAway’s server to the computer/device you are using. Emails can be kept on the mail server for a number of days before being deleted (this is determined by the advanced settings in your mail program), allowing you to download the messages onto multiple devices before they are purged. POP accounts have a one way communication with our mail server simply pushing a copy of all mail out to each connecting device, leaving each device with its own copy of the emails which must be organised individually. They run fairly autonomously and do not encounter quota issues unless receiving large amounts of mail with attachments or if they are not set to purge old emails frequently enough.

The advantages of POP are:

  • Message storage limited only by the capacity of your computer.
  • Little remote storage required (if you have the default setting to delete emails from the server once they are delivered to your device).

The disadvantages of POP are:

  • Reading your e-mail from multiple computers or e-mail programs results in duplication of filing and deleting emails.
  • Messages are stored locally on your computer. If your computer fails you may lose all your email.

IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) is the other major method used by email programs to retrieve mail. Unlike POP, IMAP keeps your messages on the server, therefore when you click to read an email IMAP presents the message that is stored on the server. IMAP accounts are a two way communication with our mail server where each device talks to our mail server to organise and view mail. All devices will see the same messages and an email that is moved to a folder on one device will be moved on all devices. As an IMAP account leaves all messages on our mail server they require some end user diligence to monitor quota usage.

The advantages of IMAP are:

  • Messages are stored on the server and are not affected if your computer fails.
  • Easily use multiple computers or e-mail programs to read mail.

The disadvantages of IMAP are:

  • Message storage is limited to 100MB (however mailbox quota can be increased).
  • Reading messages while offline requires use of your e-mail program’s Offline mode.

If you plan to view your mailbox from multiple devices (computer, laptop, smartphone) and plan to manage your mailbox size then we recommend using IMAP. If you are simply using one mail program or device (such as Outlook on your Windows PC or Mac Mail on your Apple PC) or don’t want to worry about mailbox quota then we recommend POP.

For help configuring your mail clients to either POP or IMAP simply give us a call on 9249 3646. Or you can view our tutorials at http://www.hostaway.net.au/support/email/

Notes:

  • It is possible to change your email account from POP to IMAP and vice versa, however this is a setting on your mail program (Outlook or Mac Mail for example) and not on the server.
  • All mailboxes are 100MB in size by default. You can allocate more quota to individual mailboxes using the Email Quota Manager in the HostAway Members Panel and if required you can purchase more assignable quota. Please be aware that unless you purge older emails your IMAP account will continue to grow in size over time.
  •  When you send email from some devices it may not save the sent message to your IMAP account by default (eg. An iPhone saves this locally by default). You need to edit your settings to save sent messages to an IMAP folder if you wish for this to be saved within your IMAP account.
  • If you use Webmail you are effectively using IMAP. If you have a POP account and want to use Webmail whilst on holiday make sure you don’t leave your mail program open on your home/office PC or it may download all of your recent emails.
  • Both POP and IMAP accounts will work being used across multiple devices including desktops, laptops, mobile phones and any other email capable device you can think of however the support does vary between account types.
  • SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) refers to outgoing mail, not incoming – both POP and IMAP accounts use SMTP when sending emails. You have a choice of using your ISP’s outgoing mail server or HostAway’s.

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