What Is The Difference Between POP3 and IMAP?

Chances are that at some point in your digital existence you will have had to make a choice far more daunting than the usual Mac-or-PC or Chrome-or-IE dilemmas: POP3 or IMAP?

Chances are that at some point in your digital existence you will have had to make a choice far more daunting than the usual Mac-or-PC or Chrome-or-IE dilemmas: POP3 or IMAP?

For those who haven’t had the pleasure of setting up their own email, POP3 and IMAP are two different ways of storing and accessing your email, both over 30 years old and still powering the modern Internet today. To give you an idea of which system is best for you, let’s take a look at how each one works.

POP3 – Post Office Protocol

Originally designed in 1984 before evolving into 1988’s more commonly known version POP3, Post Office Protocol was modelled around the limitations and expectations of networked computers of the era.

Users typically had one device they connected to a network with, network space was scarce and connection was often expensive and done in short bursts of time. Therefore, POP3 was focused on quickly moving mail from the server to the user’s machine, or carrying new messages or replies back to the server. Writing emails was something a user would do while they were offline.

Typically, no copies of your mail were left behind on the server after they were collected – those emails took up precious kilobytes of space, after all – so you had to ensure that your computer had secure backups of your messages.

Along with fluoro socks, Frankie Says Relax T-shirts and too many Police Academy movies, managing hard drive space to make room for a dozen emails made the ‘80s a rough time for many.

IMAP – Internet Message Access Protocol

Think of IMAP as the more modern version of email delivery, even though it was initially released the same year as Top Gun.

IMAP assumes that the mail server you connect to has plenty of space to store your emails and that you won’t necessarily be reading or sending email from the one computer.

It works by storing emails on a central server – which we today would define as part of your website hosting plan or a cloud-based system like Gmail – and sending copies of the latest messages to whatever device you connect to it.

It’s a more expensive system than POP as it requires a server that has space and bandwidth to allow for multiple connections but, as hosting and cloud services decrease in price, this is less of a concern.

Ultimately, the decision between POP and IMAP should be based on how you plan to use email.

If you are certain that you will only be collecting email on the one device, and you are confident in your ability to archive older messages, then POP3 will be waiting for you with open arms.

If, however, you’re like the majority of people who regularly hop between multiple devices during their day, and prefer the accessibility and ease of use of networked storage, then IMAP is the way to go.

iFactory hosts and supports emails for clients big and small across Australia and the world. To find out more about how easy iFactory can make handling your email, contact us today.

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