Recently I was presented with the challenge of trying to explain the difference between IMAP and POP email to a client. Over the last couple of days, I have been assisting a customer in the set-up of a web email address that is linked to their website address (i.e. firstname.lastname@example.org). This can be a confusing process with lots of unfamiliar terminologies. Most of my clients also have several personal email addresses. It is for this reason that I help clients to set up all their different emails with an email client. As part of this process the client and I need to decide whether to use an IMAP or POP configuration.
Email clients are the application that is installed on your local desktop, smartphone or tablet. The process of creating, editing and sending email is all done within the user interface of the computer. Most people would be familiar with Outlook, Mac Mail, Thunderbird.
In general, it is recommended to set up your email account with IMAP on external email clients.
If you check your email with an IMAP connection, you are accessing and managing your mail directly from the server.
Access: Since the emails are stored on the mail server, you can access them from many computers and mail devices.
Storage: If you max out your storage, you have to delete some emails periodically to a avoid exceeding your storage capacity.
Backup: Daily backup is done automatically. If you mistakenly delete an email, the administrator can retrieve your email, even 14 days later.
Internet connection: If you do have internet access, you can not access your email messages.
Any person that is using multiple computers or devices needs the ability to be able to synchronise their email between all their different devices. Mostly, IMAP allows a user to archive their email on their computer to their device.
When you check your email with a connection POP, new messages are downloaded to your computer and are deleted from the server.
Access: Since your emails are saved on your PC, if you want to access them, you do it on your PC.
Storage: no need to worry about online storage. Your messages are stored on your computer so you can download as many messages as you can store your equipment.
Backup: it is advisable to install a backup system on your computer if you need to recover lost or deleted emails.
Internet connection: need the internet to download emails, but later will see your messages offline (i.e., without Internet connection).
POP is bad because if you have an email account setup on your Desktop, LapTop, iPhone and Tablet you have to delete or file the same email on every device. Any folders you created and organised on one device won’t be replicated on the other devices.