Knowledgebase: Email
POP vs. IMAP
Posted by , Last modified by Ashley L on 21 November 2019 06:57 PM

When it comes time to setup your traditional* email client, you have a choice to make: POP or IMAP? Both are mature protocols with excellent support in virtually any email client. Each method has its pros and cons.


POP (aka POP3 or Post Office Protocol):

For many years, POP has been the de facto choice for email setup. It is a very simple protocol, and very easy to understand how it works. Someone sends you an email, then it gets delivered to your email server and waits. When you check your email, the message is delivered from the server to your email client. At that point, the transaction is done. Your email client has the only copy of the message. You can probably see the "Post Office" analogy now. A letter arrives at the Post Office, then at some point later on that letter is delivered to your mailbox.

POP Pros:

  • Simple to setup. Most email clients default to POP.
  • Storage space is limited only by your own hard drive space.

POP Cons:

  • Difficult to use with multiple devices, and syncing is finicky at best.
  • Only one copy of your mail exists; you must manage backup or risk losing it all.
  • Must download entire message from the server.

IMAP (aka Internet Message Access Protocol):

In the past few years, the main advantage of IMAP has become more important. With IMAP, A copy of all mail is always held on the server. Just as with POP, when someone sends you an email, it gets delivered to your email server and waits. Where things differ with IMAP though, is your email client only pulls a copy of the message from the server.

Why is this important? Because we no longer just check email at the computer at work, or the one in the office. We want to check mail at work and at home, plus on our phones, tablets and laptops. On top of that, we want to be able to log in to webmail when we don't have our own devices with us.

We can do all of this when using IMAP, as it was designed for this type of use. No matter what you use to access your email, everywhere else will stay in sync. Read an email? All other devices will mark that message a read. Send a message? All other devices will have a copy of that sent message. Delete a message? All other devices will also delete that message.

IMAP Pros:

  • Easy to setup in modern email clients
  • Use on multiple devices, including webmail, perfectly in sync
  • Backups! In addition to a copy on your devices and another copy on the server, Fused provides 75 days of daily backups. So if you ever delete a message and need it back, we can restore it with ease.
  • Can download just the headers until you need the whole message. Makes email on mobile very fast!

IMAP Cons:

  • Storage space limited by hosting package. As your email storage increases, it uses up the space allocated to your hosting.

So, which should you choose?

Our suggestion is IMAP as the numerous benefits far outweigh the cons. Even if you tend to keep massive amounts of email around, IMAP is still a great choice. Just make sure that you archive and backup old mail on a regular basis.


 

* There are choices other than POP or IMAP, most notably Exchange. However, Fused does not offer Exchange mail.

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