A POP and IMAP Primer
You may have seen this terminology but might not understand what the acronyms stand for or which mail protocol is the better one for your needs. Now is as good a time as any to demystify POP and IMAP so you can decide which one would better suit your needs. (Many of you will not be able to use IMAP because it is more commonly used in the corporate world, but some of you may have the ability to use both.) Much of the decision to use POP or IMAP will also be determined by the speed of the connection you may have (dial-up versus broadband) as well as how many locations you check mail from.
IMAP stands for Internet Message Access Protocol. In the IMAP world, the server manages all your mail. When you download new messages from your mail server, it only sends a list of the headers to your email application. When you are ready to read the message, the message body gets downloaded from the server. If you decide to delete the message, it is deleted from the server. The great thing about IMAP is that you can store messages locally as well, but the primary function of IMAP is to use the server to house your mail. The downside? Users all over the country have a tendency to think servers can handle saving all of their mail, and thus may go over quota. So if you think you want to be a mail pack rat, IMAP is perfect for you as long as your Internet service provider offers that option and your server can handle your mail quota.
POP stands for Post Office Protocol. The POP strategy employs your local computer as your mail manager, rather than a server. If your account is set up with POP, your mail is downloaded from the server and then deleted. POP is configured to recognize only an Inbox on the server and won't recognize other mailboxes unless you set them up locally. POP does afford you the opportunity to leave your mail on the server, but this may result in more confusion than it is worth if you check mail from multiple locations, because each location may have a different variation of your inbox if you are using POP at these locations.
If you have the choice, which protocol is best for you? It really depends on your appetite. What do you plan on cookin' up with your protocol? Here are some different scenarios of when it might be beneficial to use IMAP and POP or just POP. OK, everyone, grab your aprons, and let's see what's cookin':
IMAP Recipe: Hobo IMAP
1 generous helping of broadband
1 computer that allows you to install software
Imagine you are a hobo, always finding yourself at different locations, but always within reach of a broadband connection. You have a computer that allows you to install software so that you can configure a mail client
You might have a situation where you need to check your mail from more than one location (say office and home), but the primary location you check it is the office. You decide that you want to see only new mail at your home location. In this scenario, it might be wise to use POP at your office and IMAP at home.
Here are some recipes for POP that you might find helpful:
1 computer that you never lose sight of
In this scenario, you primarily use one computer to manage your mail. In this case, POP might be the better choice for you.
All your Inbox messages
You like to work from both office and home, and you want both locations to contain all your Inbox messages. Both machines need to have the "leave mail on server" preference turned on.