Email: Web-based, POP, or IMAP

Nice simple article on web-based email, POP and IMAP...
Get the Best of Both E-Mail Worlds

December 7, 2007

Most of us with personal e-mail accounts (that is, those not provided by an employer) probably have one of two different account types — either Web-based or POP-based (Post Office Protocol). This week we'll compare the pros and cons of both e-mail types and look at a third method that offers the best features of each.

It's not hard to see why Web-based e-mail accounts are so popular. Aside from the fact that they're often free (at least as long as you can operate within relatively modest storage limits), they provide flexible and convenient access from a browser on almost any Internet-connected machine.

The biggest advantage of Webmail is that it's server- rather than client-based. No matter from which computer you access your mail, you can always get to all your messages, both new and old. But although convenient, Webmail also has a major drawback: You must be online not just to receive new messages, but also to compose new ones or even view old mail.

By contrast, the capability to work with e-mail offline is a distinct advantage of conventional client-based POP e-mail. When you access a POP e-mail account using e-mail software like Microsoft Outlook or Mozilla Thunderbird, you need only to connect to the mail server briefly to download your new mail. This leaves you free to peruse or reply to messages at your leisure, whether or not you have an Internet connection handy. (Of course, you do need to periodically reconnect to the mail server in order to download new incoming messages or send outgoing ones.)

The major downside to the POP approach is that once messages are downloaded to your mail client they're deleted from the server, which leaves the only copy of all of your historical mail tied to a particular piece of software running on a particular computer. This not only makes it critical that you back up your own mailbox, but it effectively precludes accessing your old mail from any other system.

Read on about IMAP and the complete article...