What is the difference between a POP3 and IMAP set up

For customers using our mail servers we offer a choice of POP 3 and IMAP protocol on all email accounts.

A question we get regularly is what is the difference between and a POP 3 account and an IMAP account.

This document is about explaining it from an end user point of view rather than from a technical point of view so you can make an informed decision as to which one to use.

Regardless of what email protocol you will be using, it is important to understand that when you are sent an email, this email is received and stored by a server referred to as your mail server, this is one aspect of the service we offer by hosting your emails.

What happens next will then differ depending on whether you use IMAP or POP3

If you use POP3

When opening outlook for instance, it will connect (login) to the mail server and check to see if there are new emails. If there are new emails, it will download them and store them on the device itself. These emails are generally permanently deleted from the server, by outlook after a period of time.

The points of importance here are as follows:

  • The emails on outlook are stored on your computer, when you move them to a folder or delete them for instance, it all happens on your computer.
    • You have full control over your files including back ups
    • You can store a (very) large number of emails and attachments (only limited to the size of the device’s storage)
    • You can work on previously downloaded emails even if you are not online
  • When using multiple devices, for instance, Outlook, a phone and a tablet, they can all connect to the same account and download the same emails, however, once you make changes from one device the others will not be synced, for instance, if you delete an email from your phone it will still be in outlook.

If you use IMAP

When using IMAP the emails are never downloaded, they remain on the mail server the whole time and are stored there, your devices such as outlook then connect to them without downloading them.

The main advantage of IMAP is that whatever you do with your mail from one device will reflect on the others, in other words, all will be in sync, for instance, if you delete an email from your phone, when going to outlook it will appear as deleted.

The points of importance when using IMAP are:

  • The emails are stored online the whole time:
    • You will not be able to access your emails if offline (Outlook keeps a temporary version of emails but it can be limiting)
    • Spaces available for each mail box is limited so if you have lots of emails this may be an issue (we offer larger spaces if required)
    • Migrating emails from one server to another can be more challenging if you everwant to move.

Your choice of POP3 or IMAP does not impact on sending emails, this is done in the same way.

For further information please do not hesitate to contact us.