IMAP Explained

When you are setting up your mail on your dedicated server, you will have the option to select IMAP or POP3 for how you would like to have your email handled. There are advantages and disadvantages to both methods. This article will detail IMAP, and our next article will cover POP3.

IMAP stands for Internet Message Access Protocol. This method of retrieving email leaves a copy of the email on the server, until you specifically delete it. This is very useful and on the same token, can be a very large problem.

First, it is useful simply because you always have a saved copy of your email on the server. Webmail clients use IMAP to handle email, and you can also use this with your standard email client. You will be able to read your email on your local machine, but you won’t have to worry about losing it, if you are using IMAP.

However, as we mentioned above, this can also lead to problems. If you do not regularly purge your mail on the server, it can quickly grow to an unmanageable size on your server’s hard drive. If you receive a lot of SPAM, or a lot of attachments, all of these emails will continue to take up disk space on your server until you physically delete them.

Second, IMAP is useful if you plan to access your email from a variety of locations. Whether you are at home, or at work, you will not have to worry about losing email in between, or having to save them on disk to transport between locations.

Again, however, there is a downside to this. If you like to be able to view and respond to your email offline, IMAP will not be able to support this feature. Since you are basically seeing a copy of the email that is really on your server, you cannot reply offline.

There is also the issue of having to wait for your mail folders to sync each time you log in to get your mail. If you have frequently accessed your mail at work, but do not check it often at home, you will have to wait for your email client to update all of the folders to sync with the email that is on your server.

While IMAP is supported across several different platforms, it can be difficult to find email clients or servers that do support this protocol. More email clients are adding this ability, but if you are on an older machine or you have outdated software, you may have difficulty.

Not all web hosting companies offer IMAP ability, especially considering the amount of disk space it can take up. You will need to check with your host to see if they do offer the ability to use IMAP on your new server before implementing the use of IMAP to handle your email.

Related Posts:
POP3 Explained
WHI’s Podcast for 07/17/2006
New Email Software for Mobile Phones

Posted on 12/15/05 8:16 PM

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