How not to set up Email

Do you understand the difference between POP and IMAP email? If not, read this article before setting up your own email address.

Lots of local businesses get by with a free email address provided by the likes of yahoo, hotmail, google or apple. While it gets the job done, it doesn’t come across as professional as having your own email address @ your own domain.

That’s because anyone at all can register a free hotmail or gmail, but running your own email is a different kettle of fish.

Peer behind the curtain and straight away you’ll be confronted with a load of scary sounding technical terms that put many people off.

POP, IMAP, SMTP, SSL/TLS, port numbers, MX records, hostnames, Incoming and Outgoing servers…

I don’t want to dive in to every aspect of email today, but if you plan on setting up your own email there is one thing you definitely need to be aware of – a potentially costly mistake that you definitely will want to avoid.

To cut a long story short, it is treacherously easy to set up your client the wrong way and put yourself at risk of losing all your messages.

However, this headache is easily avoided with a little knowledge. That’s what I will explain today.

Email Protocols

I’ll try to make this as straightforward as possible. You need to understand the meaning of a couple of the terms from a minute ago.

IMAP vs POP

These are the two main ways (or ‘protocols’) to set up your email. They have offputting technical sounding names, but what they mean is Cloud and Local.

IMAP = Cloud

POP = Local

If you stick with me, this will make more sense shortly.

Let’s imagine you are setting up your new email account on your domain – [email protected].

Here is how the two different methods differ.

IMAP (cloud)

IMAP stands for Internet Messaging Access Protocol. What does that mean? It means the messages you see on your device are synchronised with your email server. 

Translation – you can access your email from several devices, and whatever actions you take on one device (reading, replying, drafting etc) will be updated everywhere at once.

For example, you could read a client’s email on your phone, then reply later from your laptop. Then when your colleague logs in to the office PC the next day, they can open up your thread and pick up exactly where you left off. Everything is synchronised, so the inbox on your phone, home computer, work computer – or any other device – is the same.

POP or POP3 (local)

POP stands for Post Office Protocol (‘POP3’ just being the latest version number). 

When you make a POP connection to your mailserver, messages get downloaded to your client then wiped from the server (<— that’s the important part).

Since emails are downloaded then removed, messages sent and read on one device do not synchronise to another. Thus you could reply to an email from your home laptop, but the office PC has no record of it whatsoever. You can imagine the confusion and inconvenience this causes.

The biggest problem, though, is that if you lose or break your computer, all the email activity that downloaded to it is also lost. So if you’ve been using one computer to run your email, with POP, when that computer breaks? That’s it – all your email is lost with it.

Should you use IMAP or POP?

So, if you’ve read this far, you might be wondering why anyone would EVER want to use POP (local) over IMAP (cloud) method. Good question.

I can’t think of a reason anyone would deliberately choose POP over IMAP.

As you might have guessed, POP is older. It comes from an earlier era when people accessed the internet via a dial-up connection from a big desktop computer. In today’s world of multiple devices and locations, it doesn’t make sense.

So why have it at all?

Unfortunately, most people don’t realise what POP even is until their computer crashes. That’s the moment they buy a new one and (re)set up their email only to discover their inbox is as empty as the day they first opened their account. It’s a tough lesson to learn.

Setting up POP by mistake

The main reason this happens is that web hosts have a nasty way of presenting IMAP and POP settings right beside each other, as if they are equally good.

Email settings screen of a popular UK web host, listing IMAP and POP settings beside each other, leaving the user to choose
The email settings page of 123reg, listing IMAP and POP alongside each other

Even when you hover over for more info, this host says nothing to differentiate them.

This is how you end up setting up POP by mistake. It’s not clear that they’re different or why. And because either way ‘works’, until your main computer gives up the ghost, you don’t realise the issue until it’s basically too late.

In our opinion, POP email settings should come with a health warning! We hope this article has been useful and helps you avoid this trap.

Professional Websites with Email Included

We appreciate that running a business is difficult and time-consuming enough as it is without worrying about things like IMAP and POP. You want to look like an established, credible business – – without the headache of running all the tech stuff behind the scenes.

Here at The Works Web Design in Glasgow, we provide customers with more than just beautiful websites. We take care of everything – from the website design and content, to premium email, hosting, maintenance, updates and more – so you can concentrate on delivering a great service to all your new customers.

We make it easy for small businesses in Glasgow to stand out and get more customers with a professional online presence.

We hope you have found this article helpful. If you’re looking for web design in Glasgow and would like to discuss what we can do for you, give us a shout and we can have a friendly no-obligation chat.