Like many processes faced when examining dedicated hosting, users come across many acronyms that before proceeding need to be first identified. Setting up a mail server will present users with the option to have mail handled through POP3 or IMAP. The acronym stands for Internet Message Access Protocol and is pronounced, "Eye Map." This method for accessing email allows viewing messages without having to download them to a personal computer. POP3 method requires users to download email to a computer hard drive before they can be read.
The greatest advantage through using the IMAP handling process is users can view messages from any computer anywhere without the email disappearing. The message remains on a server until a user makes the choice to download it from the server and store it on a personal computer. It also has to then be physically erased from the host server or it will remain stored there. IMAP webmail systems are the more popular since they allow users to access any messages - sent or received - from any computer as long as they have the password protected access to the server to see email messages.
Specifying Your Email Client Protocol
Email client programs like Microsoft Outlook or Mac OSX Mail let users choose the type of protocol a mail server will employ. Any user opting to take advantage their ISP mail handling client should check to see if the server employs IMAP or POP3. Be sure to select the proper setting or you may inhibit the program from working at all.
IMAP Can Make You Lazy
Although using IMAP as your email client protocol is simple and useful since a copy is saved on the server used to store and view the message, this very feature can lead to some problems. You will always be capable for reading the email from whatever machine you do use, never losing it, but the very nature of the email message remaining stored on the server can present you with space using problems. Unless a user physically purges messages - personally deletes them - they remain taking up valuable, and sometimes costly, disk space. Users receiving lots of messages with attachments - word processor documents, videos, images and more - will easily reach possible space limits either shutting down the ability to send and receive or resulting in additional space charges for going over the contracted limit. The user has to either physically delete unwanted messages or be prepared to pay for going beyond the space limitations.
Other IMAP Disadvantages
Also, if you are pre-disposed to viewing your email when offline, this option is not available since using IMAP relies upon viewing a copy of the message sitting on a server somewhere. You cannot reply to an email in an offline situation since IMAP does not offer this feature. Furthermore, there may be a certain "lag" time waiting for email folders to sync whenever users log in to obtain email. The server may take time to sync folders when accessing email at home after using it all day long at a work location. IMAP is supported by several operating platforms. However, users may find it a challenge to implement IMAP on older machines or ones where it is operated by older software.
Always check with your potential website hosting to discover if they offer IMAP to handle your email needs.