Tag Archives: POP

IMAP or POP email. Which one do I need?

If you use more than one device to access email and you are still using POP email, then maybe it’s time to change to IMAP. This post will help you make the right decision for your needs when choosing IMAP or POP email for your business.

In the beginning…

The email revolution came along for many back in the 90s, and it was rare that you needed to access this email outside of work. In fact email creation was many years before this but it took a little while to gain traction. Personal email followed shortly after, and again it was rare that you needed to access this email anywhere other than your home PC.

Fast forward 20 years (yes, it really has been that long), and we have a plethora of devices, multiple accounts, and 24 hour connectivity. Email and messaging follow us wherever, whenever. Let’s look at how we connect and see if you are getting the most out of your email accounts.

It’s in the cloud

You can think of POP (Post Office Protocol) email as your pigeon hole or PO Box at the local post office. The mail is delivered there, and you have to go collect it, emptying out the box each visit, and taking it home with you. This bit is important as we will see later. The only copy of that email is now at your home on your PC.

IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) on the other hand is where a copy of the email is delivered directly to your PC and the original is left on the server at the post office, continuing the analogy. Your email system checks to ensure that all your copies on your device match exactly what is kept on the server (at the post office).

Contingency planning

Now, looking a little deeper at your email usage. If you delete an email from your PC while using POP, then the email is gone. No further copies exist, so unless you have a backup, then that’s it. If you delete an email on your PC using IMAP, then the next time your email application synchronises the copies, it will see the email from your PC was deleted and therefore delete the copy on the server.

So far, so good. Both systems work in a similar manner, until you have an operating system crash, hard disk failure, backup fail or virus attack which deletes or removes your email program or prevents it from running.

IMAP or POP email?With POP, there’s a good chance you may have lost your entire email content, whereas with IMAP, it’s just a question of getting access to your primary copy kept on the server and re-syncing your local copy. This could be re-installing the email program, adding your account details, and allowing the software to download copies of all your email again. While this isn’t a typical backup method, in this scenario it can save your email.

Backup, of sorts

We are, of course, assuming that the primary copy on the server is never corrupted or lost. This is where good email providers take the trouble of backing up your email for you, so in essence you have passed the onus of backups onto someone else.

The backup equivalent with POP relies on you doing the backup locally as you are holding the only copy

Even using POP, you can ask the server to keep a copy of every email you receive, for a specific limited time, or indefinitely. Indefinitely is good so long as you have the space on the server. If not, then deleting after several days or weeks can keep the storage space issue in check.

Multiple devices

Another area that IMAP excels is multiple synchronised devices. Consider sending an email using POP from your iPad, then a few days later while at home you need to review that sent email again. The only copy can be found in your sent folder of the iPad. Your mobile or phone PC doesn’t have a copy. Using IMAP, if the email was sent from your iPad, IMAP would sync all your devices, so you could find a copy of that email in the sent folder of your home PC, iPad, smart phone and server, which is a very convenient feature.

Speed of access

Back when email first gathered momentum (I sound old!), internet access was via old dial-up modems with ridiculously slow speeds by today’s standards. POP was necessary as bandwidth was limited and syncing would simply take too long. As our internet speeds have increased, reliance on cloud services have become commonplace as access speeds negate the delay to access our information. With IMAP syncing both ways (up and down) we don’t notice this delay being processed in the background. By the time you have read your first email, the rest has finished syncing.

Am I using IMAP or POP?

Not sure if you are running POP or IMAP? Have a look in the settings and note the ports used to download (or fetch) email. Ports 110 and 995 are associated with POP while 143 and 993 are used for IMAP.

You might want to upgrade from POP to IMAP to take advantage of the increased functionality. Here are a few things to check.

  • Make sure your email provider offers both. These days they usually do, and will show the settings on their website
  • Check if you have mail left of the POP server waiting to be collected
  • Create a backup of your local email before attempting to change anything


Once you have created the IMAP account in your email program, you can move your old POP email over to your IMAP email. This is done in say Outlook by dragging the folders across from one account to the other. This will ‘upload’ the local email back to the email server when the sync occurs. This can take a while so maybe kick this off overnight.  From here on, any changes on your local copy will be reflected on the server, then across all devices. If you move folders around, it may take a while for the server and other devices to catch up.

Microsoft Exchange

One option we can touch on here, but explore further in another post is Microsoft Exchange. When setting up or ongoing management of small business IT, we often recommend users of Microsoft’s Office Suite (Word, Excel, Outlook) opt for Microsoft Exchange. This can be deployed on-site, in the cloud, or a hybrid combination of both.

With Exchange, users can utilise much more functionality and integration than plain email. Sharing of calendars, meeting room booking reservations, spam control, inbox auto-filing, shared address books and auto-archiving are just the tip of the iceberg.

Give Sydney IT Assist a call now and arrange a time to go over some of the options best for your business. Put IT to work for you, not against you.