Setting up your email is often a quick rush “to get it working”.

Taking a moment to decide which protocol can save you a lot of headache down the line.

What do the available mail protocols mean ?

What is the implication of each and why choose a specific one ?

emailPOP3 – What is it ?

POP3 or Post Office Protocol version 3 is a legacy mail protocol which was encouraged in early internet days by most Internet Service Providers (ISP’s). The reason for this was that ISP infrastructure was often limited (not at HostAfrica though ! ) and POP3 helped alleviate some issues. Let us see why.


POP3 was meant for single user-single device scenarios where server space was at a premium. What POP3 does is it downloads the email from the server so that it is removed from the server. Sent email is also stored on you device, NOT on the server. This saves the ISP space, but that is not an issue with modern storage space no longer being an issue.


The downside is that if your device (Laptop/Mobile/Desktop) is stolen or broken, you lose all your mail. You may have a backup, but it is usually a mission to restore. POP3 also does not play well with multiple devices. Even if you tell your mail client (Outlook, Thunderbird) to leave a copy on the server, the results can be erratic.

For business use, POP3 makes NO sense. It breaks all risk management principles and does not even come close to due diligence as it puts all the risk on ONE device and removes part of the audit trail by deleting the mail from the server.  Disaster recovery becomes very hard to impossible with POP3 as email is not backed up with server backups either.


business mailIMAP – Internet Messaging Access Protocol

IMAP is the current best selection. As the email STAYS on the server, you can access it from multiple devices. Sent email also resides on the server so that you can see on your mobile device what you sent from your laptop. Your email is backed up when the server is. The chain of evidence / audit trail is preserved as the mail on the server does not change and can easily be linked into an audit trail.

For business, due diligence is observed.

For home users, losing your device does not mean you have lost all your precious emails. Once you have replaced your device, simply sign on to your email provider and all your mail will magically appear again. It may take a while, depending on the speed of your internet link.

If you have a VERY large mailbox, this can take long and use a LOT of data.

IMAP is the way to go. For business use, it is the ONLY way to go. IMAP is the protocol that Microsoft based it’s “Exchange” protocol on, exactly because it ensures the safety of mail.

Changing from POP3 to IMAPcaution POP3 to IMAP

If you change from POP3 to IMAP, you have to back up the emails on your device FIRST to be safe.

IMAP usually requires you to set up your mail account from scratch.

Setting up your IMAP as a 2nd or NEW account will be the easiest. Make sure to disable the mail fetch on your POP3 account.

You can then copy the mail from your old account to the new one and it should synchronise to the server.

Mail is an important part of our daily life, both at work and at home. Reduce your stress levels – use IMAP.




Mail ProtocolsWikipedia Internet Mail Protocols

IMAPWikipedia Internet Message Access Protocol

POP3Wikipedia Post Office Protocol




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