Introduction to POP3 & IMAP
In this article; we'll be going over the differences between POP3 and IMAP, as well as their use-case scenarios. One of the first things you should know is that both of these are what is called "Email Protocols".
- IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol)
- POP3 (Post Office Protocol)
These services are used for communication between a device and the server for incoming emails. They can be used for various applications, including but not limited to websites too.
Now days, email is relied on for most important communications due to how quickly it can reach another individual, as such, it's important to know which protocol would work best for the individual using it.
With that in mind, we'll go over each protocol and their advantages/disadvantages to help better inform you, the reader!
IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) is usually the recommended choice of email protocol when it comes to handling your emails. This is because it has the best advantage for those with the busy lifestyle. Many people now days utilize multiple devices and have their email setup across all those devices, so IMAP works best as it allows all of these devices to have the same access to emails whenever necessary.
IMAP Protocol uses two ports
- Insecure: 143
- Secured: 993
Secured port is over SSL/TLS and the preferred method of connection for encryption purposes. Don't want those emails out in the open. :)
There are some caveats to this and we'll go over them in the advantages and disadvantages of IMAP.
Advantages of IMAP
- Synchronization between all devices. All devices connected will always have the same mail, including webmail.
- Easy to migrate if moving to another server and/or service.
- Easy to setup across all devices.
- Can be easily backed up.
Disadvantages of IMAP
- Maintenance – It uses primary disk space, so if you have a small server but email heavily; it can be your primary disk consumption resulting in a high inode count.
- Mail is only on the server; so if your mail device doesn't store local copies and you're out of network – no email.
When using IMAP; there are some recommendations to ensuring that your mail is safe.
- Keep local archives/copies.
- Maintain server backups.
In the event of a server failure; you'll want to have your own backups.
It's not recommended to rely on your hosting company as your primary source of backups – it's always best to have local copies of your own backups.
When all is said and done the advantages mostly outweigh the disadvantages when it comes to using IMAP.
If you need to access your email anywhere; then IMAP is going to be the protocol to use. It syncs across all devices and is always accessible via webmail (if applicable)
POP3 (Post Office Protocol) is the other email protocol used for incoming mail on devices with email capabilities. This method involves downloading the email to a single device for local storage. This relies on the local storage to maintain copies of that email for viewing. When this occurs; it removes the email from the server making it unavailable for any other device.
This can cause problems for those who use IMAP on their primary mailing devices such as their workstation; but POP3 for their mobile devices.
The function can be disabled if the email server handling the mail offers that configuration.
POP3 operates over two protocols
- Insecure: 110
- Secured: 995
As with IMAP; you want to be using the secured protocol.
Here are some advantages and disadvantages of POP3:
Advantages of POP3
- E-mail can be managed through one place as it downloads messages.
- Messages will be local, so always accessible from the device setup.
- Email limits are only as big as your local storage device.
Disadvantages of POP3
- Unfortunately more susceptible to viruses via attachments due to local messages.
- Only one copy local, unless backups are created.
POP3 is useful if you only ever plan on accessing mail from one device due to how it handles mail by default.
When mail is accessed via POP3; it gets removed from the server – which means if you plan to utilize webmail, your mail won't be there.
In the end; it's really up to you how you you want to handle your mail, we hope this has been informational for you to understand the differences between to two to help decide which might fit your use case better.