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There are two main configuration and access options related to email. Both have unique characteristics to consider. The options are POP3 and IMAP webmail.

Many webhosts will host both websites and email. Or, you might have to find separate email hosting. Whichever company is hosting your email, you generally can access email accounts via the web (IMAP) or downloaded to your device (POP3).

POP3 Email

Post Office Protocol 3 (POP3)

If you run Outlook or something similar on your computer, can set up your email accounts as POP3 accounts. When you access email via POP3, you download the email from your webhost’s server whenever you send and receive messages. There is an important option to consider when configuring your POP3 accounts: whether or not to leave a copy of email messages on the server.

Do not leave a copy on the server

When you access your email, all the messages are downloaded to your computer. Once that occurs, they are deleted from the server. The only place you’ll find those messages, then, is on your computer in Outlook or a similar program.

If you choose this option, be sure to back up your email file periodically. Once your messages are off the server, they’re gone.

Leave a copy on the server

When you access your email, the messages are both downloaded to your computer and saved on the server. This provides you with double coverage. Also, it enables you to access older emails if you’re away from your computer or accessing email from a device such as a tablet or phone.

There’s one thing to remember with this option, however. If you use both a POP3 account on your computer and access email through the web or your phone or other mobile device, you should take note of where you compose messages to send. They won’t show up in Sent Mail folders in all places. That is, if you send an email from your computer POP3 account in Outlook, it will be stored in the Sent Mail folder there. It will not show up in the Sent Mail folder on the server (webmail), as it didn’t originate there. And vice-versa. Messages sent in webmail are stored in that Sent Mail folder, but not on your computer.

Tip: One thing I do to get around that is to send a copy of the message to my email address. That way, it’s in both places. This is also an excellent option if you have multiple people using the same account. By sending responses to something and including a copy to the email account, everyone can see that message no matter where they are, no matter what device they’re using to view the message, no matter the location from which the message was sent. I don’t recommend it for all emails, as it could ultimately clutter your inbox. However, it’s something to keep in mind for important items. However, if multiple people will access a group email account (such as a sales or customer inquiry account, it may be better to go with an IMAP account.)

IMAP: Server-based Webmail

Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP)

With webmail, you can access your email account from anywhere. From any device. Your phone, a tablet, your computer, your laptop – whatever. You log in to your email via the Internet.

Messages are stored on the webhost’s server.  They remain there until you delete them, or download them to you computer without opting to save them on the server. A host may have other space requirements as well, so that’s something to look into.

Some hosts offer several options for reviewing webmail: SquirrelMail, RoundCube, and Horde.  Some hosts have their own interface set up. For some  hosts, you may also have to pay extra for spam filters. That usually doesn’t cost too much.

All hosts should and likely have webmail access available. I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t, but if they don’t, look for a different host.

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Those are the two main configuration and access options. Webmail is hosted, ready to use. You’ll have to configure some settings, but you shouldn’t have to purchase any software to use it. POP3 on your computer likely requires purchase of software. Just keep in mind that if you use POP3 in an app on your computer, be sure you have your server settings as you want them: to save or delete messages from the server.

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