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Demystifying email

There are so many acronyms in the world of technology that to the untrained eye it appears to be a different language. Today I hope to demystify some of the terms and give you a better understanding how it all works. We will start with some of the terms you may have heard and seen. POP3, IMAP and SMTP.

Post Office Protocol 3 (POP3)

Most things in the world of computing are modelled on real world examples and mail is no exception. With POP3 you download your mail and store it on your computer. This is akin to going to the Post Office and collecting your mail and taking it to your office and storing it in your filing cabinet.

Normally when you download your mail from a POP3 mailbox it is removed from the server straight away, the same as taking your mail from the post office. There is however an option available from most mail providers to “Leave a copy on the server for XX number of days”. This is very handy if you want to use multiple devices (say your iPhone or Android Tablet) to have access to the same email account. If all of your devices are setup to leave the mail on the server for 14 days, then your mobile devices will have the last 14 days of email on them!

Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP)

With IMAP your mail is left on the server and you take a copy of it. This is the best way to have access to your complete email archive everywhere you are and is the same way that your Hotmail, Yahoo! and Gmail accounts work.

Most modern mobile devices can access IMAP accounts, meaning you can have complete access to all your email from whichever computer or mobile device you have.

As an extra bonus you can access your mail via when you do not have one of your devices handy and still have all your email.

Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP)

SMTP is used to send email messages around the Internet. From your computer or mobile device to our servers, to the servers of the people you are sending to and finally to those email recipients themselves.

Nerd Fact: The first command sent to an SMTP server is: HELO


It is generally a good idea to enable encryption between your computer and the server, it is easy and means that people cannot intercept your email messages if they manage to get between you and the server on our end. You can follow the instructions in our online setup manual here:

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