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Email for Your Business: POP3, IMAP, or Exchange?

If you have set up your email account on a new smartphone or computer lately, you may recall being presented with three options for the type of email account; POP3, IMAP, or Exchange (sometimes expressed as Exchange ActiveSync).  Which one should you choose?  Let’s look at that attributes of each one as we help guide you to an answer.

POP3 is the third version of the Post Office Protocol.  The first POP version originated in 1984.  The primary attribute of POP3 is that email messages are not saved on the email server – the messages are downloaded to the device that connects to the account, and are deleted from the server at the same time.  In the days of limited bandwidth, expensive server storage, and email usually being accessed from only one device (your IBM PS/2 or Mac IIx), POP emails were simple enough and made sense. If you changed computers, your email history would need to be copied to the new machine.

IMAP stands for Instant Message Access Protocol was created in 1986 and remains remarkably useful.  The key difference between POP and IMAP is that the received emails are saved on the mail server. This means multiple devices can access the email account on the server and download the complete inbox.

There is one large drawback to IMAP, however.  Sent items are still stored locally on the device, and not saved on the email server.  This means the complete sent folder is not automatically available to every device.  The work-around has long been to craft “rules” in the local email client (like Outlook) to create a copy of the sent emails in a “sent” folder up on the IMAP server.  Similarly, any sub-folders are also stored locally on the device and the contents of those sub-folders are not available across devices.

For both POP3 and IMAP, if the device or computer is physically damaged or lost anything that was stored only locally will be lost as well.

Exchange is a Microsoft protocol for emails that are stored on an Exchange server.  Exchange makes all email items, including inbox, sent, and all the subfolders, available on every device.  Adding or changing devices or computers is no longer an issue with Exchange.  When the email account credentials are entered into a new device or computer, the entire email account (inbox, sent, subfolders, calendars, etc.) is available.

Calendars and contacts are not only available on all of your devices, they can also be shared across users.  This means one person in a company can have access (how much access is controllable) to another’s calendars and contacts.  You won’t find this feature in a POP3 or IMAP account.

Exchange accounts are they type of account that a business should be running today.  There are on-premise and hosted options for using Microsoft Exchange that help businesses of all sizes balance security, performance, and cost.  Sound Technology Services can help you determine the best approach for your business.

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