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Choosing and Using Your Business Email Service
Kate Gingold
/ Categories: The Sprocket Report

Choosing and Using Your Business Email Service

Recently a friend deleted a decade’s worth of email history by accident. And that was just one of several email emergencies we’ve heard about in the last couple weeks. Before disaster strikes at your business, let’s make sure you understand the email service you currently use.

Even though most businesses use email daily, we don’t give it much thought. We talked about troubleshooting email issues at the beginning of the year, but today, let’s step back to look at some email basics that help make it clearer why these issues pop up so you can avoid the worst of them.

In our office, a favorite illustration of how email works is to think of the process in snailmail terms:

Imagine that you work in your office or home, but your mail is delivered to a post office box. To read your mail, you have to go to the post office, open the box and take out the mail that’s in there.

Now you have some options for reading your mail: 

  • You can take the mail with you and leave the post office box empty.
  • You can read the mail and then put it in back in the post office box before leaving.
  • You can make copies of the mail, put the original mail back in the post office and take the copies with you back to the office.

Our friend was using the first option, that is, she took all of her mail out of the post office box and brought it back with her. Then, while spring cleaning, she figuratively threw out a big bag that was taking up space. Once she realized that the bag had all her saved email, she rushed back to her post office box, but of course it was empty since she had been taking the mail out on a regular basis.

Now let’s put the proper terminology into this illustration.

The “post office” through which email is sent or delivered is called a mail server. An SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) server routes outgoing mail via a series of communications that include identifying the appropriate DNS (Domain Name Server) and IP (Internet Protocol).

At the “post office box,” you choose the option for incoming mail. You do this using your email client. Examples of an email client are Microsoft Outlook on your desktop or the Mail App on your iPhone. Your email client will use either POP (Post Office Protocol) or IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol.)

With POP email, your incoming mail is received for you to download to your computer or your phone, emptying the server. That means if you read your mail on your phone, you won’t be able to also read it from the office desktop computer because after you fetch it from the server it exists only on your phone. That said, some POP clients will also keep a copy on the server so be sure to check out what you are using.

IMAP email is like reading the mail and putting it back in the mailbox. IMAP synchronizes across all the ways you get your email so that when you read a message on your phone and reply to it, you’ll be able to continue the conversation on your desktop computer later. Since we are using so many different devices these days, being able to access and sync activity across all platforms can be very important, making IMAP a popular email client choice.

If you aren’t technologically inclined, you may have let someone else set up your email and now have no idea whether you have IMAP or POP. Delegating a task that isn’t your proficiency is smart, but smarter still would be to confirm what they set up for you before you, like our friend, make a mistake you will later regret.

We do set up email for folks when we are launching their websites, so if you have a question, give us a call. We’re always happy to help you make sense of your digital marketing world.

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Kate Gingold

Kate GingoldKate Gingold

I have been writing a blog with web marketing tips and techniques every other week since 2003. In addition to blogging and client content writing, I write books and a blog on local history.

Other posts by Kate Gingold
Contact author Full biography

Full biography

I have been writing a blog with web marketing tips and techniques every other week since 2003. In addition to blogging and client content writing, I write books and a blog on local history.


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