Email must be one of the most revolutionary things that the Internet has brought to the world. It allows fast communication between people at great distances. Sure, the same could be said about the telephone. However, email has some obvious advantages.
Because emails can be composed while offline, you can then connect to the Internet for a short while and send that message. This makes email cost effective. One major advantage of the email is that the person doesn’t have to be there to pick-up the message the moment you send it.
For those of us that are used to all this, email seems ordinary, but I can tell you: There’s nothing ordinary about it when it comes to usefulness!
Web based email
Webmail (or web-based email) is any email client implemented as a web application running on a web server.
Examples of webmail software are Roundcube and SquirrelMail. Examples of webmail providers are AOL Mail, Gmail, Outlook.com and Yahoo! Mail. Practically every webmail provider offers email access using a webmail client, and many of them also offer email access by a desktop email client using standard email protocols, while many internet service providers provide a webmail client as part of the email service included in their internet service package.
The great thing about getting a hosting account is that in perhaps 99.9% of cases it comes with email capabilities. That means you can setup a certain number of email accounts. Each such account can have a certain size, meaning it can hold X MB of data.
POP, IMAP, SMTP
Email specific protocols were created to manage email in faster, more advanced ways. By using these protocols, certain programs provide you with an easier way to read, store, delete and send emails.
For retrieving emails, the following protocols are the most common: POP3 (Post Office Protocol) and IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) with many webmail service providers such as Gmail, Outlook.com and Yahoo! Mail also providing support for either IMAP or POP3. Virtually all modern e-mail clients and servers support IMAP.
IMAP was designed with to permit complete management of an email box by multiple email clients. Therefore, clients generally leave messages on the server until the user explicitly deletes them.
There is a small, but important difference between IMAP and POP. When using POP protocol, by default, the emails that are on the server are moved to the client machine (aka “your computer”). By that I mean they are copied on the client machine and deleted from the server. You do have however the option of setting things in your email software so that the emails remain on the server.
With IMAP, the emails are downloaded on the client machine, but by default they are not deleted from the server. This means that you can re-read those emails on any computer at a later time, by accessing them on your server. You’re the one who decides when the emails will be deleted. I recommend you pay close attention when you’re setting up your email accounts. After all, you only need to do a good job once and you’re set for a long time to come.
I bet you’ll say it doesn’t much of a difference whether you keep emails on the server or not, but I can tell you that the difference is significant in certain situations. Say you are away in another town for a day or two. If you verify your email from another computer using POP “without the safety on”, you’ll have to save those emails on a disk for later reference, because they’ll be gone from the server.
In addition to keeping the files on the server, I highly recommend that you keep an archive of all your important emails.
POP and IMAP are used to retrieve and manage our emails, but to send emails another protocol is used: SMTP or Simple Mail Transport Protocol. In programs such as Outlook you can setup the SMTP server at a different address than the one used for IMAP (like the one given to you by your ISP).
However, SMTP is now a part of almost any hosting package. Not getting it would be a surprise. If your ISP didn’t offer you a SMTP account to use, SMTP must come from your host, so make sure the host provides it.
Now, by reading the beginning of this article one might get the impression that email is all nice and dandy. Well… be amazed! People found a way to misuse this wonderful tool too! They invented spam.
What is spam? As strange as it might sound, spam is defined by different people in different ways. I guess it’s not very wrong to say that each individual has his own definition for what spam is.
Basically though, spam is an unrequested commercial message. However, broader definitions exist, such as “any message that is unrequested”.
I will not go any further though. Almost anyone can recognize spam when they see it, and all people agree: spam is annoying. It costs all of us time to select and delete emails that we know we don’t care for.
To help us reduce this type of cost, certain tools were developed. One of the most well regarded and widely used is SpamAssasin. It is a mail filter that helps to identify spam.
Spam filters try to determine which emails are spam by using a set of rules. These rules are mostly based on “reading” the email and determining whether it contains spam-specific words/techniques. The suspected emails are then marked or separated. If you receive a lot of spam, a filter can be very helpful in dealing with it. There are people out there who are thrilled by spam filters; they find them to be life saviors.
Email and hosting
A respectable hosting package must include email capability. Email is such a basic service today that a website without email is almost inconceivable. One of the most basic reasons to register a domain and get hosting is to have a unique email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Email hosting services usually offer premium email at a cost as opposed to advertisement-supported free email or free webmail. Email hosting services thus differ from typical end-user email providers such as webmail sites. They cater mostly to demanding email users and small and medium-sized businesses, while larger enterprises usually run their own email hosting service on their own equipment.
Now, email must work. And it must work great! Some emails are too important to be missed. That’s why hosting must be reliable. If the server is down, email is down. People might send you emails that never make it into your inbox, and you can’t reply to messages that you don’t receive, right?
So much business is done via email nowadays that for some people having no downtime for their email service is even more important than having no downtime for their website.
Email and hosting go hand in hand. Website hosting is important, but considering that website hosting is usually intimately tied with email capability (or vice versa), the hosting company that you select for your website becomes twice as important. This shouldn’t come as a surprise: quality, honest hosts are the key to quality email service.