What are IMAP and POP?

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What are IMAP and POP?
In this modern time, many people use electronic mail or simply called e-mail to send messages to their friends, colleagues and business partners. E-mail replaced the old snail mail, which takes a long time to get to the mailbox of the recipient. Sending an e-mail is fast and the nicest thing about it is, free. Today, there are many different e-mail programs available for each internet user. These e-mail programs use e-mail servers that communicate with each other.

To enable e-mail programs to communicate with e-mail servers, they need a way or utilize a communication protocol. There are two communications protocols that enable e-mail programs to communicate with e-mail servers ‘“ IMAP and POP. These two communications protocols enable the retrieval, storage, and message manipulation between e-mail programs and servers.

So what is the difference between the two communications protocol used by e-mail programs and servers?
Many users prefer the IMAP over the POP protocol. However, before you jump into conclusions, it is better to understand first each protocol. POP protocol is the older of the two and it stands for Post Office Protocol. POP is specifically designed to deal with offline operations. Offline operation means, POP retrieves e-mail messages from the e-mail server and downloads everything into the computer. After the messages are saved in the computer, everything is deleted from the originating mail server.

On the other hand, IMAP or Internet Message Access Protocol is a bit more different from the old POP protocol. IMAP enables a user to read messages while still on the e-mail server. It does not delete the messages after you read it. However, IMAP can also be setup just like the POP where a user may download the messages from the e-mail server to the computer.

The issue with downloading e-mail messages from the e-mail server into the computer brings the issue of backup. When a computer crashes and data cannot be retrieved, then all the e-mail messages are lost forever. This is why many users prefer the IMAP protocol. However, in cases when IMAP is set to work like the POP, which is to download the e-mail messages, a backup solution must be formulated. This is to ensure that in the event of computer break down, a user may still retrieve the downloaded e-mail messages.

Moreover, another drawback is that using the POP protocol, a user will only be limited to that one computer where the e-mail messages were downloaded. The user will not be able to access the messages to other computers. Moreover, this process kind of clogs the internal network affecting other computers resulting to slow down of the entire network. Unlike when the IMAP protocol is used, the user will still be able to use other computers to read e-mail messages. This however, is applicable if the IMAP was not set to work like the POP. The best thing to do is to leave the IMAP set so that it does not download the e-mail messages from the e-mail servers to the computer. Due to its many advantages, IMAP is chosen over POP protocol.

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