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2008-02-19 16:42:00

E-Mail Heaven: Client Side Vs. Server Side Applications

Mike Barnett is CTO of InternetCrusade, home of RealTown.When describing e-mail products and solutions, we see many references made to the terms "client-side" or "server-side".

What do these terms actually mean?

I think a good way to really understand them is to define them and describe the differences between the two. I think you will find that it is actually easier than you think as the descriptions pretty much tell exactly what they are.

Let's start with "server-side", which refers to operations that are performed by the server in a "client-server" relationship. When something (a process, an application, a feature.) occurs on the "server" this is obviously referred to "server side".

While the term "server" seems self-explanatory (a computer that 'serves' out information), I think the confusion arises from the term "client", which means any computer (laptop, desktop, hand-held, etc.) that you are using (usually for personal use).

An example of "client-side--server-side" relationship would be the behavior between the web browser (client-side) and web site (server side).

When you go to a web site on your computer, you use your web browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, etc). You enter a web address and the request goes over the Internet and finds the server that hosts the web page you are seeking. In this example, the browser is 'client-side' and the web site is 'server-side'. In this client-server relationship, the web server hosts the web site files, the client hosts the browser that allows you to view the files.

How does "client-side-server side" apply to e-mail?

Within the realm of e-mail, certain features and functions are better handled on the server than on the client and vice-versa. For instance, an auto-responder should be hosted be on the server, rather than in your mail client. Why? Because the server is available on the Internet "24x7x365", so it can respond immediately (which is the purpose of an auto-responder), as opposed to your own 'client' computer which is typically only on the Internet when you are online and connected to your Internet Service Provider (ISP).

E-mail "Rules" are usually handled on the client side. After you download your e-mail from the serve, into your e-mail client (Outlook, Thunderbird, etc.) the rules you have created from within the client will run. This includes any automatic sorting you may have set up, and sometimes, additional spam filtering.

In short, "server side" is everything that the server does to collect mail addressed to you and place it in an inbox. "Client-side" is the method you use to get to that e-mail from your computer, whether it be via your browser accessing a web based e-mail platform or your e-mail client connecting to the server and downloading the e-mail on to your hard drive.

I am sure some of you must have questions about the devices briefly mentioned here. And if so, don't hesitate to send questions to or visit the eMail Heaven community on to review other questions and answers.

See you online,


(Mike Barnett is the CTO and Vice-President of Technology of InternetCrusade®. InternetCrusade is the creator and provider of e-PRO, NAR's only technology certification course, as well as the host of, the oldest and most respected social networking site in real estate. InternetCrusade also manages tens of thousands of e-mail accounts representing millions of pieces of e-mail on a daily basis.)

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