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2008-06-03 13:20:57

Translating e-Mail, ISP and IMAP Into Plain English

Which e-mail manager do you use? Is it Microsoft Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird, or something else?

Most people have a favorite e-mail application that they use for managing their e-mail, creating rules for routing and storing messages (in different folders), filtering spam, forwarding certain messages to their BlackBerry and/or TREO and/or other e-mail device… and, also saving copies of sent e-mail.

Chances are that most of you are currently accessing your e-mail via your ISP's e-mail server via the POP3 Protocol (Post Office Protocol 3).

In today’s e-mail world, we are finding that many users need to access their e-mail from a variety of different computers and/or devices and/or share the same e-mail with other people (partners, brokers, assistant, etc).

If this is the same for you, then POP3 might have too many limitations for you to manage your communications effectively. Even if you bend and tweak every possible setting in your POP3 e-mail program, only your main PC contains your filtered folders and sent e-mail.

The solution is another e-mail Protocol called the Internet Message Access Protocol, or IMAP. In my opinion, IMAP is a perfect solution. So why don’t more people use it? Because the problem is that most ISPs and/or e-mail hosts don’t support IMAP.

Why? Because IMAP requires a lot more resources (hardware, software, bandwidth, human) than your ISP wants to provide for you. How come? Because IMAP stores ALL your folders and sent e-mail on the server rather than on your local computer (and/or device).

With IMAP, you (or anyone with your login access on any computing device that manages e-mail) can view the same messages and/or folders, including sent e-mail, regardless of which program or computer you're using to connect to your e-mail account.

In addition to your e-mail always being available on the Internet, IMAP also creates a mirrored copy of your e-mail (and folders) on your different computers and/or devices, thereby affording you the ability to read (and respond) to e-mail offline. Every time your device hooks up to the server, your IMAP folders (and respective e-mail) are synchronized.

How do you create an IMAP e-mail account? The same way you create a POP3 account, except you choose IMAP (instead of POP3) in your favorite e-mail manager when setting up the account…, but please NOTE, your ISP (and/or your e-mail host), must support the IMAP protocol.

IMAP also permits you to use any e-mail application when you want to check your e-mail from the office, from home, or from the road.

Regardless of which e-mail application you use, each e-mail client will indicate and synchronize all of your folders (unless you change the settings to not have the folder viewable) and they will be sorted the way you are used to viewing and using them.

As mentioned above, there is really only one problem. Even though Outlook, Outlook Express, and most other e-mail applications work perfectly with IMAP servers, it is hard to find ISPs and e-mail hosts that support IMAP. For instance, most of the larger ISPs and e-mail services including Earthlink, Comcast, Verizon and others still only offer POP3 access.

However, even if your ISP doesn't offer the IMAP Protocol, that doesn't mean you must use that ISP as your primary e-mail provider. In fact, it is my suggestion that you only use your IPSs for connections to the Internet and not to host your e-mail.

If you rely on e-mail as much as I do, switching to IMAP could free you from being tied to one computer, operating system, or e-mail program.

Where do you find a reliable IMAP service provider? You have to look no further than InternetCrusade ;-)

One last tip, if you have to use the POP3 Protocol (because your ISP and/or e-mail host do not support the IMAP Protocol), then I suggest you configure your e-mail program to leave all of your messages on the server, which will at least allow you to access and download your e-mail using a different computer and/or device. (Note: Be sure you have adequate space.)

If you are sending from more than one computer and want to assure you have a copy of all your sent messages, just CC yourself and the copies will be waiting in your Inbox when you next POP your account.

(Mike Barnett is the CTO and VP Technology ofInternetCrusade®. 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. If you have questions regarding your eMail, send questions to or visit the eMail Heaven public community on to review articles, posts and other questions and answers.)

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