Accessing Email from Anywhere

Accessing Email from Anywhere

July 20, 2011

Please pardon me while I get a little technical. I am going to explain why you need to think about how you access your email messages, and how you can enhance the utility of your email system. If email is important to your daily work, read on.

There are two ways to get your email from the server at into whatever email program (client) you prefer to use on your desktop, laptop or phone. They are protocols called POP3 (Post Office Protocol) and IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol.) IMAP is the more sophisticated of the two, allowing you to manage one mailbox from multiple clients. You can see which protocol you are using by looking at the account settings in your client program. If you are currently using POP3 to get your mail into a desktop mail program such as Outlook or Thunderbird, you should strongly consider switching to IMAP. Here's why:

With POP3, one program controls your mailbox, including things like marking messages as read, moving to folders, managing junk and trash, etc. Once you act on a message with the POP3 protocol, that message becomes inaccessible from other computers and devices. (You can set POP3 to leave a copy on the server, but it still doesn't provide for read status, moving to folders or most other actions.)

IMAP cuts the tie between your desktop email program and your actual mail store. Your mail stays on the ComputAssist server, folders are managed on the server, message status is retained on the server, and so on. This enables you to access the mail store from any IMAP client, be it a PC, a web mail program (such as Zimbra or SquirrelMail), a smartphone or tablet, a public library computer, a hotel or vacation home, anywhere you can find Internet access. Your messages are no longer held captive by your desktop computer. They aren't in an Outlook .PST file or other proprietary format, so you don't have to worry about conversion issues, and you won't lose them if your hard drive crashes. Even better, mail stored on the server is backed up nightly, so you will never lose all your email to a system failure.

WARNING: don't simply edit your existing POP3 account in your desktop program and change the protocol to IMAP -- you run the risk of losing all your old messages. You need to create a new IMAP account and copy all your mail from the POP3 account to the IMAP account, then you can remove the POP3 account. Ask me for instructions on how to do this for your mail program.