Types of Email Accounts Explained

Posted on Thursday, March 19, 2020

When you’re dealing with email for your business, there are 3 main types of accounts you can choose from. These are:


  • Microsoft Exchange (or other cloud based email services)
  • IMAP
  • POP


Each one is slightly different so let’s look at how each one works and the pros and cons of each email system.




POP has been around for the longest and is the oldest type of email we are going to talk about. POP is an acronym that stands for “Post Office Protocol” and was designed to allow desktop email clients such as Apple Mail on Mac and Outlook on Windows to connect to email services and send and receive emails remotely.


Like most things, POP has evolved over time and there have been different versions released. The most widely used of these is POP3. The original version of POP was developed in 1984 and the most popular version POP3 was established in 1988. That makes it more than 30 years old, an ancient in technology terms!


POP email works by downloading email data to your email client, this could be Outlook, Apple Mail, or Thunderbird for example.


POP will contact your email service and download all the new messages from it to your email client.  Once the messages are downloaded onto your PC or Mac, they are deleted from the email service. This means that after the email is downloaded, it can only be accessed using the computer you used to download the messages.


The pros of using POP3 are that it is easy to set up, while an obvious downside is that messages are not synched meaning you can’t read them, or refer back to them on multiple devices.  Once the email is downloaded it disappears from the server. Just like with mail messages, contacts, and calendar information can not by synched via POP3 either. For modern users with access to multiple devices, this may not be ideal.




After POP, a newer format of the email was created called IMAP.


Like POP, IMAP is an acronym name that stands for Internet Message Access Protocol.


IMAP created some advantages over POP email because it has the ability to communicate back and forth with the email server, therefore, creating the opportunity to sync mail across a number of devices.


This means you could potentially access your email via a web browser by visiting your email providers website and logging in, such as Yahoo.com, Hotmail.com or Gmail.com, and also download the mail to various devices like a PC and mobile. With this method you would have access to the same data, messages, contacts, and calendar events on all platforms providing greater convenience and practicality.


If you deleted a message on one device or moved it to another folder such as marking a message as junk, it would be replicated and synched onto all your inboxes including iPhone, desktop client, and web portal. Like POP, IMAP is very simple to setup and use.


The downsides of IMAP compared with POP, is that it requires more processing power and can be prone to making mistakes with synching.


If multiple people are using the same IMAP account, message syncing can create confusion, and IMAP is not supported by all email providers.



Microsoft Exchange


Microsoft Exchange is the most advanced option in this list and is best suited to modern businesses when compared with IMAP and POP3.


The Exchange protocol was designed to sync emails, contacts, calendars, and many other features between email clients and email services.


Microsoft Exchange allows for full email message syncing while messages also remain stored on the email server. All mobile phone email clients support Microsoft Exchange emails, and contacts, calendars, and data all sync across devices.


Microsoft Exchange is also easily accessible via Office 365 as ‘Hosted Exchange’. This means it is hosted in the Cloud by Microsoft and it is charged on a per mailbox, per month basis. Overall this works out to be fairly cheap and can be less expensive than buying and maintaining your own servers. However, for businesses that prefer this option, Microsoft Exchange can also be set-up locally on their own servers.


Microsoft Exchange can experience syncing issues occasionally, but this is very rare and much less common than with IMAP.


In general cloud-based email does offer a number of advantages over traditional onsite email setups.


There’s less work for your IT department and lower costs as you do not need to maintain and service your own email servers.


Cloud services are also scalable to your changing business needs and can be quickly scaled up or down. This is much more difficult if you have your own servers.


There’s also much less need to worry about security as cloud-based email providers keep their products up to date with the latest advances in protection against cybercrime. While the service-orientated model sells you hardware and software solutions and then tends to forget about you, the cloud-based service needs to continuously improve its service so you don’t cancel and move elsewhere.


If your business is looking for support with email and understanding the best option for you, it is worth getting in touch with an experienced IT support service for guidance.


About Mustard IT, your cloud technology partner


Mustard IT is a trusted team, experienced in cloud technology and able to explain complex issues to you in a language you’ll understand. Contact us today to find out how we can help you.