IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) is a special email service that allows data being accessed to stay on the server rather than needing to be downloaded to the computer that is accessing the email.  POP mail systems actually have to download the email onto the computer using a email browsing software application.  For most Windows OS users, this is something similar to Microsoft Outlook (Express) or similar options.  With IMAP, the user simply needs to access the email via an access page where they insert their username and access password and the mail will be rendered through the server on the internet browser of the user’s choice.

How IMAP email works?

Using IMAP has advantages and disadvantages.  For instance, the email can stay on the server and off of a computer, meaning that the data cannot be compromised by someone that is accessing the computer unless they have the username and password of the IMAP account holder.  This is very useful when you are accessing different computers during travel for instance.  If a personal computer breaks down, this means that you will still be able to access your emails in the future by accessing the IMAP service on a different computer using a plain internet browser or IMAP compatible application.

The main problem with IMAP is the fact that you must be connected to the Internet to access the emails.  With POP, since the emails are downloaded to the computer, they can be accessed even when there is no connection to the internet.  You can even reply and compose emails and have them ready to send the next time you connect to the internet as well as delete accidental emails before they are sent out with a POP email option.  IMAP hosting can also cost more, especially if the email accumulates and exceeds the limits allowed by the provider.

For hosting itself, anyone with the proper technological know-how can create IMAP based email services to work with their websites.  These can be designed to be used for personal email or can be segmented and partitioned to allow for several email accounts which can be accessed by additional users.  Servers which will be using an IMAP service will need to have a few things.  First they will need to have enough storage to store the emails which are sent to the service alongside the attachments and other things which will arrive with the emails.  The server will also need to have enough bandwidth to process emails to and from the server when being accessed.

Ultimately, using IMAP is a preference of the user and having an available IMAP service on a server is a great idea, especially if the user of the service will need to keep their email available elsewhere or even through their mobile devices.  IMAP services are not impossible to implement on most websites while using a separate outsourced option is also available through several services.  Most hosting services may actually provide a free IMAP email with the account at no extra charge and can be configured before use.

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