Virtually all website hosting companies provide email service as part of their hosting package. This enables website owners to configure multiple email addresses using their own domain name. It allows different people in an organization to have their own custom email address with the organization domain name.
There are three types of email protocols: POP, IMAP, and Exchange. POP is the most basic form of email, and what most hosting companies provide and include within their hosting packages. POP works very simply, where the email stored on a mail server is downloaded locally. It does not synchronize email on a central server, so once emails are downloaded onto a device and off the server, they are only stored locally. If a copy is specified in the settings to be kept on the server, any new device downloaded the email will still download all emails that were deleted and opened on another device.
These are severe limitations in today’s working environment. Most people have multiple devices used to access their email box, which may include their desktop computer, smartphone, iPad, and portable laptop computer. If email is not synced across these devices, it will create a mess of unread, replied, and deleted emails. Also, POP email is meant to be stored in the long-term on local computers and not on a server; setting a POP account for long term storage may result in space issues, and cause a download bottleneck when accessing email from a new device. Downloading emails locally without a server copy also places the data at risk, since, if it is off the server and a local computer that has all the stored email crashes, all the emails will be lost.
For this reason, the basic POP email service provided with hosting packages is not a viable email solution for any organization where emails are a part of business operations. More robust email solutions such as comprehensive IMAP solutions, or Exchange server, will need to be used for business-grade email.
IMAP email works differently than POP, in that all emails are centrally stored on a server. Emails downloaded on a device will be synced to the server when their status changes. For example, when opening an email locally on a device, it will be marked as “read”, and that status will be sent back to the server. Any other device accessing that email will now see that email as “read”. Any emails deleted on a local device will also be deleted off a server, so that the next device downloading emails will not download those that were deleted already.
Despite the important advantages of IMAP over POP, IMAP still has several limitations. Sent emails from a local device will generally not be synced back to the server, so that no copy of a sent email exists at all times on the mail server. Additionally, accounts associated with mail in Outlook such as Calendars, Contacts, and Tasks, are not synced in IMAP. And finally, even for those hosting companies that do offer IMAP email service as part of their hosting package, there could be a limitation on space when included as part of a package. This is especially prevalent when large file attachments accumulate and are stored perpetually on the server, hogging account space and server resources.
The limitations of POP and standard IMAP call for more comprehensive email solutions for businesses and organizations. There are several business-grade email services, with the most popular being G Suite for Business, Office 365, and a hosted exchange server. Any one of these options is recommended for any organization feeling the strain of the limited POP or IMAP services offered as part of their general website hosting. Each of these email types has its strong points and unique specifications, and an IT professional should be the one to make the determination which email system to use depending on circumstances, such as existing network infrastructure, number of users, and organizational budget.
G Suite for Business is a service from Google that offers a boosted IMAP with much more space than standard IMAP, as well as other business productivity tools that can be synced like Google Calendars and contacts. Office365 is a Microsoft email solution that works like IMAP, but has many additional syncing and collaboration tools, with the ability for each user to have a very large mailbox. An exchange server uses the same software as Office365, but is hosted directly on the network of a business, allowing for additional customization directly on the server.