If you’re like most people, you probably check your email from several different devices, including your work computer, home computer and tablet or smartphone. When you do this, you’re taking advantage of Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP), which stores incoming and outgoing email messages on a server, ensuring that what you see is the same on each device.
IMAP “competes” with POP3, another email protocol that allows you to have a copy of your email and attachments residing on your computer. Depending on program configuration, these messages may be automatically deleted from the server once they are received, or at some future time. Messages sent, moved or deleted from a computer using POP can only be viewed on that individual computer’s folders.
IMAP combines the best of traditional POP3 email – which downloads into your email program for easy reading – with the best of webmail, which is a handy way to access email when you’re away from the office.
IMAP has been around for several years, but has seen a huge increase over the last few years for several reasons:
- All mail is stored on the server, either through your ISP or hosted email provider. This means it’s easily accessible from any Internet connection.
- As mobile phones become a critical business tool, IMAP makes it easier to access your email using a smartphone because the messages are not removed from the server. If you travel frequently, IMAP allows the most flexible access to email.
- Every time you log into your email account, the computer or phone you are using will synchronize with the main IMAP mailbox. This means that everything will be the same as you left it, regardless of the device.
Chances are, if you have a smartphone or tablet, you already have IMAP. When you add your email account information to these devices, IMAP should be an option.
IMAP is also very easy to set up. To start, simply go to the “Settings” section on your phone or tablet where you’ll be asked a series of questions based on your email provider. Many of the standard email platforms – such as Outlook, Gmail and iCloud – are partially preconfigured for you. In the series of questions asked during account setup, you’ll also be asked to specify your incoming mail server type. Click the arrow to scroll to IMAP. In most cases, that’s all you need to do. In other cases, you may need to quickly ask your email provider for instructions. Sometimes you may need to specify any special security options.
With its ease of use and flexibility for configuring mobile devices and tablets, IMAP is perfect for multi-device users. You may even wonder how you ever lived without it.