Last week I told you that you could check your home-based email by visiting the provider’s website. We call that webmail. When you use programs like Outlook, Outlook Express, Entourage, Eudora, or Vista’s Windows Mail, we call that client-based email. This week I want to explain the difference between the two, and why you would choose to use one over the other.
Your email provider
Who is your email provider? If your address ends in @comcast.net, then your provider is Comcast. If your address ends in @telus.net, your provider is Telus. With all the Canadian snowbirds, I’ve been doing a lot of configuring Telus email accounts lately!
There are hundreds of email providers, Verizon, BellSouth, Yahoo, MSN, AOL, Gmail, Roadrunner, Earthlink are all email providers and they all have webmail – a way to access your account thru their website.
What if you have a custom email address? For example my address is @geeksontour.com. GeeksOnTour.com does not have it’s own email server. I have to know what company is the host for GeeksOnTour. Since I set it up, I know that the host is GoDaddy.com. So, my webmail is available at Godaddy’s website.
Your email software: webmail or client-based
When you access your email, you are using some kind of email software. If you’re accessing your email via the web, you’re using software on your email provider’s website … webmail software (and each company’s can be different.) If you’re accessing email via software installed on your computer (Outlook Express, Eudora, Windows Mail) we call that client-based software. Your computer is a client to the Internet.
Regardless of the software you use, your email is originally delivered to your account on your provider’s email servers. Think of those email servers as a Post Office where you have a PO Box. All mail addressed to you is delivered to that PO Box. Using webmail is like you physically visiting the Post Office to read your mail. You must be online to do this, once you lose your Internet connection, you can no longer read or send email.
Using client-based software is like having a mailman who goes to the post office for you and gets your mail, delivering it to your computer. Once it’s on your computer, you no longer need the Internet connection.
Configuring your Email Client
Most people, when given a choice, prefer to use client-based email. I mean, who wouldn’t choose home delivery over having to visit the post office? For travelers, who only have sporadic Internet connections, client-based software is nice because you can read and write your email when you are offline. You only need the Internet to get new mail, or to send mail. You can also set up your email client to get your email from several different accounts, bringing it all into the one program on your computer. This way you can have many different providers, but only need to learn one program.
So, what’s the catch? Well, sometimes while traveling, you want to check email when you don’t even have your computer. If you use webmail, you can read and send email from any Internet-connected computer. Also, when you travel there are problems in regards to sending email. Sending email is handled by a different server than receiving. It’s called an SMTP server (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) and there are customized settings to make it work when you travel. Many email providers have different SMTP settings, and you may even have to change the settings to match an individual Wi-Fi hotspot.
The best option of course, is to use both! With most email providers where you pay for their service, you can access your mail with their webmail software OR with your own client-based software. For example, Bellsouth.net offers webmail, and they also offer what is called POP access. POP stands for Post Office Protocol, IMAP stands for Internet Message Access Protocol, and one of these is necessary for using client-based email software.
If your email provider is not a ‘POP’ or ‘IMAP’ email provider, you can’t use it with an email client such as Outlook. Most free email providers do not offer POP or IMAP access. A shining exception is Gmail. I’ll cover the details of how to set it up in a future article.