Here’s a quick explanation of how email accounts provided by most website and email hosting providers work (such as us), where and how your email is stored, issues that may occur and some recommendations for different uses.
Hosted Email Accounts
The email accounts provided for your are stored on the hosting server, most likely in the same web hosting account where your website is. When someone emails you the email will arrive at our always on server and sit there until you connect to read it. That way your office or home computer does not have to be on all the time.
If you use an email client like Outlook or Thunderbird to read your email there are a few things that could happen depending on your setup..
- The most likely scenario is your email client will download the email to your computer and delete it from the server (a POP account). So when you read your email you are reading it from your computer and not on the server anymore.
- Another common scenario is your email client still downloads email as above but is set to “leave a copy of the message on the server“.
- Alternatively you may have a setup where email is stored on the server and your email client reads it directly from there (an IMAP account).
Advantages and Disadvantages
As with anything, there are advantages and disadvantages and you need to choose the best solution for the way you work.
- The advantage of downloading email to your computer means you can archive it how you want and store as much email as you want for as long as you want. Perfect for a 1 computer setup for email that needs to be stored for long periods. The disadvantage is you cannot then read it on other devices computers, webmail or mobile devices.
- The advantage of “Leaving a copy of the message on the server” means you have the advantages of point 1 but are able to read it on other devices because it is still stored on the server for access elsewhere. The disadvantage is you start to have multiple copies of email that may become difficult to manage and the server space will fill up with your emails, so you need the right provider for this service.
- Not downloading at all and reading from the server has the advantages of being able to read it from any other devices, but the disadvantages is you will not have a copy to archive on your own computer, you need to additionally arrange this. The server space will also fill up as in point 2 so you need a service provider that can provide this extra storage space.
Which Is Right For You?
- If you only read email from one computer, regularly download the email and want to archive all your email messages on your computer for future reference, then option 1 is the best setup.
- If you want to access email from multiple devices, but regularly download email, want to archive your email on your main computer then all the above options are suitable (but for option 3 you do have to make sure you manually archive the email).
- If you want to access email from multiple devices, but do not want to download and archive it on your own computer and use the service provider to archive your email, then it depends on your service provider. You may or may not be able to use the above options are suitable.
If you want the last option above then your service provider needs to allow you store a large amount of email space at low cost so you can easily store your email with them and not worry about filling up server space. You can then access your email from any device any where. You may use an email client like Outlook to do this, but Outlook may still download the mail to your computer (you have to be sure to set it to not download the email to your computer so its left there to access from other devices). If you want to abandon Outlook or other email client all together, many email providers also provide a browser based email clients so you can access and read your email through a browser.
There are a few email provides that provide a large amount of storage space for free or low cost such as Hotmail and Yahoo but I recommend Google Mail (GMail) due to not only the high amount of free storage space but the quick and minimalistic interface.
If you want to discuss the best setup for the way you work, please feel free to contact me.