Email seems simple enough – at least until you start to compare the many options available.

Complicating matters is the fact that there are several different types of email systems, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.


To begin, it’s helpful to distinguish between webmail and email clients.

Webmail operates over the internet through a browser—usually without the need to download apps or software. Examples include Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo!

Since your email is stored on your providers server, a key advantage of webmail is the ability to access it from anywhere. Obviously, however, you must have an internet connection.

Email clients are apps that you install on your PC or phone. These apps communicate with remote email servers to download and send email. Examples include Microsoft Outlook, Windows Live Mail, or Mozilla Thunderbird.

You can use email client applications to complete certain tasks even if you don’t have an available internet connection.

Client Communication

There are three main protocols that client applications use to handle email.

1. The Post Office Protocol 3 (POP3) is a protocol that retrieves messages from a host server and saves them to the client application on your computer. Typically, the received messages are then deleted from the host server to conserve space. Applications that use POP3 include Microsoft Outlook.

Although inexpensive, POP 3 applications have a significant limitation. Because retrieved messages are stored on your device, certain actions you take on one device are not reflected on any of your other devices. For example, if you reply to an email on your phone and then go to your desktop, it will not show as read or replied to.

2. The Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) allows users to manage email from multiple devices.

Most POP3 email applications also support IMAP. IMAP is essentially a combination of POP3 and Web-based email. Your email is kept on the server of your provider – and the application also keeps a local ‘cache’ copy, so that you can access email even if you’re not online.

IMAP syncs both your received and sent email, but, unfortunately, not your calendar and contacts. To sync these items from your phone or tablet to a desktop PC, you must physically connect the devices.

3. Messaging Application Programming Interface (MAPI) is used by Microsoft Outlook to communicate to Microsoft Exchange Server

Designed as a complement to Outlook, Exchange handles email, as well as calendar, contacts, notes, tasks and addresses. Thanks to its comprehensive functionality, we recommend Exchange for many of our clients.

Other key advantages of exchange include:

• Compatibility with all mobile devices (iOS and android) as well as Outlook.

• The ability to share your calendar within your organization – making it easy to schedule appointments.

• The ability to integrate with third-party applications and CRMs.

• The ability to sync your calendar and contacts wirelessly across multiple devices.

One of the many decisions a small business must make is how to handle email. The experts at Future Link can help you evaluate and your options and implement the most cost-effective (and secure) solution.