This is a brief explanation for the new customer on the differences between webmail, POP3 and other email protocols you might be using with your A Small Orange Hosting.
Note: the examples here assume you have example.com as your domain name.
If you're relatively new to using email, or new to having your own domain and web hosting, you might have only had a Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail of some other free email service previously. These accounts are easily accessible and are designed to be reached anywhere in the world by only using a web browser. Similarly, you can reach your domain's email service by using a web browser through the use of Webmail.
To access your domain's email service, log in to http://example.com/webmail and enter your email address and password.
POP3 / IMAP
In the days before Webmail was widespread, there was POP3 and IMAP.
POP3 stands for Post Office Protocol (version 3).
IMAP stands for Internet Mail Access Protocol.
If you use an email client program such as Microsoft Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird or Apple Mail.app, then you use POP3 or IMAP.
When you use POP3 your email client accesses the mail server and sends your username and password. Then, it checks to see if there are new messages on the server and starts downloading them to your email client. In most cases your email client deletes the email off the server after downloading them so you don't keep old mail from taking up unnecessary space on the server. Sometimes, however, your client will leave the email on the server so you can access it from another email client on another computer or view it from Webmail.
Using IMAP is a little different. You still use an email client, but instead of downloading the email from the server like POP3 the email client reads the email directly off the server and displays it in your client. You can then delete it or leave it there for the next time you are checking email.
To set up your email client for POP3 or IMAP using A Small Orange's servers, configure your email client's settings to something similar to:
Mail server: mail.example.com
Protocol: POP3 or IMAP, depending on which one you want to use
SMTP is short for Simple Mail Transfer Protocol, and is a method for sending mail from one computer to another.
Let's explain this with a little story about Bob...
You want to send an email to your friend Bob, who has an account at otherdomain.com. You already know that Bob's email address is email@example.com, so you send him a message from your email client (or using Webmail) and address it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Your computer connects to the SMTP server and tells it to send the email to email@example.com. The SMTP server looks at the address and says, "I don't know who Bob is, but I think I can get this over to otherdomain.com."
The SMTP server then performs a series of steps to find out how to get the email to otherdomain.com. Then it connects to the other SMTP server who is responsible for all mail for otherdomain.com. When your SMTP server talks to the otherdomain.com's SMTP server they exchange a series of messages and ultimately the otherdomain.com says "Sure, I'll take the message to Bob" OR it will say "No, there's noBob here and we are going to return it back to the sender."
To set up your email client for SMTP using A Small Orange's servers, configure your email client's to something similar to:
SMTP Server: mail.example.com
SMTP Server Requires Authentication
Protocol: POP3 or IMAP, depending on which one you want to use.