what is Email


Note that the security topics viruses & phishing are relevant to email.
When you mention the internet people tend to think of the world wide web. Email, however, is just as, if not more, widely used and is frequently cited as the internet's "killer app".
Whether it is personal email, business email or discussion / mailing lists more people use email than the web.
Once upon a time email was simple - you got your email address and email program from your ISP and you used them. With the explosion in the use of the internet though has come an explosion in the range of email products and services, all offering something different.
All the more reason to now know how.



Once upon a time the mailbox was email and for most people the mailbox came from their Internet Service Provider (ISP).
For many people this is still the case and is quite sufficient. Your ISP can often supply a script to be run that sets up the email program that they supplied. Given that everything is under the control of your ISP there are usually few problems. It is the safe option.
With a mailbox you will be downloading your email on to your local machine. The disadvantage of this is that it can be cumbersome to arrange access to your email from more than one location. However, your email client will respond faster than a web interface and you can still view previously received mail even when you cannot connect to the internet.



Once looked down on as something for kids, who did not have sufficient control over a computer or a credit card to obtain a proper email account, webmail is now much better regarded. Although it would still look unprofessional for a business account.
The main advantage of a webmail account is the ability to access your email wherever you have access to the web. The main disadvantage is that you cannot get to your email with no access to the web.
The security of your email against hacking or accidental deletion is in the hands of your provider. This can be an advantage or a disadvatage depending on how you view the relative abilities of your provider and yourself.

Email Client


As a program that you use frequently, your email program (technically known as an email client) can make a big difference to the smoothness or frustration of your computing experience.
Two very common email clients are Outlook and Outlook express. Their commonality can be both a plus and a minus. On the plus side their ubiquity means that there is a greater chance your email provider has detailed instructions on how to set them up (although, given the necessary details and some basic knowledge, setup is not difficult). On the minus side, the fact that the the software is so common means that any bugs in the program will be rapidly exploited by viruses, spammers etc.

Email Setup


This page does not attempt to provide step by step instructions for the myriad of email programs and email services out there.
What it does do is explain the terms you may come across in setting up your email so that you know what you are doing. Most email services will have a web page where they tell you all the necessary settings for using the service.
POP3 server - POP stands for nothing scarier than "Post Office Protocol". Your "POP3 server" is the machine to which you connect to collect your incoming email.
SMTP server - SMTP stands for Simple Mail Transport Protocol. Your "SMTP server" is the machine to which you connect to send your outgoing mail.

Mailbox or Webmail


In the simplified view, there are two types of email service.
The first is the mailbox. This is the traditional route. You have a mailbox on somebody's, often your ISP's, server and you use an email program to fetch your email from that machine to your own computer.
The second is webmail. It used to be looked down on, and still wouldn't look very professional for business email. Many more people, though, now use it, either for the convenience of accessing their email from anywhere they access to a web browser or for disposable addresses.
In reality the line is now blurred with some webmail providers offering mailbox access and many mailbox providers also implementing some form of webmail.