IT Outsourced  

Stop the POP!

In ancient times, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and cell phones weighed 2 lbs, many companies were connecting to the internet and setting up email systems. Email is the biggest revolution in communications in the business community since the invention of the telephone. Email has replaced the fax as a preferred method of communications for many companies.

Many startup companies today choose free or low cost email systems included with their internet connection. Most companies that adopted internet and email systems early also went with these free email systems. IT companies refer to these types of email systems as ‘pop’ accounts.

A simple explanation of how POP mail works;

  1. Company A writes an email to Company B on their local computer system.
  2. This email is transmitted to the Internet via connection locally.
  3. Internet service companies (ISP) have agreed to a registration system for delivery of mail, kind of like postal codes. The information after the @ is the destination. ISP’s look up routing information to the destination.
  4. Mail is delivered to Company B’s ISP - a server that holds the mail for Company B.
  5. Computers at Company B retrieve mail from the servers via a local connection.


There are a lot of problems with POP accounts;

  • Leaving the mail at the ISP causes problems for the ISP as mail stores increase in size. ISP’s mail limit the size, and users may have problems since these systems are not designed to hold large amounts of mail
  • Local mail stores on the computer are not generally backed up since backup systems become overly complex and difficult to maintain with the increase in computers locally.
  • Changing computers can involve hours of additional work as large, bloated mail systems locally need to be transferred manually and can be complex to setup.
  • Local mail stores are prone to corruption, particularly as they grow in size.
  • The system is designed to handle incoming mail, and sent or other mail is only available locally where it originated.

Second generation email systems have arrived and vastly improved the technology. Mail is now delivered to sophisticated servers which handle complex communications between the local email client and the servers. Mail is left on the server, which makes backups easier, and configuration is also much easier on the local clients. These mail systems often include calendars, tasks and address books with the ability to share some or all of this with other users. Spam removal is much simpler on these types of servers. Synchronization between all the mail enabled devices improves the user experience vastly.

Microsoft Exchange was an industry leader in this 2nd generation of mail servers. Users are generally required to use Microsoft Outlook to communicate with the Exchange server. Until recently, users were required to purchase and setup mail servers locally at their businesses, but recently many companies are offering internet based ‘cloud’ servers called Hosted Exchange Servers. POP accounts are still popular because they are considered free but are becoming expensive to maintain and troubleshoot.

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About the Author

Mark Smed started as a self-employed consultant, integrating computers into small business in 1989.  The range of work expanded into installing networks and consulting with businesses on the fast paced changes in technology.  As his career progressed he taught Network Administration at a small business college and continued to build his base of clients. 

Today, Mark works for Northern Computer Inc. (http://www.northerncomputer.ca) as a consultant, specialist and technician.  His client base continues to grow and many of his clients have worked with him for over 10 years now.  In 2001, Mark joined the Network Professional Association (http://www.npa.org) and now sits on the board of directors and is responsible for publishing the Network Professional Journal for the association.

Mark can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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