Your Email Addresses: POP or IMAP?

The best choice for your email account is not always straightforward. Here is a comparison of IMAP & POP features to help you decide what kind of account you need.

With SUTTONNet's Axmail reseller hosting you can mix & match, with some email addresses as POP (our POP plans are cheaper) and some as IMAP.

Key takeaways
  • You pay for storing emails on the mail server. More GB = higher cost
  • IMAP accounts store all email folders on the mail server (not just incoming mail). They need much more storage than POP accounts
  • IMAP is ideal where several people share one email address & will need to see all replies sent on that address
  • Whether you use IMAP, POP or both, you can manage emails on your own local device (desktop, phone etc) using email software such as Thunderbird
  • Webmail (log in via your browser) is also an option for IMAP accounts
  • Webmail is of limited use for POP accounts
  • See our prices for secure fast Australian-based email hosting

    Busting myths

    Everyone uses IMAP these days.

    * IMAP is growing popular, however POP (also called POP3) accounts are still used. POP offers advantages over IMAP for many users. Choose what works for you, not what some self-appointed 'expert' tells you.

    Choose either POP or IMAP individually for each email address that you have, depending on how you want to use that address.

    IMAP is the only option for smartphones.

    * Often IMAP is the default option, but POP is available. Search online for phone 'POP email setup' instructions for your device.

    With a POP account, you download incoming emails once and then they're gone from the mail server. That makes it impossible to check your new emails from your phone as well as your desktop, laptop etc.

    * Was true a long, long time ago. There's a handy setting in your mail software now, that allows you to view new emails from different devices over a week or two (you decide how long you need). You can check for any urgent emails from your phone while you are away for a few days; then just download the emails again from the mail server to your work PC, when you get back to the office.

    Email storage on mail servers is unlimited and free.

    * If someone offers you unlimited free anything as a business proposition, smell a rat.

    Email servers ARE a finite resource. Managing a mail server takes considerable time & expertise.

    Email hosts ARE NOT public charities. Well known providers that used to offer 'unlimited' free storage don't any more. We have said for years that this was only ever a starter offer, to get your data on their server. If they don't charge you for hosting, they make $ from your emails in other ways. Find out what these are.

    User pays: the more storage, the more you pay. Whether on your own device or on the mail server, it's up to you to keep costs down by clearing out unwanted emails & managing your email well.

    You have to log in to the email account from your browser in order to use your IMAP email address.

    * Often people do run IMAP accounts completely online, logging in to their account to see older emails or to compose and send mail, as well as collect new emails. This method is called webmail.

    Webmail is not the only way to use IMAP though. You can manage your IMAP account(s) through mail software such as Thunderbird on your device (eg laptop), just like you would for a POP account.

    • via webmail, you only log into a single email account at a time. If you have >1 IMAP account, it's much faster to work from mail software on your device than to laboriously log in to each account. This lets you see at glance which accounts have new mail, unfinished drafts etc
    • if you have both POP and IMAP accounts, it's also practical to manage them all together from your own device
    • if your Internet connection is slow or unreliable, you can keep your IMAP email accounts more accessible in this way.
    SuttonNet Email Hosting - IMAP vs POP
    Feature POP IMAP
    Mail Storage

    Incoming emails are downloaded from mail server to local device(s). All mail folders are stored permanently on your own devices, not the server

    Uses storage space on local devices. Your mail software compacts files to save space

    Kept on mail server, accessible for multiple users from multiple devices. All mail folders are stored permanently on the mail server. They keep growing, unless you cull unneeded mail or download & archive old data

    Option: also store mail on local device(s) using your preferred mail software


    All downloaded emails, drafts & sent mail are always accessible on your local device; no need to log in to online account

    If you can't access your device: can use webmail to check for new emails. Webmail for a POP account only shows recently arrived mail that is still (temporarily) stored in the server mailbox

    Can manage IMAP account access in 2 ways:

    (1) Webmail: go online and sign into account to collect new emails & manage older received mail, sent mail & drafts

    (2) Use mail software on your own computer to access & manage your IMAP accounts


    Emails are stored only on your own device(s). Security is fully under your control

    Apart from the most recent incoming emails: no 3rd party provider stores or can access your emails, nor can they pass them on to others (legally or not)

    Emails are stored on a 3rd party mail server, subject to Australian privacy law & other laws affecting IT providers

    Your webmail account is accessible only via password

    If you only use webmail, other users of your computer can't read your mail (unless they can sign in to your mail account)

    You may choose to store emails on your device as well


    Axmail daily backups cover only recently arrived emails that are still stored in the server mailbox

    User is responsible for backing up other mail folders

    Axmail daily backups include all your mail folders: sent mail, drafts & other folders, not just incoming mail

    Send/Receive from your local device's mail software which connects to mail server

    Mail sent from one device (eg your laptop) will not be copied automatically to another (eg your phone); bcc yourself to keep all sent mail on every device

    Changes made are instantly synced across all devices that you use to access mail eg: folder creation, draft emails, sent emails