023: Should I configure my email client to use the IMAP or POP or Native Exchange protocol?

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023: Should I configure my email client to use the IMAP or POP or Native Exchange protocol?

SOLUTION
In brief, your best options for Mines email are:

  • Avoid installed email clients entirely. Use a web-based email program in your web browser so that you don't have to worry about this question. This is by far the easiest way to first access your email.
  • If using an email client on your computer, faculty and staff should normally use a "native Exchange" connection, if possible, for best synchronization with email, contacts, calendar, and more. If that protocol is not supported by your email client, IMAP is recommended for email synchronization.
  • Students using an email client students should normally use IMAP with their MyMail account (be sure that IMAP access is first enabled in MyMail).
  • We do not recommend using POP email except in very specific -- and rare -- circumstances.

Web-based email:
MyMail (http://mymail.mines.edu) for students and Outlook Web App (https://exchange.mines.edu) for faculty and staff will run in any standard web browser and require no setup by the user. Simply log in with your Mines MultiPass credentials. We highly recommend these browser-based interfaces for accessing your email.

However, advanced users who prefer to use a standalone email client such as Outlook, Mac Mail, or Thunderbird (or smartphone email apps) may indeed do so.

Native Exchange email for faculty and staff:
Faculty and staff (who typically connect to our Microsoft Exchange email server using Microsoft Outlook, Mac Mail, or certain smartphone email clients) often choose the native Exchange email protocol where available. This protocol simultaneously synchronizes Outlook email, Outlook calendar, Outlook contacts, and other information between the Microsoft Exchange Server and a supported email client. Links to configuration details are found below.

Students do not have accounts on our Microsoft Exchange server and thus would not connect via the native Exchange protocol.

IMAP email for faculty, staff, and students:
Students using MyMail, and faculty and staff users of email clients that do not support the native Exchange protocol (e.g., Mozilla Thunderbird), may choose to connect to their email (but not calendar or contacts) via the IMAP protocol. Links to configuration details are found below.

To configure a standard email client with IMAP, you will need to know, at minimum, your account username, password, email address, and the name and ports numbers of the proper server(s) for sending and receiving mail. See the CCIT Email Services page (http://ccit.mines.edu/CCIT-Email) for specific settings. Further details can be found here http://ccit.mines.edu/CCIT-Fac-Staff-Email (faculty and staff) or here http://ccit.mines.edu/CCIT-MyMail (students).

NOTES
What is native Exchange?
Native Exchange is a proprietary Microsoft protocol designed to be used with the Microsoft Exchange email server and Microsoft Outlook email client. Over time, other email clients such as Mac Mail have added the ability to connect via the native Exchange protocol. This protocol offers some added features (like integration of calendars and contact) along with email. Not all servers or email clients are compatible with native Exchange protocol, however.

What is IMAP?
IMAP (the Internet Message Access Protocol) is a widely used email protocol that fetches a copy of your email from a central mail server, but leaves the original on the server where it can be backed up regularly by the server administrator. For those with readily available Internet connections (that's most people in these very "connected" times), this allows viewing, sending, and receiving email from one email account that can be accessed from multiple computers with multiple -- even different -- email clients. We recommend IMAP email for those without the option of native Exchange email. (The Microsoft Exchange server may be accessed via IMAP as well as native Exchange.)

Constant Internet connectivity is generally needed when using IMAP. However, in an attempt to provide POP-like functionality (see below), IMAP clients are often configured to cache copies of email on the local computer and continue to function, even when offline, until connectivity is reestablished -- like after an airline flight. Thus, IMAP does most of what POP does, and more.

What is POP?
POP (the Post Office Protocol) is an earlier email standard designed for a time of limited (and expensive) Internet connectivity and only one computer per user. Generally, a user with a POP-based email program would dial into an Internet service provider using a modem and standard phone line, connect briefly to an email server, and download all new email messages to the local computer while automatically deleting them from the server. At this point, the computer was disconnected from the ISP to minimize phone charges. POP email messages were usually read and answered offline, then sent when next connected to the Internet. This method was quota-friendly, since email was stored on the user's hard drive, not on the server. However, since all POP email messages were generally stored on the receiving computer, the POP user alone was responsible for backing up his or her own email messages. If the hard drive containing POP email messages went bad, all email could be lost.

In a bid to emulate IMAP functionality, the POP protocol could also be configured to leave a copy of each message on the server, where it could be retrieved from multiple other computers. But, as with IMAP or native Exchange, server quotas then become an issue. Management of POP email messages on the server also becomes far more complicated. In this case, IMAP is a better choice. The POP option is recommended only for advanced users who thoroughly understand the implications of POP.

Since early 2011, POP access from new Mines email accounts has been disabled by default, to minimize configuration issues for new users. Previous users may still have POP access enabled. If you would like POP enabled for your account, or if you have other questions about email protocols, let us know at Mines Help Center (http://helpdesk.mines.edu).

AUTHOR
DW/DF


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