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The way we interact with email has changed in recent years. Previously, most staff and faculty members checked their email from only one place: their office computers. Many people now check their email from home as well as from work, and also might log into webmail at a friend's computer or an Internet cafe. To work in this new environment, it is important to understand the differences between POP and IMAP, and how webmail and other email clients interact with one another.

IMAP (Internet Mail Access Protocol) is a way of viewing the mail that is on the server. If you don't delete it, it stays on the server. IMAP is great when you want to be able to see the same thing from multiple locations. Because IMAP keeps your email on the server, it will automatically be backed up. You can set up IMAP at home and at work, and then check your email remotely with webmail, pine, or any other IMAP client, and see the same thing in all places, including any folders stored on the server. The standard quota for email stored on the server is 2.5 gigabytes, which is sufficient for most users.

POP (Post Office Protocol) downloads all your mail to your local computer, removing it from the server. POP is primarily designed for people who check their mail from one computer only. If you POP your mail at work and then use webmail at home, you will see only your new messages from home. A word of caution when using POP: With this method of checking mail, the only copy of your messages will be stored on your local computer, so you are responsible for backing it up.


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Hampshire College
893 West Street
Amherst, MA 01002
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Fax: 413.559.5419