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IMAP vs. POP3: Pros and Cons for Business Owners to Consider

When choosing an email server, you’ll often have to pick between IMAP and POP3. Learn more about these email protocols here.

Choosing the right Message Access Agents (MAA) to retrieve, save, and store emails can feel confusing, especially if you're unsure where to begin. When setting up email accounts for your business, knowing which email client and protocol to use is essential to streamline your workflow and ensure top-notch security.

When selecting a mail server or an SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) server, you’ll likely need to understand the difference between IMAP and POP3. What is POP3 and IMAP? These are 2 of the most common email pull protocols used for business and personal use today. Choosing between these protocols is much easier once you’re aware of their features and the potential limitations you may encounter.

When you become familiar with POP3 and IMAP, you can select which email protocol suits your company's needs the best.

What is IMAP?

Before choosing email service providers and messaging protocols, learning the basics is important. IMAP, also known as Internet Message Access Protocol, is a message retrieval protocol utilized to send and receive messages. IMAP is currently the most popular and widely used email protocol around the globe.

How does IMAP work?

IMAP works by retrieving data (emails and files) sent to an email server and caching the discovered data on a local device. This occurs once the initial connection has been established. With IMAP, users have the ability to retrieve emails and files from multiple devices simultaneously, as the majority of all data collected is stored on a central server, not on a particular hard drive.

What is POP3?

POP3, also known as Post Office Protocol 3, is another widely known email protocol utilized by individuals and business owners alike. POP3's protocol retrieves email messages directly from an email server.

How does POP3 work?

Once the system retrieves messages, it will download the emails directly onto your device or computer. After the files have been successfully retrieved and downloaded, the protocol calls for all files to be deleted permanently from the mail server.

IMAP vs. POP3: Pros and cons

When you want to set up an email for your business, choosing between the POP3 or IMAP protocol for your emails will be a major decision. Additionally, comparing the features of IMAP vs. POP3 can provide valuable insights into each protocol, helping you determine which solution is best for you based on the volume of emails you access and receive each day.

Pros and cons of IMAP

IMAP is the most common protocol used for sending and receiving emails today. Some of the most notable advantages of using IMAP for your emailing needs include:

  • IMAP provides users with the ability to access emails from multiple devices (local devices).
  • It’s possible to sync emails between local devices and specific email services.
  • Backup copies of emails and files that have been exchanged are also stored on the mail server itself.
  • IMAP doesn’t download all emails from the server only to delete them from the server altogether.
  • The protocol is encrypted and secure, using Port 993 as the encrypted port solely for IMAP.

With IMAP, there are also a few downsides to consider, such as:

  • Files aren't downloaded to your local device or computer. This means you will be required to access the email server in order to retrieve emails and files at any time, which can cause you to be more reliant on the cloud and your server's uptime.
  • Unfortunately, IMAP takes up ample server space and may require more resources than alternative email solutions or protocols.

Pros and cons of POP3

When it comes to using POP3, there are a few highlights and benefits to keep in mind, such as:

  • POP3 works to retrieve emails and files directly from your email server, downloading them to your device or hard drive. However, it's important to note that once these files have been successfully downloaded to your device or computer hard drive, they will automatically be removed from the email server.
  • POP3 requires minimal server space and won't utilize all of your server's resources. This is ideal for those who are self-employed or for smaller companies that are just getting started.
  • It's possible to delete emails using POP3 in delete mode while storing backup copies in 'keep mode,' depending on your needs and the number of emails you receive daily.
  • Port 995 is the current encrypted port for POP3.

Along with the positives that POP3 has to offer, there are also some limitations to consider, including:

  • POP3 doesn't currently allow users to manage the overall organization of emails. This can be extremely frustrating and tedious for those who receive hundreds of emails and internal messages daily.
  • Unfortunately, POP3 doesn't allow the synchronization of multiple devices. This can become a growing issue as your business scales and expands.

Key differences between IMAP and POP3

When it comes to launching successful email marketing campaigns, understanding the differences between POP3 vs. IMAP matters. The more familiar you become with your options and the features each provides, the easier it is to determine which protocol will suit your needs.

For the key distinctions between IMAP and POP3, review the table below:


  • Allows users to access the same email using multiple computers and/or devices.
  • Doesn't download files directly to your computer's hard drive or other electronic device. All emails and files remain on the email server itself.
  • There’s a built-in solution for organizing emails available with IMAP once you have access to your email server.
  • IMAP is known for taking up significant storage and requiring more resources when it comes to servers. This may ultimately require a better hosting plan or an upgraded hosting plan with your provider, depending on your existing solution.
  • Backup copies of emails and files are created and stored on the email server. Even if you delete or lose an email from your local server, retrieving it with the IMAP protocol in place (in most scenarios) is possible.
  • The encrypted port for the IMAP protocol is 993.


  • Doesn't currently allow access to emails using multiple devices or computers or the synchronization of devices.
  • Downloads emails directly to one's local device. This is followed by the deletion of emails and files directly from the email server.
  • There’s a lack of organizational features available with POP3, making it a bit more challenging to organize and keep track of incoming and outgoing emails.
  • POP3 only takes up a little server space and doesn't require as many resources as the IMAP protocol.
  • If you're working with POP3 in delete mode, the mail will be removed from your mailbox entirely after retrieval. However, if you're in keep mode, the mail will remain in the inbox even after you've retrieved and read its content.
  • The encrypted port for the POP3 protocol is 995.

Should you use IMAP or POP3?

Whether you have 1 email account or 10 or are operating both personal and corporate emails, understanding POP3 and IMAP is imperative to your emailing and file-storing needs. Because not all businesses or brands target the same audience, consider your specific needs before choosing the best protocol.

Those who have a smaller business and work on a single dedicated device may fare well with POP3. POP3 is ideal for those who prefer saving emails and files directly to their local devices without relying on the cloud in order to retrieve the information they need. POP3 is an ideal solution for those who have a poor or unreliable internet connection. Saving files offline can ensure they remain accessible even when you’re unable to get online to work.

If you're looking for a solution that allows you to sync devices and access emails using multiple computers or devices, the IMAP protocol may be right for you. The IMAP protocol will allow you to work with various devices and log into numerous client email addresses. This helps streamline your workflow while providing you with the flexibility required to work with more than one client at a time. IMAP is ideal for synchronizing data regularly without worrying about storage space or available resources.

If you have limited storage space on your own devices and want to ensure your emails and files remain safe, secured, and encrypted at all times, IMAP provides the ultimate solution. With IMAP, you can access your emails and files from just about any location remotely as long as you're connected to the internet.

Both IMAP and POP3 have plenty to offer for businesses that send and receive emails each day. Comparing IMAP vs. POP3 can help you make your decision comfortably and confidently.

Ultimately, those who prefer synchronization, the ability to connect to an SMTP server for email using multiple devices, and storing emails on the cloud should turn to IMAP for their emailing needs.

Individuals who may have a poor internet connection or those who prefer to store their emails and files locally, not digitally or on the cloud, should consider POP3 for their email management and service needs.

Enhance email communication with the right protocol

For those whose priorities involve guaranteed email deliverability, choosing the right protocol is key. To get started with an SMTP server that's secured, encrypted, and provides plenty of flexibility, turn to Mailchimp. With Mailchimp, streamline your ability to send, receive, and store emails in one central and easily accessible location.

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