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MX, POP, IMAP and SMTP mail protocols, what are they?

When you hire a hosting plan to make your digital business known to the world, in most cases you can create your own email accounts with the name of your domain.

In this way it will be possible to send and receive emails from your clients, friends or family with all the news on your website, the ‘top sales’ of the month, daily curiosities, etc., giving a totally professional image without your emails refer to other type companies @ or @

Nowadays, you need to pay attention to the mail protocols Well, as with fashion, making a good impression is very important. Keep in mind that one of the main ways in which you will communicate with your clients or visitors is possibly through email.


Knowing the different types of email protocols will save you more than one block on your Internet connection or avoid any scare to your client if the email does not work.

You would be surprised to know that many of the errors that are made when setting up an email account on your computer or mobile phone, even the notification system that manages your online store, appear because it is unknown what is being configured.

You can’t imagine how many times clients have reported to us that a ship full of hackers had stolen their emails when they were actually downloaded to one of their devices due to poor settings in the email manager.

The objective of this article is to invite you to know the wonderful world of POP, IMAP, SMTP and MX protocols. I’m sure these words already ring a bell, or at least, you’ve heard them before from a friend or acquaintance.

If you are starting on the Internet, you are a technological handyman who makes websites or you are in charge of maintaining them, it is mandatory that you stop for a few minutes to know what are each of these concepts.

But … what do they mean? Let’s start with the basics!

What are MX records?

The moment you decide to buy a domain, you change the ‘nameservers’ and add it to your Hosting panel, an entire Internet adventure begins.

By default, a basic configuration is established that allows your domain to load a website and have the ability to manage mail.

There is a section where a number of records are stored and, specifically, one of them indicates where the mail service of your domain is managed, that is, its function will be to determine the internet location of your domain’s post office box.

When you send or receive emails, the digital postman will always ask your domain first where the mailbox is to deposit the mail from other email accounts and / or collect those emails that are queued to be sent to other addresses in order for them to reach their destination.

That address that your domain returns -which can be one or several- is known as the MX of your domain (from the English mail exchanger) and these are created, edited and / or deleted from a block called DNS zone that is inside the Hosting panel or it can also be inside a panel of the domain provider.

If you are using a cPanel Hosting panel, you will find it in the block Domain, Zone Editor (zone editor).

Zone Editor

MX records have two parts: the priority and the destination. The first one is used to establish which mailbox will be consulted first in the case that there are several configured; the second indicates the virtual address where that mailbox is located on the Internet.

By default you will only have one MX record in your domain and it will have priority “0” being the highest priority and whose destination will be the domain itself

Note that according to the mail provider you can have an MX record configured, as I just commented, or you can have several as is the case with Google when you use the paid mail service (G. Suite).

Incoming and outgoing server

When your domain’s mailbox is ready for use, if you take a look inside it, you will see that its structure is similar to a post office and it is divided into two parts: the input server and the outgoing server.

To give you a quick and basic idea, without going into technicalities, I will tell you that the inbound server is the area where emails are received and is stored in the form of queues from other email addresses and, as they leave processing, they will be delivered to each of your email accounts.

There are two different ways to check email: POP or IMAP.

It is super important that you differentiate between POP and IMAP mail protocols as it is key so that emails are not lost and are well located!

On the other hand, the outgoing or SMTP serverAs its name indicates, it is the area where all the emails that are going to be sent to their corresponding recipients are listed in a queue.

Recommended reading
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Both the input and the output server have a particular configuration (ports, address, security encryption etc.) You should always check each time you migrate to a new provider or add a new email account, since these parameters may be different from each other.

If you are a Websites Are Us customer, remember that within your cPanel> Websites Are Us applications> Configuration of mail managers You have this magnificent tool that will not only tell you the necessary data but also, depending on the manager, will give you the precise instructions with screenshots so that you have no doubts.

Mail managers configuration

As extra information, you should know that all emails that are sent and received leave their mark on a file on the server and it contains the date, the title, who sends it, who receives it, the status of that shipment, etc.

This is very useful when you have problems with reception, shipping or mail SPAM.

Don’t forget to check the box to require SSL and SSL connection encryption every time you configure an email account or similar so that all the information always travels from one server to another in a secure way and is not compromised in any case.

What is the POP mail protocol?

When you add an email account in your manager and select POP on the incoming server, it means that when synchronizing the email manager (for example Outlook, Thunderbird, etc.) With your hosting, the email belonging to the email account that is consulted will be downloaded without leaving a copy in your hosting.

This is especially useful when you have a large volume of mail, you have space problems in your Hosting and you need to free up that space. You can also use them if you like having everything in one place on your computer to centralize all emails.

One of the great disadvantages of using this mail protocol is that if the same account is consulted by two computers and one of them is in POP3 when synchronizing the mail, if the one in POP3 is the first to do so, the other computer will see that there are no emails because these emails have already been downloaded to the previous computer where the account is configured with POP3.

Be careful, when I say computer it can be a tablet, laptop or even mobile. All of them are valid if you have the email account configured

However, this protocol has an option that allows you to keep the mail on the server until a specified number of days have passed before downloading it to the computer and deleting it. Although if you are one of those who needs to have the mail always available I do not recommend this option

What is the IMAP mail protocol?

When you set the IMAP protocol and you add a new email account in your email manager, it means that every time your accounts connect and sync with the server (no matter how many computers or electronic devices use the same account), your email manager will always read the emails that are in your Hosting but in no case will it download them.

Therefore, they will always be available from any of the accounts.

As you can imagine, one of the main problems that its use has is that if you have a large volume of mail, it is possible that your disk quota runs out quickly and generates a space problem to take into account.

Other advantages to highlight is that it allows you to create folders and subfolders quickly and easily that synchronize with the server. For example, if you create the ‘Invoices’ folder, you can have it on all devices and group all emails related to invoices in it.

You should use it with caution since if you exceed the disk quota of your Hosting the emails will not be delivered and they will bounce back to their senders after several failed delivery attempts.

Recommended reading:
Using cPanel Disk, control the space occupied!

When to use IMAP or POP mail protocols?

As you have already been able to realize POP and IMAP are like night and day and depending on your needs you will use one or the other.

If at this point you wonder if you can alternate some accounts with POP and others with IMAP the answer is yes, no problem. You just have to be careful with the synchronization and the devices that you will use in each account.

If you are one of those who consume a lot of mail and neither of these two options fits you, you have one more that is to outsource the mail to another provider such as Gmail.

In this you can add your domain accounts for free with a fairly large quota of space and totally free, not bad, right?

Recommended reading
Set up Gmail for your Hosting email accounts

What is the SMTP mail protocol?

Inside the output server we find the SMTP mail protocol who is in charge of exchanging emails between the sender and the receiver. It does that function that we used to call “the digital postman” when you send an email to another email address.

Think that every time you register in a store and receive an email from them they do it through this protocol. Also, when you make an appointment for a doctor, you send a message to a friend to stay or there is a new order in your store.

I recommend that you always make a responsible and moderate use of shipments and do not exceed the limits indicated by your provider since otherwise it is possible that the mail server from which the mails from your domain are sent enters a blacklist by other providers such as Gmail or Outlook that are quite sensitive to these issues.

The consequence would be that no account from these providers would receive emails from your domain in the inbox and they would go directly to SPAM, be careful!

Don’t forget to keep your computers always updated and virus free since often in Support we see how some clients end up having all their shipments blocked because the security of their equipment has been violated and the bad They have taken advantage of email accounts to send unsolicited SPAM to any email.


Knowing the POP, IMAP, SMTP and MX mail protocols is essential to avoid falling into the typical errors when setting up an email account for your domain, emails within your store, etc.

Of course, I am sure that the next time you have to set up an email account you will have no problem knowing all its gears and even you yourself will be able to detect a bad configuration regarding email.

Each email is unique and important, don’t risk it!

Of course, the next time you see a pirate ship do not hesitate to flee because it will surely be real.

Websites Are Systems Administration Team.

By |2020-05-12T01:09:48+00:00May 12th, 2020|Administración del Hosting|