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Email: Setup and Synchronisation (with Mobiles and Tablets)

Email: Setup and Synchronisation (with Mobiles and Tablets)

We get asked a lot to resolve email issues, especially where the user wants to use multiple devices like a PC as well as a laptop, smartphone and tablet.

By the time they get to us they've usually managed to tie themselves in knots and we have to start back at the beginning. To help understand the difficulty, lets take a look at how email works.

Email, just like a text message on a mobile, is a piece of written text maybe with attachments that gets bundled up and sent to an email address elsewhere. Your device (PC, Laptop etc) sends the message to your SMTP server (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol for those that are interested!). The email then whooshes off to the intended recipient via the internet where it arrives at the incoming mail server and drops neatly into the recipients mailbox on that server. So far so good? Now comes the more complicated bit ...

The recipient has basically three ways of getting that email:

  1. WebMail – All mail is stored on the server and is viewed via an internet browser where email is viewed as a webpage. Hotmail, Gmail & Yahoo were the pioneers of this technology and are probably still the most common. Most ISPs now provide this functionality with varying degrees of success but nearly all have on-page advertising that can be a real pain!
  2. POP Mail – via a mail client like Outlook, Windows Mail, MAC Mail, Thunderbird etc. POP stands for Post Office Protocol for those that are interested, and this is where the client goes to the incoming mail server and says “hello, any mail for me?”; the server then sends any mail to the client and the mail is then viewable by the user. Importantly, this is a one-way transaction and having been completed the server is then cleared. Most ISP based email (BT, Tiscali, TalkTalk, Freeserve, Wanadoo, Orange, Virgin) traditionally used this method.
  3. IMAP Mail – again via a mail client but using Internet Message Access Protocol that allows multiple connections via multiple devices using two-way transactions. The mail is always stored on the server and each client replicates that information. In this way if you "read" an email on one device, it shows as having been "read" on another device. Equally, if you send an email from one device that sent email is shown in the "sent items" folder of all other devices, ditto for deleted, drafts etc. etc. All WebMail and good ISPs provide this functionality today.

This folks, is where the knots usually get tied up, different devices using different protocols ... one PC using POP mail and clearing the server, one smart phone using IMAP and trying to replicate.

If you've got yourself tied up, most providers have help documents that describe in detail how to set-up each device properly, just read carefully and follow the step-by-step instructions. If you get stuck or you can’t untie yourself, you know where to come.

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Added: 1st July 2015

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