I thought POP was outdated - is it?
November 1, 2008 12:39 AM   Subscribe

Email Filter: Why aren't I using POP instead of IMAP? Which do you use and why?

I'm on an IMAP email account right now, accessed with Outlook 2007.

My email server automatically organizes received and sent emails into folders labelled by month and year. Thats great, I like that.

But every month I have to do a little ritual where I move out the older emails/folders in my email account into my Outlook local folders. (Because otherwise I run out of room; this is my school account which is my main account).

Its a little tedious, since Outlook wont allow selection of multiple folders, I have to move each folder out one by one, and I deal with a TON of email so the download process for each takes forever.

It occured to me that maybe I should be using POP configuation instead, set up to "leave messages on server" and "dont delete locally when I delete on server".

I've never used POP before, so a couple of questions:
--Wouldnt that basically eliminate this monthly ritual for me? I already have outlook doing automatic periodic local archiving labelled by month and year. POP config would ensure the emails are always local. (I wouldnt lose online access to the emails on the serveer either because of "leave on server" option). And when I'm ready to delete stuff from server and clear up space, I simply delete on the server (and my local copies are save because of "dont delete locally" option).

Does that make sense? Is anyone else doing that (for the advantages of saving/archiving/organization/management of vast amounts of emails)? And, if this is such a great idea, why isnt *everyone* doing it? Should they be? Isnt it a great way to automatically do the inevitable "move emails out to make room on server" routine? (Those of us who dont want gmail that is, who have business or school accounts as our main account but then have to deal with some kind of space limitation).
posted by jak68 to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I guess it's dependant on what your email provider gives you. With Gmail I don't delete any mails as the mail quota is massive. I access my mail via IMAP as I need the same set of mail in multiple locations, which POP wouldn't provide unless I synced my mailstore.

Using POP will stop the ritual, as it'll all be local in Outlook. By using POP you'll never have to clear it down on the server, as POP will remove the mail once Outlook has downloaded it, unless you've set the option to leave the mail on the server. What you'll be gaining is a ability to speed up the heavy lifting as all the mail will be local on your machine, instead of on the server, which is only accessed on a on-demand basis.
posted by Nik_Doof at 1:20 AM on November 1, 2008

I can't swear to this because I've not done it and I don't want to try it but ...

I use Thunderbird (rather than Outlook) to access an IMAP account and there appears to be an option to 'Delete Messages more than X days old'. I'm just wondering whether Outlook might offer the same option ? Presumably it would first need to ensure you had received a copy of any email it was going to delete and then go ahead and tell the server to delete it ? (There is another option to 'Always delete read messages').

This might be easier than switching to a POP account but have similar effects ?

As I say I've never used this aspect of IMAP so please check it out yourself first.
posted by southof40 at 2:26 AM on November 1, 2008

Response by poster: >"option to 'Delete Messages more than X days old'. I'm just wondering whether Outlook might offer the same option ?"

I dont see it for IMAP in outlook tho i see it for POP... I havent heard of those options for imap before. Its pretty neat that thunderbird has that. I use outlooks calendar and other features extensively though so I doubt I'd switch. I suppose it might be possible to create "rules" using outlook's "rules and alerts" feature that did something similar, I'd have to look into it...
posted by jak68 at 2:32 AM on November 1, 2008

Best answer: If you never need to access your emails from anywhere other than your local computer after a month, I think using POP3 and setting Outlook to "leave on server" for 30 days is a good solution, just like you said.

I have my work email set to POP3 on Outlook and the "leave on server" option set for 20 days. I have enabled the setting for "delete from mail server when I delete from Outlook", as that allows me to free up mail server space by deleting spam and other one-off items from both the server and Outlook in one go.

I download all messages to my work Outlook during the day, but I still have access to those emails via IMAP from my iPod touch or from the web-based email interface on weekends and when on travel. If I am working on something where I think I will need remote access to emails for more than 20 days, I change the option in Outlook. I also keep an IMAP connection to that email address set up in Outlook, so that I can download to my work computer a copy of any emails I sent via the iPod or the web interface.

This way, all my emails are stored locally on my work computer, except for those emails I need for current projects. It has worked well for me for several years.

...when I'm ready to delete stuff from server and clear up space, I simply delete on the server (and my local copies are save because of "dont delete locally" option).

My version of Outlook doesn't have a "don't delete locally when I delete from the server" option for POP3, but that seems prudent as well. However, you wouldn't have to do anything on the mail server at all really, as Outlook would automatically prune old messages for you, deleting all messages older than 30 days off the mail server.
posted by gemmy at 5:03 AM on November 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

It has worked well for me for several years.
With the iPod being a recent addition, of course. The same idea worked for the web interface before that, though.
posted by gemmy at 5:06 AM on November 1, 2008

Best answer: Of my 5 email accounts, 4 (including my main account) I use as POP. I have one IMAP account, and that's only because I wanted to see if it made any difference for me. It doesn't.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:37 AM on November 1, 2008

IMAP can be a real pain in the ass on a high latency connection, such as satellite. It's still worth it. I suggest getting a hosting package from some ISP (such as 1and1, $10/month) which gives you high quota IMAP storage for your own domains.
posted by thewalrus at 6:48 AM on November 1, 2008

I personally find IMAP very useful, because I access the same e-mail account from different locations (home, work, holiday etc). This means that whether I'm looking at e-mail via my Macbook at home, Outlook Express at work or webmail elsewhere, it's all the same. I don't want to keep having to sift through hundreds of e-mails each time I login via webmail!

The other benefit is backup, in that the e-mails and attachments are stored somewhere else so that if my hard disk dies at home, I'm not stuck without important e-mails.

However, if you don't check your e-mail lots in different locations (infrequently, and I suppose it wouldn't really pose an issue) and storage space is an issue (which it seems like it is) then POP would be fine as described by others.
posted by gkhewitt at 6:54 AM on November 1, 2008

I suggest getting a hosting package from some ISP (such as 1and1, $10/month) which gives you high quota IMAP storage for your own domains.

Google will do this for you for free through Google Apps (standard edition) if you don't have an objection to Google. It's an easy way to get email through your own domain but to still be able to take that domain elsewhere if Google ramp up the evil beyond your personal threshold. Ah shit, I just spilled water all over my keyboard. Teach me to answer askme's after I get home from the pub.
posted by markr at 7:46 AM on November 1, 2008

IMAP isn't necessary just because you have many locations.

I POP everything from GMail but also leave it on the server because sometimes I use GMail (web), sometimes Apple's Mail program from a few different Macs, and sometimes my iPhone.

I have had too many IMAP problems over the years to "trust" IMAP alone, I like having copies in a few places, and there's always the whole GMail might arbitrarily lock me out one day fear.
posted by rokusan at 11:06 AM on November 1, 2008

I generally prefer IMAP, since my mailhost is a backed up server with RAID disk in a data centre, whereas POPing to my desktop would put it onto a single-disk box that isn't backed up. It also means I can use Thunderbird at home and a webmail client when I'm elsewhere, with all my mail always available to me, regardless of where I am.

That said, your situation is a bit different to mine, because I basically have unlimited storage.
posted by rodgerd at 1:18 PM on November 1, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the ideas everyone.

Ok, after a lifetime of being on IMAP, I'm now a convert to POP.

Here's why:

-I know a lot of people who use IMAP recommend just upping the server space or getting a Gmail account with unlimited space. This is not an option for me, for a variety of reasons. So this post is obviously asking 'what are the rational options for people who either dont want to do that or cant do that'. So with respect to that:

Three challenges with email have always been:
a) Some method of triage of incoming email, to limit what you need to store in the first place, to keep long term important email information handy at all times, to shelve and archive the rest in some kind of orderly way so it could be retrieved with minimal effort if necessary.
b) Limited server space, which requires some thought-out strategy to systematically clear out email from server while balancing some level of need for universal access to that email.
c) Once its on your local drive, some thought-out strategy to archive those emails, to feed them into your existing overall computer system's data-backup strategy.

Here's what I've done for each of these concerns, while still using outlook:

a) Converted my main outlook email folder to POP. I set two options on it: "delete from server after 100 days", and "delete from server when I delete locally". (In outlook I was able to set both simultaneously). As a POP account, every email is downloaded to my local drive (into my personal folder in outlook, which is saved locally as "outlook.pst").

So this takes care of limited server space since it constantly prunes the data on the server. And it gives me a small window (100 days) of universal access to incoming email, in case I ever need to check mail through the browser if I'm not at my main computer. .

b) The above takes care of the limited server space problem. And sets up my next challenge: now that everything is copied locally on my computer's hard drive, how to manage those emails locally and how to archive them in my overall backup strategy.

c) Doing triage: Doing triage on incoming email is a good way to prioritize your incoming emails. About 95 percent of my incoming email I deal with once and never need to see again. These can eventually simply be archived and 'go away'. So I've created "category" folders in my outlook's main personal folders where anything I want to save from vanishing into the archive, I drag those emails into those folders and out of the inbox. So if its in the inbox, it means its "okay to eventually get archived".
(to help with this, I set up "rules and alerts" for any mail I get that regularly needs to be saved, so that those automatically get a copy put into their folders).

d) Now everything else that remains is destined for the archive. I set up auto-archive on just two folders in my personal folders: Inbox and Sent Items. (The other folders have auto archive turned off). On both of these folders, I setup auto archive so that every month it removes to the archive any messages over 6 months old. So my Inbox and Sent Items at any point only have about 6 months worth of messages. The rest is in the archive or in my special category folders.
That keeps my outlook.pst from getting too big, and keeps my local inbox copy from getting too big.
And so now I have TWO PST's: One is outlook.pst (the main account which includes inbox, category or personal folders, calendar, etc) and archive.pst.

e) So the last step is to feed outlook.pst and archive.pst into my overall computer's data backup strategy.
I happen to use syncback for my overall backup needs, where I set up profiles for different backup jobs to happen automatically. But the following will work even if you use something as simply as mozy. What I do with the two PST files is two things:

a) With outlook.pst, since nearly everything in it gets moved to archive.pst after 6 months, it shouldnt ever get too big in filesize. So this one I periodically (every three months) have syncback copy it to my main backup network drive. (Why three months? Because my emails will be located on the server for 100 days anyway. If i lose anything in that time frame, its on the server AND its on my computer.)

b) Archive.pst will tend to grow in size over time. Filesize can be an issue with backup sets (resulting in slow or stuck ftp uploads for instance). What I do here is, I set up syncback so that every three months (while its copying/backing up outlook.pst) it MOVES archive.pst onto my godaddy account (and renames the filename with a date stamp). The next time outlook autoarchives, if it doesnt find archive.pst, it creates it from scratch.. I tested it out, seems to work. So in the case of the archive (which already only contains emails 6 to 9 months old (6 months to auto-archive + 3 months for syncback to rename it), its moved off my hard drive too eventually in this way.

Thus-- every three months my outlook.pst is backed up (while server emails are cleaned out around same time), and my archive.pst gets catalogued and renamed. Wonderful. Small file sizes and the "stream" of emails from daily life are shelved away in a more or less orderly -- and automated -- manner.
posted by jak68 at 3:30 PM on November 1, 2008 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: >"My version of Outlook doesn't have a "don't delete locally when I delete from the server" option for POP3"

By the way gemmy, I mispoke there, I meant to say was vice versa, the option to delete or not delete on server when an item is deleted locally ;)
posted by jak68 at 3:35 PM on November 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

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