Everything You Need to Know About Mail Servers
Mail servers, also sometimes known as email servers, are the computers on the Internet that send and receive email. Without a mail server email would only work within a single domain. A mail server is like a mailman. It takes messages and sends them onto the next place they need to go and a mail server also makes sure users get the email addressed to them. There are outgoing and incoming mail servers and each works differently.
Outgoing Mail Servers
When you send an email you use a SMTP mail server. SMTP stands for simple mail transfer protocol. The SMTP server looks at the email address you are sending to, and consults a series of databases to translate that email address into the IP address of the computer who hosts that address’s mail server. Once the destination is located the text of the message and any attachments are translated into code and sent off to the correct destination. All of this occurs so rapidly, that to humans it often appears instantaneous.
Incoming Mail Servers
When email is received an incoming mail server has to translate the email back into a format readable by the user and, depending on the type of mail server and the specific user settings, it will hold the email and wait until it is asked for or it will push the email to the user.
There are two types of incoming mail servers, the POP3 and the IMAP. POP3 stands for post office protocol version 3. This type of mail server typically does not store copies of emails on the server, but instead pushed the emails to the user’s machine where the email copies are stored. IMAP stands for Internet message access protocol. This type of mail server always stores copies of email on the mail server. IF you read and receive emails on multiple machines, like a work computer, a home computer, and a smart phone, an IMAP mail server will be better to organize your emails and make sure emails are not accidentally lost.
Mail servers can also serve important security functions. Mail servers can be programmed to monitor certain types of suspicious email activity often associated with spammers. If thousands of emails are suddenly being sent in very short bursts, a mail server can blacklist an account and keep it from sending the emails.
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