The diffrerent email protocols

IMAP, POP, EXCHANGE and SMTP

It is worth knowing what lies behind these acronyms you may find in some user guides.

he Exchange protocol (or MAPI, for Messaging Application Programming Interface) offers a set of functionalities with multiples features to access Microsoft Exchange. It is a de facto standard of Microsoft Windows operating systems for the email and workflow applications. The Exchange clients have the ability to access all public and mailbox folders, as well as electronic forms and Calendars, Journal, Contacts, Tasks and Notes.

If you want to use these features, for example the Exchange Calendar, you have to chose a client that supports the Exchange protocol:

The choice between POP (actually POP3) and IMAP protocols depends on your way of working.

If you need to access your email from multiple computers from within the School or from outside the School, then the IMAP will be the best for you.

On the other hand, if you always check your email from your personal computer and don’t need to manage your messages directly on the server, then the POP protocol might be the ideal solution. There is no protocol that is perfect for everybody.

Since most users access their email from different devices (work station at EPFL, laptop at home or on the move, smartphone…), the IMAP protocol is likely to be the more suitable to your needs today.

POP The POP protocol (Post Office Protocol), as its name implies, allows to check one’s email on a remote server (the POP server). This protocol was designed to access the received mail when being offline. By default, the messages are downloaded on the user’s computer. Pros: Simplicity and effeciency of the protocol. Messages are managed locally by the mail clients hence faster research and sorting. Implemented in many clients.
Cons: Backup has to be done by the user.
IMAP The IMAP protocol (Internet Mail Access Protocol) is an alternative to the POP3 protocol which allows to manage messages directly on the mail server. Pros: Messages management is easier when accessing one’s email from different places. Change of mail client is simpler since messages are on the server.
Cons: Disk space management is needed on the server. Some clients are slow when accessing folders with a large amount of messages.

The SMTP protocol (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) is used by the mail server to send messages.
The computer mail.epfl.ch is the main SMTP server of EPFL.

From outside of campus:
From a computer outside of the campus and without a VPN connection, you cannot use mail.epfl.ch as SMTP server; you have to use the one of your Internet Service Provider.
However, since March 2006, it is possible to use it via a secure authenticated connection. This makes more comfortable the user experience of people who use the same laptop on the campus and on the move. It may also be simpler to use a Web interface.