Choosing an Email Service

Max Byte

6 November 2023

When it comes to email services, there are several types available, each with its own set of features and functionalities. For a layman, understanding the differences between these account types can be quite confusing. In this article, we will break down the differences between the most common email account types: POP, IMAP, Microsoft 365, Gmail Basic, and Google Workspace.

POP (Post Office Protocol)

POP, or Post Office Protocol, is a traditional method of retrieving email that works by downloading messages from your email server to your device. It’s a straightforward protocol that can be particularly useful if you prefer to keep a local copy of your emails.


  • Simplicity: POP is easy to set up on various email clients.
  • Offline Access: Once downloaded, emails are available to read offline, which is handy in areas with unstable internet connections.
  • Storage Management: Using POP can help keep your server mailbox from filling up, as emails are typically deleted from the server after download.


  • Multi-Device Access: POP doesn’t handle multiple devices well. If you download an email to your smartphone, it may not be available on your desktop client unless you adjust the settings to leave a copy on the server.
  • Backups: You are responsible for your own email backups since they are stored locally.
  • Syncing: Actions like marking an email as read or organising emails into folders won’t sync across devices.

In the age of smartphones, where accessing email on the go is the norm, POP’s limitations become more pronounced. It’s not the best fit for users who frequently switch between devices or expect seamless syncing of their email activities. However, for those who primarily use a single device and value having a personal archive of emails, POP remains a viable option.

IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol)

IMAP, which stands for Internet Message Access Protocol, offers a more flexible approach to email management compared to POP. It allows you to view and manage your emails directly on the email server, making it an excellent choice for those who use multiple devices to access their email.


  • Multi-Device Synchronisation: IMAP syncs your email across all devices, ensuring that your inbox, sent items, and folders look the same everywhere.
  • Real-Time Access: Changes made in one place, like reading or deleting an email, are updated across all devices in real-time.
  • Server-Based Management: Emails are managed on the server, so there’s no need to worry about local storage or backups.


  • Dependence on Internet Connection: Unlike POP, you need a stable internet connection to access your emails.
  • Server Storage Limits: Since emails are stored on the server, you may need to be mindful of your mailbox quota.

For smartphone users, IMAP is particularly advantageous. It allows for seamless access and management of email whether you’re on your phone, tablet, or computer. This real-time synchronisation is ideal for the modern user who expects up-to-date information across all devices.

Email Service Functionality

Transitioning from a work-based email system, like Microsoft Exchange that utilizes MAPI, to personal email protocols such as POP and IMAP, requires an adjustment in expectations concerning functionality, especially regarding integrated calendars and collaboration tools.

Microsoft365/Google Workspace (MAPI):

  • Integrated Features: MAPI supports advanced features such as shared calendars, task management, and complex mail sorting rules, particularly when paired with clients like Microsoft Outlook.
  • Real-Time Collaboration: These systems facilitate real-time collaboration, essential in a workplace setting, with seamless synchronization of calendar events across all devices and users.

Basic Email Services (POP and IMAP):

  • Basic Functionality: Designed primarily for sending and receiving emails, POP and IMAP do not inherently support the advanced features and integrated calendars found in workplace email systems.
  • Device Synchronization: IMAP allows for synchronization across devices but may not match the level of calendar and task functionality provided by MAPI.
  • Third-Party Integration: Users may turn to third-party applications for calendar features, and while some IMAP services offer additional functionalities, they are often separate from the email protocol itself.

Key Considerations:

  • Adjusting Expectations: Users accustomed to the robust functionality of workplace email may need to explore additional services or upgrades to enhance their personal email account’s functionality.
  • Calendar Services: It’s crucial to check if your personal email provider offers a calendar service and understand how it integrates with your email client.
  • Upgrading Solutions: For those dependent on calendar features, upgrading to a more feature-rich email service or utilizing dedicated calendar apps that sync with your email could provide a more seamless transition.

Microsoft 365 Email Services

Microsoft 365, formerly known as Office 365, offers a suite of email services that go beyond the traditional POP and IMAP protocols. It’s designed for both personal and professional use, providing a range of features that cater to productivity and collaboration.


  • Integrated Office Suite: Microsoft 365 emails are part of a larger ecosystem that includes Office apps like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.
  • Collaboration Tools: It offers collaboration features such as shared calendars, task management, and team chat within the Outlook email client.
  • Cloud Storage: Comes with OneDrive cloud storage, which is seamlessly integrated with your email for easy file sharing and backup.


  • Subscription-Based: Unlike POP and IMAP, Microsoft 365 is a paid service with a recurring subscription fee.
  • Complexity: The wide array of features can be overwhelming for users who are looking for a simple email solution.

For users who expect a high level of functionality, including integrated calendars that sync across devices, Microsoft 365 is a robust alternative to workplace email systems. It’s particularly well-suited for those who are already familiar with Microsoft’s suite of productivity tools and are looking for a comprehensive solution that ties in closely with their workflow.

Gmail Basic

Gmail Basic is Google’s free email service that has become a staple for personal communication across the globe. It’s known for its user-friendly interface, robust security features, and seamless integration with other Google services.


  • Ease of Use: Gmail’s interface is intuitive, making it easy for users to navigate and manage their emails.
  • Security: Google provides strong security measures, including two-factor authentication and regular security updates.
  • Integration: Gmail Basic is integrated with Google’s suite of services like Google Drive, Calendar, and Docs, allowing for a cohesive experience.


  • Ads: Being a free service, users will encounter ads within the email interface.
  • Privacy: Some users have concerns about privacy given Google’s business model around data and advertising.
  • Storage Limit: There is a storage limit for free accounts, which can be reached if not managed properly.

Gmail Basic is an excellent option for users who need a reliable and feature-rich email service without the cost of a subscription. Its integration with Google Calendar also addresses the common expectation for an integrated calendar, providing users with a solution that aligns well with personal and light professional use.

Google Workspace

Google Workspace, formerly known as G Suite, is Google’s premium offering for businesses and professionals who need more than just email. It encompasses a suite of productivity and collaboration tools designed to streamline various business processes.


  • Comprehensive Tools: Includes business-grade email, calendars, video conferencing, cloud storage, and collaborative documents and spreadsheets.
  • Custom Email Domain: Allows the use of custom email domains, enhancing your professional presence.
  • Advanced Admin Controls: Provides detailed admin controls for managing users, devices, and security settings.


  • Cost: Unlike Gmail Basic, Google Workspace comes with a monthly subscription fee.
  • Complexity for Casual Users: The array of features and admin controls can be overwhelming for individual users or those with basic needs.

Google Workspace is ideal for users who are looking for an integrated email and productivity solution that can scale with their business. It offers a level of professionalism and functionality that goes beyond personal email services, making it suitable for those who need reliable and expansive tools for their work.


Selecting the right email account type is crucial for your communication needs. Whether you prioritise simplicity and local storage with POP, synchronisation across devices with IMAP, the extensive features of Microsoft 365, the user-friendly experience of Gmail Basic, or the professional suite of Google Workspace, there’s an option that fits your requirements.

Consider your daily email usage patterns, device preferences, and the need for additional features like integrated calendars when making your choice. Remember that while personal email protocols like POP and IMAP offer basic functionality, services like Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace provide a more robust set of tools for professional and business use.

Take the time to evaluate each service’s advantages and limitations. Your decision will shape your email experience, so choose the one that aligns best with your communication style and workflow.