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Dated: Aug. 13, 2004
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With the growing popularity of the Internet, email has become a part of almost everyone's life. Whether you use your email to correspond with family, friends, business associates, or all three, you need to be savvy to your vunerabilities when sending and receiving your correspondence. There are two basic types of email available to users of the internet. This article will explain the basic, practical differences in the two, and the pros and cons of using each.
If you get online using an Internet Service Provider (ISP), whether you have a dial-up account (you access the Internet with a telephone line and modem), a cable connection, or satellite connection, you are provided at least one mail box for email, and sometimes several, with your account.
These accounts are called POP3 accounts. POP3 refers to the protocol or language your computer and the mail servers located at your ISP use to communicate with each other. To access your mail account you will need what is refered to as a 'mail client'. A mail client is a simple application or program used entirely to receive and send email. Both of the most widely used internet browsers, Netscape and Internet Explorer, have email clients included with them. But there are also stand alone email clients such as Eudora, which can be downloaded free from the internet. The primary advantage to the POP3 type email account is that it is usually not restrictive of the size of files which you can send or receive. If you are, for instance, a music buff and love to share your mp3's with friends, this type of account will usually accomodate the large files. Another benefit of this type account is that in the event you encounter some kind of problem with your account, you normally have a live technical support person you can contact to help you remedy the problem. The newer versions of these types of email clients allow you to set parameters to cut down on the spam which enters your box. I have found these features to be only moderately effective, and a bit combersome to set up. There is one very important pitfall to using POP3 email, which every user should be aware of. Most viruses are transmitted through this type of email.
Many of these viruses are written to be specifically activated by usage of the email client which comes with Internet Explorer, Outlook Express. Therefore, always be cautious of any email you recieve, even if it is from a friend, when using Outlook Express. Microsoft works diligently at overcoming these vunerabilities in Outlook Express, but the internet hackers work just as diligently at overcoming these security features. Your only protection is to be aware of the problem, keep your email client updated with all patches and security fixes made available, and use your anti-virus program, keeping it current with all new updates also.
The second type of email available is what is termed 'web based email'. This type of account is found for free from dozens of internet services, such as Hotmail and Yahoo. The main disadvantage of this kind of account is the limited space you have in your mail box, and the limited size of the files you are allowed to send and receive. Most email users will not find this restiction particularly limiting, but if you use your email for business and receive dozens of emails a day, you will problably want to use you POP3 account. But there are other definate advantages to a web based email account. Filters are easy to use, cutting down drastically to your receipt of spam. Another advantage is that you can access your account from any internet connected computer anywhere in the world. With a POP3 account you usually must be logged onto your isp and set up the email client on the computer you are using to be able to receive of send mail. Another huge advantage of web based email accounts is that many of them automatically prescan all your received attachments for viruses before you download them onto your computer. This allows for the catching of many viruses which might otherwise infect your computer if received through your POP3 account. While you are not allowed the luxury of contacting a live technical support person when you encounter problems with your web based email account, I have found them to be relatively reliable and stable. I have had my own web based email account for just over six years and can only remember a few instances when I was unable to access my account for a brief period.
Each type of email account, web based and POP3, has its own pros and cons. Consider how you use your email and weigh the benefits of both types of accounts. Or, do as I do, and use both types.
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