Setup of email clients (MS Outlook, MS Entourage, Apple Mail, Thunderbird, etc) can be very confusing. Part of the challenge is the terminology of the settings. The first thing to understand is how mail travels between devices, through the internet. …I know, the last thing you wanted to do was get into a tech session where your head will be swimming. But, it’s very important to first understand how mail actually works before you can make some educated decisions about how your email accounts should be setup.

Terms:

Email Address – Really? do I really need to outline the anatomy of an email address? An email address is made up of a domain name combine with an account name. Example: billyjones@pinionmedia.com – where the domain name is “pinionmedia.com”, and the account name is “billyjones”.

Mail Server – The web/mail server is a shared server where mail is stored until you access it via POP or iMAP. Additionally, the web/mail server also can handle your outbound email for your as well with SMTP.

Email Client – An email client is the application that you use on your computer, phone, tablet, etc that handles your email for you.

POP (Post Office Protocol) – POP mail refers to email software on your computer that receives mail from a shared server (web/mail server). POP services allow your email client to pull email from a shared server where your email is stored and retain it locally for your use (usually in-bound delivery only). The interval at which your email client will retrieve your email is usually once every 10min, however, it will probably check for new mail every time that it sends as well. In most cases with POP, once email is retrieved to your email client, the shared server purges the mail that was delivered.

SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) – SMTP is an Internet standard for electronic mail (e-mail) transmission across Internet Protocol (IP) networks. SMTP services allow your email client to send email from your local device to a shared server, which will take care of navigating it through the internet to it’s intended recipient.

iMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) – iMAP is an Application Layer Internet protocol that allows an e-mail client to access e-mail on a remote mail server with a local email client device. In most cases with iMAP, mail is not retrieved to the email client like with POP, but rather mail is simply displayed to the user. A larger amount of internet bandwidth is required, and a considerable amount of shared server space is usually required with iMAP account users – to store email account content.

Username/Account ID – Your username or, in some email clients, Account ID is a setting that your email client will to use to authenticate successfully with a shared mail server. A username or Account ID can be an alpha/numeric set or it also be the same as your email address.

Password – Along with a username, every email account must have a password. This password is always used between the systems involved to retrieve email to an email client, but also required in some sending email functions. If you want to change your password, you must change it on the mail server, as well as the email client – so they sync.

Finally, with the terms out of the way you’re ready to get into the process of email flow.

Mail Flow:

When you create an email on your email client and click the “send” button, the email client negotiates the first step of delivery with the SMTP server. The SMTP server will be in charge of finding the recipient and starts the email on the correct path through the internet to the destination server. But, before I jump ahead, the “handshake” that occurs between your email client and the SMTP server is very important.

Connection: First, you must have the most basic of internet connectivity. You might be surprised that I have to actually put this first step in here, but I’ve gotten too many calls from clients who are attempting to perform email tasks without an internet connection. Without internet access, sending email is futile. So, be sure that all the basics of being connected to the internet are complete before attempting to send email. This can be done by simply launching a web browser and going to your favorite search engine to ensure that it’s up. Also, in this test, be sure that your not seeing the site through cache – go to a site that you don’t noramlly visit to ensure that you are getting a page fresh from the internet and not the cached files in your browser.

ISP SMTP: With a successful internet connection, you must ensure that your Internet Service Provider (ISP) allows SMTP email traffic over it’s network. Some ISPs limit, restrict, or block SMTP traffic through their network. You might ask, “why do they make it so difficult?” Well, because of the volumes of SPAM email that is floating around, and most importantly, the CAN-SPAM Act, all ISPs are responsible for the email that travels through their network. So, they want to ensure that you are doing what you are supposed to… or at least that there is a trail they can follow back to you if you are not. So, ISPs may customize SMTP settings to ensure that there is a level of security to the process of handling outbound email. Some of the settings involve using a username and password to authenticate as a customer of their network. They can also adjust the port that is used to send email, and then block all email traffic through the standard port. But, in some cases, they can completely block email traffic regardless of your settings unless you are sending email from a domain that is based on their network. I only state all of this because it is possible that you will attempt all of the methods outlined in this document still to find that you can’t send email. If this is the case, contact your ISP and let them now you are attempting to send email as a custom domain through their network, and need to know what SMTP settings they support.

SMTP Server: Once the SMTP handshake has been made, and the ISP has allowed your email to travel through, your email is stored on the SMTP server as the server negotiates the final destination of your email. First it checks the domain name of the email recipient address to ensure that there is a successful server that answers to this name. Once it finds the destination server, the account name part of the recipient address is tested to ensure that there is an account residing on that server within that domain name. If all is good, the SMTP server it sends it on to that destination server. If there is a problem, it’s up to the SMTP server to how it handles it. Some SMTP servers are setup to not let the email leave the email client until a complete look-up and destination is confirmed. Others will allow the email to go to the SMTP server for a period of time while the server continues the look-up process and delivery attempt. After the given duration, the server might deliver a message back to you letting you know, “The email was undeliverable after XX hours.”

Recipient/Destination Server: Once the destination server has received the email message, it is stored in the user account’s inbox. The message will stay there until the user “POP”s in and retrieves it to their email client, or reviews the inbox message with a iMAP client. Think of the Destination server like a PO Box. – Mail comes in and is stored there until you come (POP) in with your little key and get your email. With iMAP, it’s similar to calling your PO Box and asking them if you have any mail, and if so, to have them read new messages to you.

Retrieve Message: I’m sure you can guess the next step – the recipient retrieves the new messages by POP or iMAP using their email client.

Notes about common issues not previously mentioned:

SMTP – When sending email, don’t make the confusion about the fact that you can successfully receive email. This is common when clients start messing with their settings and inadvertently mess up their POP settings as well. So, remember, POP is inbound mail – Don’t mess with POP settings when you are only having problems sending! SMTP is used for sending your email. So, you should be looking at only those settings to correct a sending mail issues.

Mobile Devices:

What about Mobile devices. Well, since you now have a clear understanding about how email works. you could setup your email a few different ways to handle multiple devices.

The first option is to setup your email clients to iMAP to your email server. All of your email would stay on the web/mail server and there would be a record of all the email that you’ve sent and received. Trouble with this method is there is an excessive amount of storage required on the mail server to house all of your messages. Additionally,  there is a lot of bandwidth used to constantly sync each device-to-server so that message are displayed on each device the way that the server has them (from the last time a device checked).

The second method is much cleaner, but not as convenient. Setup POP at your main workstation where your email will ultimately reside… think of this location as your primary email location. If you have this workstation “on” and the email client is running, then email will not be delivered to your other devices when they check (POP). Now, setup your other devices to POP to the server, but leave a copy of the email on the server. With this method you will be able to shut down your workstation and head out to meetings with your phone in hand to check email. If something comes in, you can respond and BCC yourself. Then when you get back to the office and turn on your workstation, you will receive all of the email you got on your phone into your workstation including the BCC items you sent while you where out. This way is the cleanest and utilizes the least amount of storage and bandwidth. The trick is that you must quit your email client on the workstation before you head out… otherwise your workstation will be retrieving your email before your phone will get a chance to get a copy.

Pinion Media Server Settings:

The Pinion Media Server requires Authentication, and that authentication is the same settings as your inbound POP settings. So, go into your advanced settings of your email client and make sure that this is set when sending through any account setup on one of the Pinion Media servers. Further, you do not need any custom mail ports or SSL Cert settings.

Example POP:
Email Address: billyjones@example.com
POP Server: mail.example.com
Account ID: billyjones@example.com
Password: HBGTt254Dhdh
Example SMTP:
SMTP Server: mail.example.com
Check This server requires Authentication
Check to use the same settings as inbound POP server

Other Common SMTP Servers:

Aside from all of the horror outlined above about SMTP servers, here are the basic settings that you can use to send email (phoenix, Washington, Denver area):
Cox Communications: smtp.west.cox.net (no authentication required)
Qwest: Authenticate with a qwest account (or use your SMTP mail server settings outlined in the example below.)
Comcast: smtp.comcast.net (no authentication required)
Starbucks: (use your SMTP mail server settings outlined in the example below.)