How Email Works

What We'll Learn

  1. Internet Post Offices and email handling
  2. Web based email versus Apps and Desktop
  3. Switching to a free email for life

The Power of Email

Although there are many ways to communicate with others, email is the best tool for:
  • Tracking a conversation with someone when they aren't immediately available.
  • Conveying complex information.
  • Storing conversations for future reference.
In order to use e-mail, you need an e-mail account. You will get an e-mail address as part of the process of signing up for an e-mail account.  E-mail addresses are equivalent to a name and street address for regular mail. Here is what it may look like:

E-mail addresses have two parts
  1. The text before the @ is your account name
  2. The text after the @ is the name of your mail service provider, or post office
In order to send mail to someone, you need to know their e-mail address.

The Big Picture

In order to understand how email works, let's look at the following diagram:

Here are a few things to be aware of:
  • Incoming email is routed to your inbox and outgoing email is routed through your outbox.  If you lose your connection to the Internet, mail will be stored in your outbox until the next successful connection.
  • All of your email travels through Internet post offices, and is stored there unless you delete it. It is not on your computer or device. 
  • You can access and work with your Internet post office from anywhere and on any device.
  • You need to know your email account and password, and set up options to recover it if it is forgotten or compromised.
  • Your device will store some of your email locally so you can work with it when not connected to the Internet.
  • If your email account is with your Internet service provider, you risk losing your email account if you ever decide to switch providers.

Desktop Mail Clients

Getting e-mail from your local mail service (post office) is usually done in one of two ways:
  • Webmail - a program on the Internet at your email Post Office that is used to read, organize, create, and send e-mail. Webmail can be accessed using a web browser, such as Internet Explorer, and can be accessed from any computer connected to the Internet. Common webmail programs include Google's Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and Microsoft's (online). Your e-mail is stored and backed up on a system somewhere on the Internet.
  • Desktop Mail - a program on your computer that is used to read, organize, create, and send e-mail. Desktop mail must be set up on a specific computer to connect to a specific mail service, or post office. In the past, these programs provided a faster and more complete set of functionality.  Today, many webmail programs are faster and provide a significant amount of functionality. Common desktop mail clients include Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft's Outlook Express, Microsoft Live Mail, and Mozilla Thunderbird. A copy of your e-mail is stored on your local computer, and it is your responsibility to ensure that you back up any information you wish to save.

Free Email for Life

If you currently have an email with your Internet Service Provider, you can easily sign up for a free email address for life from one of the big three Post Offices on the Internet.  Then you can inform everyone of your new email and use this address without worrying about who is providing you with your Internet Service.

If you don't already have an email for life, we would recommend Gmail as one of the best options for email that is easy to use, sophisticated spam management, and lots of advanced capabilities that you could choose when you need them.  To learn more check out the website link below: