Web-Based Email Vs. ISP

by Nathan McGinty

One of the major decisions when setting up your email for your home or business is whether to use a Web-based email solution or turn to an Internet Service Provider (ISP) to manage your email traffic. Both alternatives have their pros and cons. Ultimately the decision will depend on how much money you have to spend and the importance of maintaining your email service.

How Email Works

When you check your email on your computer, the email isn't going straight from the sender to you. It first goes through a number of intermediary computers, called mail servers. The email message is contained inside an electronic envelope with directions to the final destination. The directions portion of the email is called the "header" and contains information such as the time the email was sent, the size and the destination. When the email gets to its final server destination, it sits there until it is retrieved by your email program.

Web-Based Email

Using Web email, you can check for email messages on any computer that has a Web browser installed. It doesn't matter where in the world you are, you can still get to your email. To retrieve your email, you navigate to your mail provider with the browser as you would navigate to a Web page. Once there, you log in and the browser downloads the email for you. The main advantage to Web-based email is that it is, in many cases, free, and there are a number of companies around the globe that offer this service.

ISP Email

With an ISP, your email resides on the ISP's servers. To check email, you will need to configure an email client to connect to the ISP mail server and download your messages. If your ISP goes down, or can't be reached, there's no way for you to get to your email messages. In addition, in order to be able to check the email, you will need to make sure that your email client has the proper settings. If you have the wrong incoming password or outgoing password, you're not going to be able to receive or send email. The main benefit of having an ISP as your email provider is support. If anything goes wrong with your email, you have someone that you can contact to help you look into the problem. As opposed to most Web-based email providers, ISPs charge for their services.

Which Is Best?

Determining the right email provider for your situation between Web-based email and an ISP depends on your needs. If you travel frequently and are looking for an email solution that lets you access your email from anywhere on the globe, a Web-based email provider is your best answer. However, if you run a business and depend on email for your livelihood, you probably want to look into the stability and level of service that using email through an ISP can bring.

About the Author

Nathan McGinty started writing in 1995. He has a Bachelor of Science in communications from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master of Arts in international journalism from City University, London. He has worked in the technology industry for more than 20 years, in positions ranging from tech support to marketing.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera email image by Soja Andrzej from Fotolia.com