First let me say that if your emails are important to you, do not ever assume that you do not need to worry about backups even if you are using web based mail. And by the way, if you are using Outlook don't forget to backup your NK2 file as well as your Outlook PST file so you don't lose your Auto-Fill Address book. There are plenty of reports of people losing emails with web based email accounts such as gmail, yahoo, MSN or AOL. And as far as email service through your ISP goes, trust them even less.
Just to give you a little story that happened to me a few years ago: I woke up one morning to my username and password being rejected when I tried to sign into my online email with my ISP. I tried several times thinking it was a typo or I had caps lock on. But nothing, I kept getting username or password was incorrect. After many attempts I finally called my ISP and much to my surprise they said they had no record of my email address. Ok, wait a second here, am I going crazy? I explained to them that I have been signing in and receiving email on this account for over 6 years now and you are telling me that it suddenly does not exist or I guess I suddenly did not exist? They proceeded to take my information and said that someone would get back to me within 72 hours. Well to make a long story even longer, it took 2 weeks of my faxing and emailing them copies of old emails containing my email address to convince them that they were wrong. I finally received my email address back but without any of the old data and the explanation was it must have been a small hiccup during a server change. Fortunately, this was not my primary email account and I had all of the mail duplicated in Outlook anyway, but what a pain in the neck and it certainly taught me that anything is possible.
Anyway, back to your question. There are numerous types of email accounts as well as many methods to retrieve and read your email. Each has a set of pros and cons and much of what works out best for you will depend on your exact email needs.
TYPES OF EMAIL
This is an email account provided to you by your Internet Service Providers such as Comcast, Verizon, RCN or Time Warner. Mail can be accessed either by logging into the ISP website directly or setting up some form of email client such as Outlook, Outlook Express, Windows Live Mail or Thunderbird to read the mail.
You lose your email address if you change Internet service providers
Web Based mail can be slow and clumsy
You cannot access emails if your Internet connection is down
Mailbox storage size is less than paid email accounts
Attachment size is limited to their specs
Full 24/7 Telephone Support
Can be used with Email Client (Usually POP only)
Free with Internet service
FREE EMAIL - These email accounts Gmail, Yahoo, AOL and MSN are mail accounts that generally reside outside your computer and are accessed either through special software or via the internet. In most case you can also set them up to be access with an email client such as Outlook but this is normally the exception and not the rule. Some of the services may require a small fee to upgrade the account to be able to use these additional features.
Usually No Phone support for Free accounts
Web based interface can be slow and clumsy
Some services require paid upgrade to use with email client
Attachment size is usually limited to 10GB or less.
Cannot get to email if the internet is down
Mail box size is generally larger than ISP based email
Mail Service is generally Free.
No need to change email addresses if you move or change Internet Service Providers
WORK EMAIL - Most companies have their own email system which you may have been assigned an email address such as "your name"@your company.com. Depending on the size of your company they may have their own Exchange server or other types of systems that require you to use special software to log into your company system to get mail. Others may simply let you use an email client such as Outlook to receive your email.
Other than the higher cost associated with maintaining a server or paying someone to host your email, there are really no other cons.
You can access your email from anywhere.
View and work with Shared calendars and Documents
Mail is being backed up by the server
Attachment size is usually adjustable up to 50MB
PERSONAL URL - This type of email is where you have your own URL (like many companies). For example: your first name @ your last name.com. These types of accounts are not free and are usually hosted by some company such as Network Solutions or Godaddy where you have the option to use their web mail interface to read your email or you can setup an email client such as Outlook to read your email. You have the most options with these types of accounts and you can even pay to have a hosted Exchange account. The options are almost unlimited depending on how much you want to pay.
PROS and CONS
The same as the business Email above, but depends on how much you want to pay.
METHODS OF READING EMAIL
WEB BASED - Web based email is where you use your Internet Browser to go to a website to log into your email account to read your email. This is handy for when you are away from your computer or need to access your email from Work or while on vacation. Typical examples of web based email would be Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail and AOL.
COMPUTER EMAIL CLIENT "POP" - An email client is a program that resides on your computer such as Microsoft Outlook, Outlook Express, Windows Live Mail and Mac Mail that fetches your email from your provider at predetermined times and stores it on your computer to be read. The advantage of this is that you don't have to log in every time you want to read your email and it is generally faster and easier to use. Also you have access to your old mail whether or not you are connected to the internet or not.
COMPUTER EMAIL CLIENT "IMAP" - This type of setup is also client based and similar to POP mail but is more of a synchronizing connection rather than just fetching in mail like the POP account. The advantage of this type of connection is your mail is the same on both your computer and when you log into the web based version. IMAP is not available from all providers and usually not included with ISP based email. For example Comcast and Verizon do not offer this type of connection and I think you have to pay extra with Yahoo if you want IMAP. Note: This only will sync mail and will not sync contacts, calendars or task lists.
COMPUTER EMAIL CLIENT "EXCHANGE" - Microsoft Exchange is sophisticated email system that is normally used by companies and large corporations that require more features than your typical email system. You normally use this type of email with an Email Client software such as Microsoft Outlook but you can often log into the company email system to read your email with an internet based version of Outlook(OWA) as well. The main advantage of this type of system is that all your email, calendars, task lists and contacts are the same regardless of whether you are using your computer, your smart phone or the accessing your email via the web. Normally a local copy of the data resides on your computer as well as a server somewhere so you really do not need to worry about backup. You also have the ability to share your calendar and contacts with other users or have shared group calendars. In some cases you may also have some form of a shared or corporate document folders. Incoming and outgoing mail is usually scanned by the server for viruses and spam. In the past, you needed to have your own Exchange email server but in recent years it has become very popular to pay someone else to host your Exchange server. For Example: You can host(Exchange) a single email address on Godaddy for less than $9 per month and have all the email features of a fortune 500 company.
Sorry, I got side tracked again... The bottom line for you if you do not like your ISP's web based email and you need to read your email while traveling is you have one of 4 options:
1. Get yourself a laptop, Netbook, smart phone or tablet to read mail while away from home.
2. Change your email to Gmail or some other email system that has a better web interface.
3. Setup a Gmail account to read in your ISP email and use that instead of your ISP interface. This assumes that you don't mind the Gmail interface or at least prefer it to your ISPs own interface but this way you can keep your original email address.
4. Create a new email account with any other provider that you do like their email interface and simply forward all your email to that account. This could be AOL, Gmail, Yahoo or whatever.
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