So I was watching one of those late night television news interview programs and they were talking all about Hillary Clinton and the emails she deleted. Now, this isn’t a political website here, but we do discuss things like email—and that got me to thinking about website owner’s email.
Most of us don’t set up our own email server in the house like Hillary. But, we do get a web hosting plan and create email accounts and manage our email boxes. So, what happens when we delete the email from our web hosting accounts? Is there a way to get the messages back?
The answer may depend on which email protocol you choose to use: POP3 or IMAP. You select your email protocol when you set up your email client such as Outlook, Thunderbird, etc. While there are advantages and disadvantages to both, the biggest difference between them is with POP3 your email is actually downloaded to your computer, whereas with IMAP your email stays on your email server and a copy is downloaded to your email client.
Unfortunately, in general, once you delete an email from the server it is gone. That’s where IMAP has an advantage over POP3. In order to recover deleted email from your web host, you’ll have to rely on a backup copy. While it’s always a good idea to run your own backups independently, your web hosting company should be running a backup of your account (including email) as well. If you use IMAP, your email stays on the server even when you read your messages, so this data is accessible for your hosting company to back up. Remember however, if you’re using the POP3 protocol, you’re actually downloading your email messages to your computer. Therefore, these emails are no longer on the server and can’t be backed up by your web host.
In order to recover your POP3 email, you’d need to make sure to constantly backup your local email data on your computer and restore from there. So, besides allowing you to access your email from multiple devices and locations, using the IMAP protocol also allows your email to be backed up by your web hosting company and to be available for restore.
As you can see, the key here is data backup. And, whether you initiate a backup of your web hosting account data yourself, or you utilize one made by your web host, using the IMAP protocol gives you a better chance of recovering your deleted email messages.