A Guide to Email Clean-up
Published by Chris Hlubb , February 20th, 2017
For many of our clients, their web server doubles as their mail server. Regardless of if you are using a shared, private or dedicated server, most hosting companies do not place limitations on the amount of email any one account can have. While this sounds very inviting - especially if you tend to do a lot of work with email and need to keep your historic emails - the harsh reality is that, like any other file saved to your computer, server space is always finite.
POP vs. IMAP
When it comes to email setup for your programs such as Outlook, Mac Mail, etc., there are two types of setups: a POP account and an IMAP account. The major difference between the two setups is: a POP account is usually set up to download email off of the server to your computer and remove it from the mail server completely. That way, you have the email downloaded to your machine and it doesn't clog up your server. An IMAP account is like a mirror - it's a "reflection" of what emails you currently have on your mail server. One type isn't necessarily better than the other; it depends on how you want to manage your email.
Are you only using a computer at the office to access this account? A POP account may be the best solution for you. Or are you always on the go, checking your email on your office computer, your IPad, and your phone? You may need an IMAP account.
Mobile devices are just one reason why IMAP accounts have become a big deal over the last several years. IMAP is very helpful as you can view email on one device and then pick it back up on another. Plus, you only have to delete the email one time from any of these devices and it's gone everywhere. However, this is where many people get lulled into a false sense of security that they can continue to pile up email and not think anything more about it. You have to be diligent about managing the amount of email you have in your account if you choose to go with IMAP.
On more than one occasion, we have had to look into server issues for our clients that had to do with space problems. Your server needs "breathing room" to function at optimum performance. Between all of the functions that are going on behind the scenes, to the people who are accessing your website, to the space that is taken up by your web/email/etc. files, your server needs resources to carry out all of these actions.
The less space available on your server, the less space it has to carry out the necessary functions of keeping everything working in harmony. One time a client's website and email went down because they were basically at full server capacity. The main culprit? Of a 10 GB server, one email account had roughly 7.5 GB worth of email stored. Three quarters of their server was taken up by a single account - and it could have easily been prevented.
Stories likes these aren't every day occurrences, but they do happen. The whole point of this blog is to help keep your server from becoming one of these instances. I'm not trying to dissuade anyone from using an IMAP account. You just have to be smart about managing it.
If you do choose to use an IMAP account, either make sure you are regularly cleaning out email (and remember, junk email and trash email adds up to server space as well, so make sure you completely purge them out of your account), or download and backup your email every so often to a cloud based solution, computer, etc. You may also want to consider using an alternative for your email accounts by setting them up with a third-party vendor that works specifically with email, such as a company like Rackspace. You can also always go the route of adding more server space, if necessary.
If you choose to use a POP account, there are settings that will assist you in email server clean-up. While there are many different mail clients out there, one of the most commonly used is Outlook, and for purposes of this blog, I will be using it to explain how to avoid some of the pitfalls I outlined above with IMAP accounts. If you are using a different email client, it's very easy to Google your mail client and look up how and where to change your settings.
To begin with, when editing or setting up your email account, you want to click “File” in the top navigation. This will bring you to the Info section by default, with "Account Information" appearing in the right hand side of your page, as seen in the image below. Select your account from the drop down menu and click on the Account Settings button.
From here, you should now see the Account Settings popup, as the example below shows. Find your account in the list and double click on it.
This will bring up another popup box, which will have your setup information for your email account. This is where you have either your IMAP or POP settings. Since this is a POP account, click the button in the lower right that says "More Settings," as seen in the image below.
This will bring up the final poup box, Internet Email Settings. As seen in the image below, when this popup appears, you want to click on the tab that is labeled "Advanced." At the end of this box, there is a section labeled "Delivery." To make sure you are removing emails from the server with your POP account, you have two choices. First, you can uncheck the box next to "Leave a copy of messages on the server." This will automatically remove emails immediately when you download them to your computer or mobile device.
The alternative is to leave this box checked and make sure the box that says "Remove from server after 30 days" is also checked. You can change this number to any number of days, but 30 is usually the default. By setting your email up this way, you can still see your messages on the server with your other devices, but only for the amount of days that you select. Also, make sure the second item is checked as well, so that you delete any messages from the server that are purged from your trash folder.
Keeping these tips in mind will help your server run a bit smoother. And one more tip - as I've mentioned in past posts about changing your password, it's always a good idea to change your email password every so often to help thwart things like someone spamming your email. Happy emailing!
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