How Does An Email Server Work? [Technology Explained]

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How Does An Email Server Work? [Technology Explained]
How Does An Email Server Work? [Technology Explained]

Email is arguably on par with the evolution of alphabets in terms of inventiveness. We may IM and tweet all we want, but it would be incorrect to suggest that these shortcuts were created in part by the modest email. It has transformed communications, but it may have also signaled the end of the art of letter writing. But that’s because of technology.

Email is serious, yet it relies on numerous basic technologies that we take for granted when we click write and send. Each email is pushed over the internet by a strong engine known as the email server. Many individuals use email servers, but how do they work?

We don’t need to know how to differentiate a carburetor from a tailpipe to drive a vehicle, but when it breaks down, that knowledge comes in handy. Email is less likely to crash, but it’s useful to understand how Jim’s email may reach Jane half way across the world in the blink of an eye.

The Big Picture – How does an email go from Sender to Recipient?

Each email message is nothing more than a text file with attachments. An email, like all data sent over the internet, is divided into smaller packets. When the sender presses the send button, all of the packets are sent to a central computer (the email server), which hosts the email service.

The email service subsequently sends these packets via the internet to the server that hosts the recipient’s email service. The recipient’s mail server searches for his email address, finds it, and stores the email in his inbox. The email client reassembles the packets to form the whole message. Logging into his account, the receiver downloads the email.

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Step by Step – How the Little Parts Come Together

To write an email, add attachments, and other data files, we utilize an online email provider such as Gmail, Yahoo Mail, or AOL. We also utilize email client software such as Thunderbird, Outlook Express, Outlook, and Mac OS X Mail.

    • When we send an email, our computer connects to the mail server of our email provider. A server is a computer that is centralized and administers a certain sort of service. Emails, for example, are handled by an email server. The SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) server is the email server in charge of sending emails. One SMTP server may forward the email to another SMTP server, which will then relay it to the intended recipient across numerous hops.
    • Every email has the sender’s address (e.g., and the recipient’s address (e.g., in the To field. When an email is sent, the email client connects to the sender’s email service’s SMTP server (e.g. client sends the sender’s address, the recipient’s address, and the message’s content.
  • The SMTP server begins searching for the recipient’s location. It finds the domain name – – by using the recipient’s mail ID (i.e.
  • Nota bene: If the recipient’s email ID was the same as the sender’s, the procedure would be a lot easier. The email would have been routed to the SMTP server’s local outgoing mail server (POP3 or IMAP).
  • Each domain name corresponds to a distinct Web address known as an Internet protocol (IP) address. Consider them online postal addresses. The Domain Name Registry maintains the relationship between domain names and their IP addresses. The SMTP server then contacts the server that has the registry (The DNS Server).The address is returned to the SMTP server by the DNS server.
  • The SMTP server then forwards the email to the recipient’s email service’s SMTP server (let’s call it This SMTP server verifies that the email addressed to belongs to it before forwarding it to its counterpart, the POP3 server (or the IMAP server).
  • Post Office Protocol (POP3) servers are responsible for receiving emails. The number ” 3′ represents the protocol’s current version. Mail accounts are available on POP3 servers (our email IDs).Each mail account is associated with a username and password combination. Once sent to the POP3 server, the message is saved and maintained in the mail account until the receiver logs in and checks the mail.
  • An email client connects to the POP3 server and instructs it to enable email download. POP3 mailboxes do not save a copy of the email after it has been downloaded to the local system. As a result, you cannot check your emails from another PC since they have already been downloaded. IMAP was created to address this issue. IMAP4 (Internet Message Access Protocol version 4) stores a copy of the emails on the server. You may access your e-mail from any place with an internet connection.
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Simple notes of difference between POP3 and IMAP4

There are clear discrepancies between the two procedures. Because POP3 messages are kept locally on your computer, they are not restricted by mail size. They are also less expensive to maintain since they need less server storage space. However, if you decide to move email applications or even operating systems, they make it impossible to export your emails.

You may just download them again using IMAP. IMAP also uploads sent mail and drafts to the server. IMAP’s one obvious downside is its slower speeds due to server-based functionality.

POP3 is widely used, although IMAP4 is newer and more beneficial for some of these reasons.

I hope that the next time you sit down to email, you will appreciate the technological synergy that makes it all possible. Let me return to my email and see what it has in store for me right now.

Did you know, by the way, that email existed long before the internet? As early as 1965, most likely!

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