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What is SMTP in computing?



What is SMTP in computing?


You've probably been using email services like Gmail or Outlook without even knowing what they are called. But you know that when you send an email to someone, it goes through some kind of network service before reaching its destination. The name "email" itself comes from these servers which route emails across networks. And one such prominent protocol used by them is known as Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP). So how does this work exactly? Let's take a look at how SMTP works.

What is an SMTP server example?

An SMTP server sends out emails on behalf of another computer system running a mail client app. When we write our mails and click Send button, there is actually no transfer taking place until the message reaches the SMTP server. This means that your local PC is not sending any data anywhere. It only tells the SMTP server about the recipient address, subject line, etc., so that when the response comes back, the receiving end knows where to put everything together. That's why most people refer to the process as simply being sent via an internet connection.

This may sound weird since we usually think of computers connecting directly with each other over LAN cables, but SMTP uses protocols and technologies common to modern networking equipment. For instance, many ISPs provide their users access to email systems hosted remotely. In fact, almost all companies offer similar solutions. If you're curious, check if your company has its own internal email solution. Usually, this would be referred to as Exchange Server.

So now let's get down to understanding the basics of SMTP. How do I set up SMTP server for email?

Setting up an SMTP host requires two things—firstly, a domain name to identify the hosting provider, and secondly, configuration settings specific to your chosen application. Most popular webmail providers have tutorials explaining the setup procedure. Generally speaking, you need to go into your account settings under Accounts & Settings " Email Options. You'll find options for setting up outgoing messages here.

For example, here are instructions from Google's Help Center:

Once you enter your password, log into your My Account page and select Create new group. Enter Group Name and choose whether you want to make it private or public. Then scroll down to Manage Groups section and hit Save Changes.

Now, head over to the Admin tab, then click Setup next to your group name. Choose Domain from the dropdown menu. Now type in the domain name that you wish to forward your emails to, followed by Return Path information. Finally, add SMTPAddress —this will give you the IP address of your new SMTP server. Hit Continue and wait while the changes propagate throughout your organization.

Next, check Forwarding header option to enable proper delivery of incoming emails. Also, ensure that Use SSL/TLS for outgoing connections box is checked off. Once those steps are complete, you can close the window. Your SMTP server will be ready!

What SMTP server should I use?

There are lots of different SMTP servers available online. While some might boast higher uptime than others, choosing a reliable provider is more important than selecting the fastest. Here are just a few key points to keep in mind.

1. Does the email provider support TLS encryption? Some don't, meaning anyone snooping on your traffic could steal sensitive info like passwords or credit card details. Check if the SMTP supports STARTTLS command, which enables secure communication using Transport Layer Security (TLS) security layer.

2. Do you want to encrypt your communications further? Since SMTP isn't really a high-speed transmission medium, adding additional layers of protection makes sense. Encrypt your transmissions with SMPTS authentication.

3. Is your provider offering guaranteed 99 percent availability? Make sure it doesn't charge extra fees for downtime.

4. Can you control spam complaints? Spam filters aren't always effective, especially against phishing attacks. A good email provider should allow you to whitelist particular addresses and block unwanted ones. Alternatively, you can try configuring SPF record for better results.

5. Are you on shared hosting plan? Look for a provider who offers dedicated virtual space instead. Shared hosts tend to overload your bandwidth limits, causing slowdowns and disruptions during peak times.

6. Beware of fake websites posing as trusted email providers. They can trick you into giving away personal information, including usernames and passwords. Try contacting customer support first if you suspect fraud.

7. Read reviews from previous clients to see if they were happy with the level of service provided. Or contact a third party review site like Trustpilot [No Longer Available] to read feedback from real customers.

8. Find out if the provider allows customization of templates. Many email platforms offer hundreds of free themes to pick from. However, customizing your inbox appearance is also possible with little effort. Just remember that changing anything outside standard design elements might cause problems with existing user accounts.

9. Ask yourself if you'd prefer getting notifications by SMS. Although most mobile devices now come equipped with built-in apps for handling text messages, sending lengthy texts can quickly drain your battery. Plus, you won't receive responses immediately due to delays involved with cellular reception. On the other hand, you can configure your phone to notify you whenever you receive a certain number of unread messages.

10. Think twice before signing up for multiple services simultaneously. Using too much bandwidth can result in hefty bill. Consider buying a business class Internet package instead.

11. Don't forget to consider discounts if applicable. Often, paid plans feature special deals and promotions aimed at boosting retention rates.

12. Check if the provider charges extra fees for bounced checks, undeliverable notices, and late deliveries.

13. Check if the email platform lets you customize domains. Changing the From field to something else looks professional and gives the impression of a bigger operation.

14. See if the email provider provides multi-user management features. Managing multiple active accounts is easier and safer than trying to juggle several email applications.

15. Make sure that the provider's Terms of Service agreement includes language covering abuse reporting. Abuse reports often contain sensitive information that shouldn't fall into wrong hands.

16. Review the privacy policy statement thoroughly. Learn about the provider's practices regarding ads, cookies, tracking, privacy, etc.

17. Ensure that you understand the terms and conditions associated with storing files or attachments. Providers commonly stipulate file size limitations, storage duration, and maximum attachment count per user.

18. Take note of spam policies. Find out what actions the provider takes against spammers. Some providers require proof of identity before blocking a sender ID. Others ban entire countries from accessing your mailbox.

19. Compare pricing structures. Not every provider splits bills equally. Some charge extra fees for increased usage, while others base prices on volume.

20. Avoid paying monthly subscription costs unless necessary. Instead, opt for annual billing agreements to save money.

21. See if the email provider supports dynamic DNS updates. With this method, you don't have to worry about remembering static IP addresses anymore. Rather, you can easily change your hostname whenever needed.

22. Check if your preferred provider offers live chat support 24 hours a day. Support staff members can help troubleshoot issues faster and efficiently.

23. Get in touch with a representative to inquire about reliability guarantees. Knowing that you can rely on your provider's services is crucial when dealing with time-sensitive projects.

24. Keep track of changes made to your account. You don't want to lose access to your email because of unexpected modifications.

25. Know what happens after you cancel your contract. Will your account remain inactive forever? Is there any refund offered?

26. Be wary of signup bonuses. These inducements are designed to tempt potential subscribers. To win them, you must typically fill out surveys or perform tasks that benefit marketing firms.

27. Pay attention to expiration dates. Depending on your individual situation, your mailbox could become inaccessible once the trial period expires.

28. Remember that you may face temporary interruptions to your service. It's best to test drive a provider's email service before committing long term.

29. Familiarize yourself with regular maintenance procedures. Even though most providers include detailed guides on performing basic housekeeping tasks, you still need to doublecheck beforehand. Otherwise, you risk losing access to your mailbox unexpectedly.

30. Test your email regularly to spot bugs early. Bugs sometimes slip past quality assurance teams, resulting in faulty functionality.

31. Stay updated on current threats affecting your device. Keeping abreast of cybersecurity developments helps protect your digital assets.

32. Protect your password. Never share login credentials with anyone. Always create unique passwords and store them securely somewhere safe.

33. Back up your content frequently. You never know when disaster strikes and deletes vital documents.

34. Follow general safety guidelines. Being mindful of minor precautions can avoid serious accidents later on.

35. Educate family members about internet security risks. They can play valuable roles in helping you stay safe online.

36. Upgrade antivirus software regularly. Updating your operating system with new patches and fixes keeps malware signatures fresh.

37. Delete unused accounts. Having old junk lying around wastes precious resources and clutters your desktop.

Sending mail on your computer can be confusing at times because there are so many protocols and services involved. The most important one for email sending is "Simple Mail Transfer Protocol" (SMTP). It's also known as Eudora or Postfix. Let's take a look at what it does.

In this article we'll explain how you set up your own SMTP service using Windows' built-in tools, then explore some popular alternative methods that allow you greater control over your emails. After all, if you're going to use a third party tool, why not make sure you understand everything about it first?



How to configure the SMTP server?

First off, let's start with setting up our local SMTP server. There are two options here — either you install Microsoft Exchange Server or you simply run the command line utility smtpd from the Start menu. Both have their pros and cons. For instance, running smtpd will give you more flexibility when configuring your rules but requires installing software. On the other hand, you don't need any additional packages to get started with Exchange.

To begin, head into Settings " Accounts " Email accounts. Here, click Add email account... You'll see a window like above where you can enter details such as name, username and password. Entering these correctly will confirm your connection later.

Now switch back to the main screen and select your new account. Click Properties next to Send mail as... This should bring up another dialog box called Configure outgoing messages.. Select Custom port range... From here you can choose which ports you want to listen to incoming connections on. If you plan to provide access via specific IP addresses, check Use specific IP address instead. Otherwise leave both boxes unchecked.

Next, scroll down until you reach the section labeled Delivery and forwarding. Make sure Simple delivery is selected under Delivery method. Finally, hit Save changes and exit. Your system now has its very own SMTP server!

If you'd rather avoid making any changes yourself, try running smtpd directly within Command Prompt or PowerShell by typing msconfig /service smtp add and hitting OK. Then type netstat -a |grep 8025 to verify it works properly.

How do I find my SMTP server settings?

If you've just installed something like Office 365, chances are good that your internet provider offers an integrated solution. In that case, you may already know exactly who provided your SMTP servers. Head to Control Panel " Network & Internet Connections and open Change adapter settings. Find your active network card and right-click it. Choose properties, followed by Sharing. Under Connection security, ensure Secure RPC is checked.

For those of us without a dedicated source of information, several useful websites offer detailed maps of public SMTP servers. MX Toolbox lets you search by protocol, country code, domain extension, and even port number. NuYag's free guide lists every major provider around the world, including ISPs, hosting companies, telephone providers, and mobile operators.

Alternatively, you could always rely on Google Search. Type "site:mail-abuse.org [your desired destination]" along with whatever criteria you require, e.g., "mail exchanger list", "domain names lookup".

We covered three different ways you can test whether your SMTP server is configured successfully. Now it's time to learn what SMTP means and how it works.

How do I activate my SMTP server?

Once you've got your SMTP server set up, you might wonder how to actually send out emails. Fortunately, Microsoft Outlook includes a handy wizard that walks you through the process. First, go to File " Options " Trust Center. Switch to the Security tab and tick Enable trusted SSL sites. Next, expand Advanced features… and enable Automatically detect external Web pages containing links.

Head back to the previous page and click Trusted Sites.... Check the radio button marked Allow all unsafe websites. Hit Ok, then Apply. When done, close the dialogue if needed.

Finally, navigate to File " Info..." Scroll down until you spot Compose/send message. Right-click the icon and select Open compose window…. A new window will pop up asking what kind of message you wish to create. Click New Message... Enter your recipients and subject lines, fill in the body, and pick a location before clicking Create. All sent mails appear in My Sent folder, accessible from the dropdown menu below.

Of course, you can skip all the steps above and still manage your SMTP configuration manually. Simply follow the instructions laid out in the official documentation linked earlier and double-check against the help files included with various applications.

Let's say you haven't used outlook since college, or maybe you only ever relied on Yahoo Mail. Don't worry — there are plenty of great alternatives. We recommend checking out Gmail, which comes preinstalled on virtually every modern device. Alternatively, you could try a web client like Mailbird or Thunderbird.

Lastly, you might consider trying ProtonMail. Unlike regular email clients, they focus solely on privacy and secure communication. Their website feels less like a consumer product than others, making them easier to trust at scale. And unlike big tech, ProtonMail isn't beholden to government regulation or corporate influence.

What is the SMTP server?

As mentioned previously, SMTP stands for "simple mailbox transfer protocol." But what does it mean? Essentially, SMTP allows computers to exchange data between themselves regardless of operating systems or hardware architectures.

It was developed during the 1970s by Ray Tomlinson, a researcher working at Bolt Beranek and Newman Inc. In fact, he's often referred to as the inventor of email itself. At first, researchers wanted a universal standard for people to agree upon when communicating across networks. They settled on SMTP after discovering that each machine uses slightly different procedures while parsing the same commands.

POP3, IMAP4, NPMEP, LPRNG, VRFY, EXPN, UUCP, SENDMAIL, LOGIN, PASS, RSET, HELP, QUIT, etc. These were among the earliest protocols created by scientists experimenting with networking. Many of today's technologies wouldn't exist without them.

Here's a quick overview of how email worked back in 1973. As you can tell, it wasn't nearly as sophisticated as things would become 10 years later:

A user typed his email address into a terminal connected to ARPAnet. That address appeared in a special field in the header of the message.

An automated script picked apart the text in the email.

The message went to an online relay agent named FINDER

Finder forwarded the message to GATEWAY

GATEWAY relayed the message onto NSI

NSI routed the message to MAILSERVER1

That computer put together a copy of the message and printed it out.

Later, users added SPOOL facilities that logged all messages received. Eventually, they replaced the human operator entirely.

Fast forward to 1991. By then, the internet had grown tremendously. Users began demanding better performance. Relay agents became gateways. Spool facilities evolved into electronic mail managers. Soon, multiple machines were handling the entire flow of traffic.

Today, we refer to this setup as MTA (mail transport agent), which essentially translates between our words and the recipient's inboxes.

So yes, technically speaking, the term SMTP refers to a particular piece of software designed specifically for Unix-based platforms. However, it's commonly understood to describe the general concept of moving mail from one end to another.

Originally released in 1982, RBL (remote block listing) was intended to track spam. A few years later, USENet introduced the newsreader uucp. Over time, the acronym migrated away from SMSTPD to SMTP. Meanwhile, POP came to represent retrieving messages from remote locations. Lastly, IMAP stood for interactive messaging access protocol.

However, despite being widely recognized, none of these terms are particularly descriptive. Thankfully, MUA (message User Agent) offers a much clearer explanation. It acts as a bridge between email sender and receiver, translating between languages and typesetting conventions.

Is SMTP dead? Not quite yet. With millions of devices connecting daily, people continue to expect instantaneous responses. Even though our expectations have changed, however, the core principles behind SMTP remain largely unchanged. So long as humans keep exchanging letters, someone will eventually develop a way to automate the whole thing.

And once again, thanks to the wonders of technology, we no longer need anyone else to do it for us.

If you've heard someone mention "SMTP" before, it's probably because they're talking about something that involves sending emails or transferring files using SMTP servers. But what exactly does this mean? And why are people so obsessed with its acronyms?

Let's take a look at some common questions surrounding SMTP to clear up any confusion.

What is the basic difference between SMTP and IMAP?

When most people think about mail transfer protocols, their minds turn immediately to SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol). It's not surprising since SMTP has been around for decades, but there's more than meets the eye when looking into how these two protocols differ from each other.

Email services like Gmail will often tell you that SMTP is just one part of your overall online communication setup while IMAP is another component altogether. In fact, many companies have multiple ways to send out messages. There may be internal systems as well as external ones -- for example, if you work for a company that uses Microsoft Exchange Server, then chances are good that you'll communicate with coworkers via both Outlook Web Access (OWA) and Office 365 Messaging. If you want to set up an account on either service, you need to create separate logins, which can get confusing quickly.

There are also differences between SMTP and POP3 (Postal Organization Pronouncement 3), which we briefly discussed earlier. You should know that POP3 was developed by Microsoft specifically to support downloading messages from Internet-based accounts such as Hotmail, Yahoo!, etc., whereas SMTP was originally created by Tim Berners-Lee, who worked at CERN in Switzerland back in 1991. That said, POP3 is commonly confused with IMAP, even though they serve different purposes and aren't interchangeable.

So, now you understand the basics of SMTP and its relationship to IMAP. Next question: Who runs SMTP servers? Read further to find out!

Does all email use SMTP?

As mentioned above, SMTP isn't solely responsible for moving data across networks. Many popular email providers actually run their own version of SMTP rather than using it directly. One notable exception here is ProtonMail, which offers free secure emailing through its ProtonVPN technology instead of relying upon its own proprietary system.

But let's say you don't use Gmail, iCloud, AOL, Yahoo!, et cetera. Does that mean you won't ever see an SMTP error message pop up whenever you try to open an attachment from a friend? Nope. Even if you sign up for GMX, which is a private domain name owned by Google, you could end up receiving notifications every time someone sends you an important document. The problem lies within the nature of how SMTP works. While it takes care of the bulk of delivering messages, it doesn't do anything else aside from that.

In short, SMTP is mainly concerned with transporting information over wires. As far as security goes, however, it relies exclusively on public key infrastructure (PKI) certificates. This means that anyone can access an SMTP server without needing to verify identity first. To prevent abuse, modern versions of SMTP include features like STARTTLS, which encrypts traffic during delivery. However, TLS only protects against man-in-the-middle attacks. So, if you receive spammy links or attachments from untrusted sources, you shouldn't worry too much, unless you're trying to hide illegal activity from authorities.

Another potential issue comes from ISPs' refusal to block certain ports due to the sheer volume of legitimate network requests made daily. For instance, Comcast blocks port 25 for e-mails sent outside of the US, meaning that users in North America wouldn't be able to connect to foreign SMTP servers. Some believe that blocking internet addresses based on location violates international law, but regardless, doing so would cause widespread problems for those that rely heavily on remote connections.

Finally, note that SMTP itself isn't necessarily bad. If you use a reputable provider such as Amazon SES, you can rest easy knowing that your outgoing communications are safe and protected. And if you're worried about privacy issues associated with logging IP address details, you might consider signing up for a VPN service instead.

Now that we've covered how SMTP differs from IMAP, let's talk about where SMTP came from and whether it's going anywhere anytime soon.



Are IMAP and SMTP passwords the same?

You're probably familiar with setting up new accounts on various websites and apps, right? When asked to enter login credentials, you likely type in unique usernames and passwords that make sense to humans, along with special characters to protect yourself against brute force attacks. After entering your password correctly three times, you click Log In. Once you gain access, you can start exploring whatever cool stuff you wanted to check out.

It makes sense that SMTP follows suit, especially considering that it deals primarily with electronic correspondence. However, when it comes to sending personal documents, such as photos, videos, and audio recordings, you'll usually find that you can't attach them to emails using regular old SMTP. Instead, you'll need to reach out to whoever owns the website hosting the file and ask them to forward it onto intended recipients.

For business-related situations, you'll typically come across the term MAPI (Microsoft Application Programming Interface) when dealing with programs that utilize the Windows operating system. Although Microsoft no longer develops MAPI, it continues to exist today thanks to third parties like SynergySoft Software Corp. and others. Its purpose is similar to that of SMTP in terms of handling large amounts of incoming emails. However, unlike SMTP, MAPI allows organizations to manage their clients' devices remotely -- and sometimes even perform maintenance tasks -- via web portals. A big advantage of MAPI is that it supports non-English languages natively.

IMAP, meanwhile, stands for Internet Message Access Protocol. It was designed by Postmaster General Louis de Rochemont in 1983 as a replacement for Telnet. Like SMTP, IMAP handles the process of retrieving mail from its source to a user's device. Unlike SMTP, however, IMAP requires extra effort on behalf of the sender. They must manually add particular folders to their client software, such as Sent Items, Drafts, Trash, etc. Additionally, emails must go through a series of steps involving inboxes, flags, labels, filters, and search functions. These processes become increasingly cumbersome as the number of messages grows larger.

That being said, IMAP remains useful. If you're running macOS Mojave 10.14 or newer, Apple introduced a feature called Smart Mailbox that lets you sort your incoming messages automatically. Plus, you can always opt to store messages locally on your computer. Lastly, you can choose to download images attached to specific emails and save them to a folder on your desktop. If you'd prefer to avoid having to deal with all of this hassle, you can request a dedicated technical team to install additional software on your machine.

We hope you enjoyed learning everything there is to know about SMTP. Now feel free to continue browsing our list of FAQs below.


Author

Mathieu Picard

CEO, Anyleads, San Francisco

We are the leading marketing automation platform serving more than 100,000 businesses daily. We operate in 3 countries, based in San Francisco, New York, Paris & London.

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The perfect product to generate high quality leads from B2B to B2C.

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Extract emails, phones on the page of websites and download it to Excel or CSV.

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