Practical Ecommerce

Tech Support: June 2006

Question: What’s the difference between a web server and an email server?

Brian Getting: In this case, both the web server and the email server are software packages that provide services, rather than referring to a hardware server that is running these applications.

Web server software, such as Apache, handles the serving of web pages. It responds to HTTP (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol) requests for web pages and sends out the appropriate pages. Because the software is dedicated solely to web pages, it is called a web server.

An email server application, on the other hand, simply deals with email. Email is typically handled on a different port (similar to TV channels) than web traffic. The email server application responds to requests for email information, authenticates users to ensure security and then serves out email information. We call this a mail server because it is dedicated solely to email.

Question: My email provider describes my account as a POP3 account. What does this mean?

Brian Getting: There are two methods, or protocols, for retrieving email messages from a mail server: POP3 and IMAP. The main difference between these protocols is the way that the mail server handles incoming email. A POP3 account, which stands for Post Office Protocol, works by copying messages from the mail server to your local computer when you check your email. Depending on your particular settings, the messages are either immediately removed from the mail server or deleted at a specified time. They are not stored on the mail server permanently.

An IMAP account, which stands for Internet Message Access Protocol, sends only the headers for your emails to your local computer when you check email. Once you select a message to view, the entire email is the transferred from the mail server to your local computer. Email messages and organizational folders are stored permanently on the mail server.

The difference between these two lies in where your email messages, and associated folders, reside. With a POP3 account, messages are stored on your local computer, and not on the server. This can be a problem if you have multiple computers or mail clients that you use to check email. In this case, you are responsible for keeping track of which computer your email has been downloaded to. With an IMAP account, all email messages and organizational folders are stored on the mail server. This means that no matter where you check your email from, you will always have access to all of your email messages and folders.

IMAP email accounts require more server disk space. Because of that and other constraints, most email accounts are POP3 accounts.

Question: There are a lot of domain suffixes besides .com which include .biz, .us, and others. Do I have to register my name with each of these new suffixes to protect it?

Brian Getting: This is probably not necessary, although there are exceptions. Most people will look to register at least the .com and .net suffixes for their domain, simply because these are the most popular and will generally be easier for users to remember. Other suffixes such as .biz and .tv were introduced to provide more domain names, with the idea that suffixes could be used to convey context. For example, .biz is intended for businesses and .tv is intended for TV and video-related sites.

Before spending a bundle on registering extra domain suffixes, check with your legal counsel to get a clear understanding of the laws covering “cybersquatting,” as there are cases where your domain may be legitimately used by another company that has a reasonable claim on it.

When it comes to registering multiple domains, my recommendation is to put your budget into variations that may help you with search engines and not to spend your budget on extra suffixes. For example, the owner of would be better served by purchasing, www.bobswidgets. com and than by purchasing all available suffixes for “bobswidgets.” And remember to ensure that your multiple domains are not creating duplicates in the search engines.

Question: Why do some domains have two “names” in them, such as

Brian Getting: These are called “subdomains,” and are a way of using the DNS (domain name system) to access only certain parts of a website. For example, would direct Internet traffic to a folder called something located at mydomain. com. Subdomains can be used for a variety of reasons, such as to reinforce branding in your web presence. The example above,, does more to reinforce the ESPN brand than does

Subdomains can also be used to simplify the management of larger websites or to break a large web presence into discrete, logical sections. In this fashion, a larger web presence could be comprised of support, sales and other corporate divisions, which are all independently managed with no fear of interfering with each other. Although subdomains do not need to be registered, your hosting provider does determine if you can have subdomains on your account and how many you are allowed to have.

Brian Getting

Brian Getting

Bio   •   RSS Feed


Sign up for our email newsletter