What is catch-all email, POP, SMTP, and how does it all work?
Question from HBT reader: Could you very kindly let me know if there are any good write-ups on Catchall Emails ? What I do know is that the Catchall email is hosted on the Server’s computers/servers and POP is for incoming mail, SMTP is for outgoing mail. However, I cannot understand how the whole thing works.
Let’s begin with a definition of Catch-all email. This comes from Google: “Catch-all addresses are created to ensure that messages that are accidentally addressed to an incorrect email address for a domain can still be received.”
So, For example, email sent to the addresses: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, will all be sent to an address that you designate as the “catch-all”.
And through the magic of email forwarding, mail that is snared by that catch-all address could even be automatically sent to another address.
Let’s look at email as it relates to ISP’s and Web Hosts, and then we will look more closely at definitions.
ISP (Internet Service Provider)
An ISP is generally thought of as the company that provides you with access to the Internet. An ISP may or may not also provide site hosting services, i.e. space on their server allowing users access to information you make available to the Web.
While ISP’s can and do provide website hosting, and all provide email services, the level of service and prices vary from company to company. An ISP is not usually the entity you will seek out to provide complex email solutions.
Web Hosting Company
A website hosting company can be distinguished from an ISP for purposes of our discussion. Website hosts are generally regarded as the suppliers of solutions to the email needs of their customers. So, obviously you will look to your host for email solutions instead of your ISP provider. After all, a good host is in the business of solving the needs you have – so that you may meet your customer’s needs.
Okay, let’s look at some email definitions:
SMTP is the protocol for sending outgoing mail. This is done through your internet provider (ISP). Your website hosting company does not route your outgoing mail unless they also provide a connection to the Internet.
POP3 accounts are simply your email addresses (firstname.lastname@example.org) that are resident on your host’s or ISP’s server. Incoming email that is sent to one of your email addresses is stored on your host’s server, but your email software (Outlook, Eudora, etc.), or service (Google, Yahoo) must be configured to retrieve the email messages from the server. POP3 is a method of retrieving your email from the host using your own email program or email service provider – a convenience service.
Forwarding is when received email is redirected to a different address you specify. Incoming email may or may not be at the original email address it was sent to — it is redirected and stored where you specify through forwarding.
Aliases can be designated by you, and allow you to create different email address names — addresses that you could give to the public instead of your main email address — and mail sent to those aliases is delivered to your main email address. Thus, your main email stays anonymous.
So, when a provider asks you to set up a catch-all address, it’s an alias for anything addressed to your domain. Think of it this way, let’s say your first name is Bob and your surname is Singasong, but people also know you as Silly Bob Singasong, Slim Singasong, and some just call you Singasong. Can you hold a tune? Doesn’t matter, since no matter what aliases people call you by, you will still hear what they say because all those names are a way of referring to you: Bob Singasong. As long as the surname is designated, you’ll get it. You can think of this central email location as a “catch-all” for anything arriving to @mywebsite.com.