Which is better: a desktop email client or webmail? This question is so frequent that it has almost become preposterous but is still lives on in its full glory.
The internet is swarmed with hints and tips on why to choose one or the other, with both experts and average Joes claiming to have figured out the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything… at least when it comes to electronic messaging.
Chill out, folks! Both have their pros and cons, and the final decision is always personal and depends on preferences. Pretty much like with every life decision, big or small, people tend to make the best out of it, even when they lack the knowledge to make an educated guess.
Trials and tribulations are, fortunately, not so vindictive when it comes to email clients, for a simple reason: every service has an alternative, and every alternative another one… and another. The cycle goes on indefinitely, really.
Email is the most widely spread form of communication in today’s world; it is, hence, no wonder that every service minds the competition and keeps improving the offer.
Some email clients are more popular than others, but that does not necessarily mean that they are actually better. Who is to grade features by usability? While one group of users might be determining the best client going by advanced encryption, another one might be looking for larger storage space or stellar backups. Criteria are many and diverse, and what is defined as optimum for one user might not hold true for another.
Keeping all those variables in mind, the best approach would be to sort out your priorities before you even start looking for an email client. The next step would be choosing between a desktop client and webmail. The pros of the first are better encryption and the offline mode; the pros of the latter are portability and accessibility.
As for the cons, they are largely unique to each separate service. Going by common requirements, storage and attachment size matter to most users. To be fair, all of the most popular email clients, such as Gmail, Outlook, and Yahoo!, to name a few, are generous in regard to both. I.e., both Outlook (free version) and Gmail offer 15 GB of storage space, which is more than an average user needs, even if they don’t like cleaning their inboxes.
The common maximum size of attachment per message is 25 MB. Interestingly, the latter has ceased to be the determining factor somewhere along the road, with storage services being abundant and email services integrable.
Accessing and Storing Messages
One important thing to note is that desktop email clients store messages on the computer, whereas webmail stores them on their servers. That is to say, if webmail messages are lost, the user will need to contact the provider to restore them, check Mailbird.
Webmail is convenient because the user only needs to be online to check the messages from anywhere in the world. Its main downside is security. It is better not used from public computers.
Another con is the advertisements. Because many webmail services are free, they need to compensate for that. Desktop email clients, on the other hand, do not require logging in using the internet. They link to email accounts through IMAP or POP3 and use advanced encryption.
One of the main downsides of desktop email clients is that they lag in terms of system updates. While webmail is usually updated every couple of weeks, desktop clients rely on new versions, which can sometimes take years.
Choosing a Single Email Service
When it comes to desktop email clients, the most popular choice is MS Outlook. When it comes to webmail, however, the situation is somewhat more complicated. As stated above, most webmail services are free and offer a similar set of features. Some people use more than one service, while others choose to access messages from a different account in one inbox.
Arguably because of that, Gmail has been tremendously popular for years. Not only does it feature seamless forwarding and importing, but it also features easy-to-use customizable filters and folders.
The service is closely followed by Outlook.com (not to be confused with the desktop version; this one is free) and Yahoo!. All of these email providers are established names that have been in the industry for a while, meaning they have built a reputation with clients.
Keep in mind, however, that competition is fierce, and that today’s trends may not matter tomorrow. Some promising desktop email clients include emClient and Zimbra Desktop. emClient is already famous for its Deduplicator — the feature that detects duplicate messages, tasks, and contacts. Zimbra Desktop integrates with emails, contacts, calendar, files and documents by aggregating information across accounts and social media.
As you can see, the options are not lacking. Some research and comparison should do the trick when choosing the best email client for your needs.
Sam Makad is a business consultant. He helps small & medium enterprises to grow their businesses and overall ROI. You can follow Sam on Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin.