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July 14, 2010
How Does Email Work

What is this Email Thing anyways?
Yes, We use email all the time. Heck, in 6 months.. I’ve sent about 800 emails.. and those are just from my workstation. That’s excluding the emails I send from my iPhone or using webmail. We do take for granted that this all works…

Compare it to the Postal System…
Email works a lot like the post system in the real world. The way Email works is designed very much the same, just with less stops, faster delivery, and no awesome right-hand drive mail trucks.


  • Your mail client (, Microsoft Outlook, iPhone) has to connect to a mail server.The mail server provides 2 services. An outgoing and incoming mail server. Think of this as being that big mailbox that exists in your neighbourhood. You can go put mail in, for the mailman to take out the next day, and you have a box where you can receive any mail that people are sending you.
  • The next step of this, is how does your mail server know where to send the message. Yet again, it’s very much like real world post system. Your mail server looks up an “MX Record”, to know which mail server the message is to be delivered to. This is similar to how a letter you send has a postal code, so that the post office knows what sorting station the message is delivered to.
  • Finally, once the sending mail server has where to send the message, it connects to the receiving mail server, transmits the message, then waits patiently for your next message to be sent. This is the real world equivalent of the post man going to the mail box, emptying the mailbox of mail to be sent; taking it to the post office; the letter going through sorting; arriving at the nearest post office to the recipient and then finally going out with the mailman in his funny shorts to be placed in your mailbox.
  • After receiving the message, the mail server stores it, waiting for the recipient to check their email. This part is the letter sitting in the mailbox, waiting for Joe Average to check his mailbox for all his lovely spam letters and bills.

Email can be a pain, but at it’s most basic is fairly easy to understand. If you have more questions about email, let us know!