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A *nix systems often takes a very different approach to handling email on a user's workstation than Windows. In *nix a "full blown" email server is often installed. In Windows, the normal approach is to install an email client only, connected to an ISP's email server.

IMO, the reason is that *nix came first and had to "roll more of its own" and deal with more variables because of the variety of approaches to email used over the years. But, that's a subject for some other page.

An email client gets mail from an email server via the POP3 or IMAP protocols, and sends email to an email server via the SMTP protocol. Once at an email server, email is relayed from email server to email server until it arrives at an email server which serves the addressee.

An email server accepts email via the SMTP protocol, figures out where to send it next, and sends it there via the SMTP protocol. If the destination is "local" to the email server, it delivers it to a local mail box (file). An email server is also known as an MTA (Mail Transfer Agent) but a local "full blown" email server may need other programs to fulfill all its functions. It may incorporate an MDA (Mail Delivery Agent) to deliver mail locally, IMAP and POP3 servers (often combined into one program or package) to deliver mail to email clients on computers on the LAN served by the mail server, and filtering programs like procmail or Spamassassin to filter out spam or deliver mail to specific folders by category. If the email server does not have a 24/7 connection to the Internet, a program like fetchmail is needed to get the mail from the "nearest" email server which does have a 24/7 connection.


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  • () RandyKramer - 31 Aug 2002
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