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All About Webmail, POP3, IMAP and SMTP

Confused about the difference between Webmail, POP3, IMAP and SMTP? No fear, read on...

Note: the examples here assume you have example.com as your domain name.


If you're relatively new to using email, or new to having your own domain and web hosting, you might have only had a Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail of some other free email service previously. These accounts are easily accessible and are designed to be reached anywhere in the world by only using a web browser. Similarly, you can reach your domain's email service by using a web browser through the use of Webmail.

To access your domain's email service, log in to http://example.com/webmail and enter your email address and password.

Webmail Programs

We offer you a choice in webmail programs. You can pick whichever one you are most familiar with, or the one you learn to like over time. You can switch webmail programs as much as you like, and you will still see all your emails.

  • Horde is a popular choice, but does require some configuration to make it behave the way users expect. (For instance, Horde does not use a trash can for your deleted emails.)

  • Squirrelmail is highly recommended as the webmail program you should use. This software behaves the way users expect. (For example, it sends deleted mail to a trash folder.) Also, Squirrel Mail has low amounts of graphics, which means faster page loads. We also find that SquirrelMail is more reliable. If your other webmail programs are not working, try SquirrelMail.

  • RoundCube is another popular choice. Again, just pick the program you like.​

Webmail is a great feature offered by cPanel. There are two ways that you can log into webmail:

  • Access your email through cPanel

  • Access Webmail via direct link

Log Into Webmail

When logging into Webmail, n the Email Address field, type your full email address (e.g. [email protected]) and in the Password field, provide the password which you provided when you created the email account.

Access Webmail through cPanel

Normally, users will go to >example.com/webmail (where 'example.com' is your actual URL) and login.

To access different email accounts through cPanel as the administrator:

  1. Log in to cPanel.

  2. Click on the Email Accounts icon (not the Webmail icon!).

  3. Find the email account you wish to access in the list of email accounts.

  4. To the right of the email account you want to access, click More, and then click  Access Webmail .

    A new page asking for your password will appear. 

  5. Enter the correct password (if you need to force your way in, you can reset the email password with the Change Password link on the previous page)

  6. Click on the web mail application that you would like to use:

    • SquirrelMaill

    • Horde

    • RoundCube

You have now accessed your email through cPanel!

Note: the Webmail icon in cPanel does NOT take you to the email accounts you created for yourself and your users.  Instead it shows you the default email account for your hosting account where server messages are sometimes sent.  Follow the directions above to use webmail for your email accounts.

Access Horde, Squirrelmail or RoundCube via Direct Link

As an alternative to going to Webmail, you can utilize one of the three default webmail clients through direct URL. Enter one of the following URLs in your browser's address bar, replacing example.com with your primary domain name:

Horde https://www.example.com:2096/horde/index.php
SquirrelMail https://www.example.com:2096/3rdparty/squirrelmail/index.php
RoundCube https://www.example.com:2096/3rdparty/roundcube/index.php

Note: due to the way the shared SSL works, you will have to accept the certificate warning to access the Webmail interface after navigating to the URL provided above.


In the days before Webmail was widespread, there was POP3 and IMAP.

  • POP3 stands for Post Office Protocol (version 3).
  • IMAP stands for Internet Mail Access Protocol.

If you use an email client program such as Microsoft Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird or Apple Mail.app, then you use POP3 or IMAP. 


When you use POP3 your email client accesses the mail server and sends your username and password. Then, it checks to see if there are new messages on the server and starts downloading them to your email client. In most cases your email client deletes the email off the server after downloading them so you don't keep old mail from taking up unnecessary space on the server. Sometimes, however, your client will leave the email on the server so you can access it from another email client on another computer or view it from Webmail.


Using IMAP is a little different. You still use an email client, but instead of downloading the email from the server like POP3 the email client reads the email directly off the server and displays it in your client. You can then delete it or leave it there for the next time you are checking email. 

To set up your email client for POP3 or IMAP using A Small Orange's servers, configure your email client's settings to something similar to:

  • Mail server: mail.example.com
  • Username: [email protected]
  • Password: password
  • ​Protocol: POP3 or IMAP, depending on which one you want to use


SMTP is short for Simple Mail Transfer Protocol, and is a method for sending mail from one computer to another.

Let's explain this with a little story about Bob...

You want to send an email to your friend Bob, who has an account at otherdomain.com. You already know that Bob's email address is [email protected], so you send him a message from your email client (or using Webmail) and address it to [email protected]. Your computer connects to the SMTP server and tells it to send the email to [email protected]. The SMTP server looks at the address and says, "I don't know who Bob is, but I think I can get this over to otherdomain.com."

The SMTP server then performs a series of steps to find out how to get the email to otherdomain.com. Then it connects to the other SMTP server who is responsible for all mail for otherdomain.com. When your SMTP server talks to the otherdomain.com's SMTP server they exchange a series of messages and ultimately the otherdomain.com says "Sure, I'll take the message to Bob" OR it will say "No, there's noBob here and we are going to return it back to the sender."

To set up your email client for SMTP using A Small Orange's servers, configure your email client's to something similar to:

  • SMTP Server: mail.example.com
  • SMTP Server Requires Authentication
  • Username: [email protected]
  • Password: password
  • Protocol: POP3 or IMAP, depending on which one you want to use



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