I have just started working for a growing small business. I am the first person they've had with any real technology background and from this point onward I will be organising and managing any IT systems for the business.

One task is to improve the email services to be more professional. The organisation started as a one-man small business using an email address from an ISP which uses POP only protocol - something like: [email protected]. This was the address all customers contacted the business owner on. The Business grew over several years and this email has become a catchall for all customer email to the business but now there is a front office team with multiple people on multiple devices needing to monitor the contact email account. But with POP protocol, only 1 device can monitor the email which is now an issue.

The ISP does not have an option to change from POP to IMAP protocol (that really surprised me, but its what the ISP support guy says...). I think the business really needs to migrate this to an [email protected] address on IMAP protocol, but there are thousands of customers using the current POP only email so that email address still needs to be supported in some way, for now anyway.

I am thinking of moving to a cloud based service for email such as google apps for work or office 365, do any of those types of email cloud services offer some kind of option to pull from a POP only email account into an IMAP enabled account? What is the best option to move forward to a better practice service for email but still keep the old email functional?

  • 1
    POP and IMAP are email retrieval protocols. They are not email account "types". You have a mailbox, you may connect to it via POP or IMAP, dependent upon what the email provider supports. The mailbox itself is neither a POP nor an IMAP mailbox, it is just a mailbox.
    – joeqwerty
    Nov 12, 2014 at 16:14
  • @joeqwerty I have changed wording to address your point about POP/IMAP being protocols rather than mailbox types. Is that better? I would appreciate any feedback you might give as to why this question got downvoted, I'm not understanding what the problem is with it.
    – abc123
    Nov 12, 2014 at 21:20

3 Answers 3


Move to new Service / their own domain. Have the current ISP setup a mail forward to the new email address, and hopefully an autoresponder that says something along the lines of 'In order to better serve you, we are now XXX@company. please update your address books'.

Gmail has an option to pop into your old mail account on a schedule, other cloud services might have something similar, but I would think moving to new mail system, and setup forward for old address/autoresponder for a while might be easier. Another option is to add signature to the end of all emails that say our address has recently changed, etc...

Edit by OP: I found the following gmail support article which I think adds to this answer, so adding it to the response: 3 ways to move email from other accounts to Gmail.

If anyone knows of similar instructions for other hosting services I think that would be useful too.


I find it hard to believe that any ISP doesn't offer IMAP support, but if they don't, there are many, many methods to import mail from a POP account into an IMAP one.

The primary question is, what do you mean by account? Do you mean the mailstore on the PC/mac/etc where it has been downloaded, or do you mean the account on the ISP's server?

Both are entirely possible, but the tools used to do the work vary.

  • The POP account settings have the usual POP configuration to delete server copies of emails after downloading, so there aren't any existing emails to migrate from a server perspective, existing emails are all on the client mailstore (the client is mac mail in this case). So yes, the mailstore on the mac will need to be imported into a new IMAP account. But I expect that to be relatively straightforward. My question is more to do with how should new and future emails to the old [email protected] email be handled?
    – abc123
    Nov 12, 2014 at 14:29
  • 1
    If you're going to maintain the account (as in continue to pay for it) just set up a forwarder (either in a mail client, or if the ISP permits as a .forward file, or sieve script, etc) and possibly an autoresponder that say "X has now moved to Y, please update your records/address book"
    – NickW
    Nov 12, 2014 at 14:34
  • I think thats it! You're right, but Doon has beaten you to it by 25 minutes :) But thanks so much, very useful!
    – abc123
    Nov 12, 2014 at 14:49
  • I'm absolutely fine being beaten.. it just means he understood your question better than me :)
    – NickW
    Nov 12, 2014 at 14:55

The default setting for nearly every POP3 email client is to delete messages from the server after successful download. (That incidentally is the reason that ISP's love(d) POP3, active mailboxes are usually empty and rarely grow to a sizeable fraction of their allowed size).

You can change that default to address to issue in your first paragraph. Simply go to the advanced setting and select the option "leave messages on server" (or similar). Then multiple email clients can share a POP3 account. Some clients even support a delete option that messages do get removed from the POP3 server, but only after a couple of days so all clients can download them first, and still prevent the ISP mailbox from filling up.
Most POP3 clients only download and copy new/unread messages to the email client and don't do mailbox synchronization, messages deleted from a POP3 server are not automatically deleted on the client and vice-versa.

That means that in the typical POP3 scenario all existing/old messages are stored on the client and there may be very little to migrate from a server perspective. Folders like Trash and Sent can only exist on the client too.

You'll have to re-configure the client with the new IMAP account anyway and then simply move/copy the locally stored messages from the local folders to IMAP folders in the email client.

  • 1
    Only issue with multiple devices simultaneously accessing pop3 accounts. is that depending upon the backend storage mechanism there could be file locking issues. If the SP doesn't offer IMAP as indicated by OP, it is likely that they are using something like MBOX files and locking is going to be bad with multiple accounts accessing it concurrently.
    – Doon
    Nov 12, 2014 at 13:56

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