Email and webmail

There are two main types of email, client-based email and webmail. Client-based email is often used by business users and involves the email being downloaded from a server to an application (such as Microsoft Outlook or Mozilla Thunderbird) on the user’s computer. Webmail is accessed through a web browser and can be accessed from any computer with an internet connection.

Client-based email

To set up this type of email you need:

  • a computer
  • an internet connection
  • an account with an ISP (Internet Service Provider)
  • an email application, eg Outlook, Thunderbird or Entourage

Your Internet Service Provider will give you an email account, a password and a mailbox such as

With a dial-up connection you have to pay the cost of your internet phone calls (local rate) and in most cases a subscription to your provider (though some are free). Dial-up users can download their emails and read them offline to keep costs down.

A broadband connection is 'always on' with a flat-rate subscription. Very few people pay by the minute nowadays and the majority of people pay a monthly fee for broadband access.

Anti-virus scanning is becoming standard on email accounts and many email providers now offer a spam (electronic junk mail) filtering service.


Webmail, as its name suggests, is web-based email. To use webmail you do not need any email software - just a computer connected to the internet and a browser. Webmail accounts are usually free.

Users simply sign up to a webmail service such as Googlemail, Hotmail or Yahoo. They are then given a unique user name, password and a personal mailbox. The mailbox is accessed by visiting a specific web address and logging in. Once logged in, users can send and receive messages.

The advantage of webmail is that users can receive and send email from any computer in the world with internet access and a browser.

Some ISPs will enable their customers to access their mailbox via webmail as well as through the email software on their PC.

Comparison between Webmail and Client-based email on a PC and tablet device