What is SMTP? How it works?

Hi there! In this blog, you'll learn what SMTP is and how it works. This will be a bit technical but don't scared 😉

What is SMTP

SMTP stands for Simple Mail Transfer Protocol.

While POP and IMAP are protocols that allow you to retrieve email from a mail server, SMTP is the protocol that allows you to send emails to the mail server.

Specifically, the SMTP protocol is used to send email from an email client to your email provider's mail server, and to send mail between two email servers on the Internet.

When you use that free email provider, your email address uses their domain name and in turn, they allow you to use their email servers.

If you use their webmail site to read and send an email, they handle the email server settings that direct your incoming and outgoing emails.

However, if you want to use a local email client like MS Outlook, Apple Mail, or Mozilla Thunderbird you'll need to enter your email providers' incoming and outgoing mail server settings when you set up your client.

The incoming server setting tells the email client where it can retrieve your email from, and the outgoing mail server setting tells the email client where it can send your email to.

The outgoing server setting is also known as the SMTP server setting. Let's focus on the send mail process and role SMTP servers play in it. 

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Meet Maggie. Her email address is Maggie@yahoo.com. Though Maggie is using Yahoo! as her free email service provider, she likes to use the email client, Microsoft Outlook, for composing, reading, and sending his email.

To make sure Outlook can communicate with Yahoo's mail servers, she entered Yahoo's email server settings when she configured MS Outlook.

Maggie writes an email to a friend, Rohan, using MS Outlook. When she clicks send, MS Outlook sends Rohan's email address, her email address, and the body of the message to Yahoo's SMTP server.

Upon receipt, the Yahoo SMTP server breaks Rohan's email address into two parts: the recipient ID, or what displays in front of the 'at' sign, and the domain name gmail.com, or what displays after the 'at' sign.

The Yahoo SMTP server then goes out to the Internet, and through a series of server conversations, locates the SMTP server for the domain name, Gmail.com.

The Yahoo SMTP server passes Maggie's email to Gmail's SMTP server. Once Maggie's email arrives at Gmail's SMTP server, it remains there until Rohan logs into his Gmail account and retrieves the email.

Let's recap ... SMTP is the protocol that allows you to send emails from an email client to a mail server. Once on a sender's outgoing email server, SMTP uses the domain name in an email address to locate the recipient's email server where the email remains until the recipient retrieves it. 

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