In response to our discussion about the difference between an email client and an email provider, a reader asked:

“What is the advantage of using an email client? My ISP is Xfinity/Comcast and my email provider is AOL. I can access my email on any device by logging into AOL.com. Why have an email client?”

For those that missed the original article, an email client is a program that allows you to download copies of your email messages to your computer. This is different from a web interface, where you open a browser to access your email from your email provider’s server.

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One reason you might want an email client is to manage multiple email addresses easily. I use Outlook on my PC and the built-in email client on my phone. This allows me to receive and send from multiple email accounts in one place instead of having to go to several websites to check them.

Another reason is that you might want to save copies of certain important on your device to access later. If you only access your email account by going through the web interface and you get locked out of your email for any reason, you could lose important messages. I’ve heard from folks who’ve forgotten passwords, had their accounts hacked etc… and lost pictures and attachments they really wanted. But since they hadn’t saved these things to their device, they were gone.  Also, you might want to be able to access something when you aren’t online. If you have an email client, your message is on the device.

If you use an ISP-provided email address and switch ISPs, you’ll lose all of your email unless you have it downloaded to an email client. If you wanted to close your AOL account or, God forbid, AOL went out of business or was hacked and messages deleted, you’d lose all of your messages unless they were downloaded to an email client.

Using an email client doesn’t prevent you from accessing your email from multiple devices. And you can alternate between an email client and accessing via a browser.