August 30, 2006

Pushing email

Push email as the name suggests describes an email system where, whenever an email message arrives it is 'pushed' or sent to your email program. This is quite different conceptually from ‘pull’ email, where your email program (like Outlook) actively pulls email from your server (Bigpond) at either a repeating schedule or manually. ‘Push’ email has recently gained notoriety due to the success of RIM’s BlackBerry - a system designed in Canada that lets mobile users receive email instantly.

In a normal 'pull' scenario the email client, like Outlook connects to your mail server and says 'Do you have any mail for me?' If email is present the server replies and the email client 'pulls' the mail from the server. This is the most common form of email delivery as it relies on the user instructing the mail program to get the mail. This system was designed when permanent network connections didn't really exist. Remember the days of dialup when you weren't always connected to the Internet? Previously it made no sense for the email server to deliver mail to your program whenever it was received, as you might not have been connected to the network.

Now and in the future you are and always will be connected to the network - take the example of your mobile phone. Whenever your phone is switched on you are connected to the network, and the network knows this. That’s why you might receive lots of SMS’s when you turn your phone on in the morning. That’s also why you receive SMS’s instantly. ‘Push’ email is delivered in the same way as SMS. The network knows your phone is on and therefore you are connected and sends you emails whenever they are received without the need for you to ‘manually’ check.

‘Push’ email is a ‘hot’ topic at the moment, due mainly to the success of the BlackBerry – now companies like Microsoft, Nokia and Sony Ericsson offer their own ‘push’ email solution and this format will become standard across all mobile devices in the near future.