What is an SMTP server?
What does SMTP mean? We’re glad you asked. SMTP stands for Simple Mail Transfer Protocol, and it’s an application used by mail servers to send, receive, and/or relay outgoing mail between email senders and receivers.
An SMTP email server will have an address (or addresses) that can be set by the mail client or application that you are using and is generally formatted as smtp.serveraddress.com. For example, the SMTP server Gmail uses is smtp.gmail.com, and Twilio SendGrid’s is smtp.sendgrid.com. You can generally find your SMTP email server address in the account or settings section of your mail client.
When you send an email, with SMTP host Gmail or AOL, the SMTP server processes your email, decides which server to send the message to, and relays the message to that server. The recipient’s inbox service provider, such as Gmail or AOL, then downloads the message and places it in the recipient’s inbox.
Why are SMTP servers important?
Without an SMTP server, your email wouldn’t make it to its destination. Once you hit “send,” your email transforms into a string of code that is then sent to the SMTP server. The SMTP server is able to process that code and pass on the message. If the SMTP server wasn’t there to process the message, it would be lost in translation.
Additionally, the SMTP server verifies that the outgoing email is from an active account, acting as the first safeguard in protecting your inbox from illegitimate email. It also will send the email back to the SMTP sender if it can’t be delivered. This informs the sender that they have the wrong email address or that their email is being blocked by the receiving server.
If you’re looking for more information on SMTP, check out our post, SMTP Service Crash Course.
Is an SMTP server the same as a normal server?
Technically, yes. Like most servers, the SMTP server processes data to send to another server, but it has the very specific purpose of processing data related to the sending, receiving, and relaying of email. An SMTP server is also not necessarily on a machine. It is an application that is constantly running in anticipation of sending new mail.
Most server names are written in the form “smtp.domain.com” or “mail.domain.com”: for instance, a Gmail account will refer to smtp.gmail.com. But that’s not a unified rule, so you should pay attention and get the right SMTP parameters.
There are several ways to know your SMTP server name. Below you find a list of the SMTP settings of the most common providers; if you are using a very local or less known provider which is not on the list, you should have a look at its web page (and in case, don’t hesitate to contact it).
Remember anyway that only a professional SMTP server will guarantee that all your emails will be correctly delivered. Generally speaking, free outgoing servers like the ones associated to Gmail or Hotmail are not designed for mass email sending.