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By Mike Barnett

RISMEDIA, March 24, 2008-When describing e-mail products and solutions, we hear many references to the terms “client-side” or “server-side.” So, what do these terms actually mean?

A good way to really understand them is to define them and describe the differences between the two.

barnett_mike_bw.jpgLet’s start with “server-side,” which refers to operations that are performed by the server in a “client-server” relationship. When something (a process, an application, a feature) occurs on the “server,” this is obviously referred to as “server-side.”

While the term “server” seems self-explanatory (a computer that “serves” out information), I think the confusion arises from the term “client,” which means any computer (laptop, desktop, handheld, etc.) that you are using.

An example of the “client-side vs. server-side” relationship would be the behavior between the Web browser (client-side) and website (server-side).

When you visit a website on your computer, you use your Web browser. You enter a Web address, and the request goes over the Internet and finds the server that hosts the webpage you are seeking. In this example, the browser is “client-side” and the website is “server-side.” In this client-server relationship, the Web server hosts the website files; the client hosts the browser that allows you to view the files.

How Does ‘Client-Side Vs. Server-Side’ Apply to E-mail?

Within the realm of e-mail, certain features and functions are better handled on the server than on the client and vice versa.

For instance, an auto-responder should be hosted on the server, rather than in your mail client. Why? Because the server is available on the Internet 24/7/365, so it can respond immediately (which is the purpose of an auto-responder), as opposed to your own “client” computer, which is typically only on the Internet when you are online and connected to your ISP.

“Rules” for e-mail are usually handled on the client side. After you download your e-mail from the server and into your e-mail client (Outlook, Thunderbird, etc.), the rules you have created from within the client will run.

In short, “server-side” is everything that the server does to collect mail addressed to you and place it in an inbox. “Client-side” is the method you use to get to that e-mail from your computer.

Mike Barnett is CTO and vice president of technology for InternetCrusade.

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