What Is an SMTP Server?

If daily life sometimes was not daunting enough, here comes SMTP servers to boost your confidence. Understanding SMTP servers can be tedious at times especially if you are not one who wears a “techy” hat and can figure out certain computer issues in a snap. Fortunately for you, in this article, you will not only glean a greater understanding of what they are and how they work but also get a better a grasp of other matters surrounding email and SMTP.

What is an SMTP server?

To begin with, SMTP refers to Simple Mail Transfer Protocol. Its central goal pertains to the sending, receiving or relaying of mail (outgoing) between a sender and a receiver. When you decide to send an email, the process will require a SMTP server address which is generally set by a mail client. An example of an SMTP server address is smtp.gmail.com. The location of the SMTP server address can be found in the settings of the mail client.

In the sending of emails process, it is the SMTP server that performs the processing function of determining the server that should send the message and then relays this message to that particular server. The receiver’s mail service provider will the download that message and so, that’s how an indication is made that there is a new message in that recipient’s inbox.

Why are SMTP servers important?

To answer this question, you can look at it two ways.

  1. Have you ever sent an email confidently that your recipient would reply and instead you get a message saying the recipient did not receive your message? Well that is because the SMTP server in the relaying process realizes that you entered a wrong email address and needs to indicate that this message could not be delivered.SMTP servers also act as a security measure to protect a recipient’s inbox from prohibited mail. The SMTP server checks to see if the outbound email originates from an active account.
  2. The next way you can answer this question is by asking what was the importance of a messenger pigeon flying out 3000 years ago to determine the winner of the Ancient Olympics? Like a pigeon, without the SMTP server, your message would not reach to your recipient. The moment you “send” a message, your email is broken down into code and is directed to the SMTP server.The SMTP server has the ability to interpret this code then passes it on to the recipient. If the SMTP server was absent, your message would be lost out there somewhere.

Is an SMTP Server a normal server?

The direct answer is Yes! Technically. The purpose of a normal server is to process data with the intention to send this data to another server. The specific purpose surrounds processing data that relates to the sending, receiving and also the relaying of email. An SMTP also performs this function, continuously running with the expectation of sending a new message.

Can I use my SMTP from my web hosting provider?

The short answer is No. The SMTP credentials you receive from your web hosting provider are aimed at specifically looking at mail within a mail client interface like say Microsoft Outlook. However hosting companies like Hosting UK offer services like email hosting or hosted exchange emails which requires SMTP configuration.  This is where SMTP configuration is important. In your hosted exchange account, you can change the settings to link your account to your Gmail for example. This means you’ll be able to access your Hosted Exchange mailbox on Gmail. Click here for Hosting UK Exchange Email Setup tutorial.

Eager to learn more about email hosting options for your website? Here are ten benefits of email hosting for companies.

Glossary of  server terms

In further understanding more about SMTP servers and how they work, here is a compilation of terms which can help you along the journey.


Whenever an email fails to reach a desired recipient for whichever reason, this result is usually called an email bounce. An email bounce can happen for multiple reasons such as the input of an incorrect/invalid email or it could be a system failure of some sort. It is recommended however, that if you experience multiple email bounces with the same email address, that you remove that contact.


If you have a mailing list or you simply send emails regularly, it is recommended to keep your deliverability rate as close to 100%. Deliverability of course refers to the success rate of sending your mails to recipients.

Domain reputation

One factor that can influence your deliverability is your domain reputation. Different domains are viewed differently by email servers and as such, if your domain possess multiple spam reports, then the reputation of your domain can be tarnished.

Your reputation will play an integral role within SMTP, as it will determine who sees your mail. Your reputation can be impacted by different factors such as: Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM) or by an SPF record (a high rate of bounces, domain reputation, incorrect/invalid email addresses, spam reports etc.)

DKIM – Domain keys identified mail

The function of Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM) is to certify that the emails you send arrive as they are sent by you. In other words with a DKIM, there is a guarantee that what you sent to your recipient is what they receive. DKIM also impacts your reputation in a positive way.

We hope this explanation makes the world of SMTP servers a lot smaller. You should now have enough information to define key terms, evaluate email process activity and more. So, share how important SMTP is to the sending, receiving and relaying of email with your network. You can get quality support from hosting UK and get reliable hosting for your emails. Get started with any web hosting plan and set up your SMTP on our Hosted exchange plan today!