image shows email inbox

We take email for granted and many of us get frustrated if we have to wait more than 10 seconds for email to arrive. What we don’t know is that email handling is a very complex set of handoffs and security checks on the internet. This article won’t get into the weeds about that, but here is a simplified explanation on how email works.

When you hit “send” on an email, the message is first transmitted from your computer or device to an outgoing mail server, which is often provided by your email service provider.

The outgoing mail server then communicates with the Domain Name System (DNS) to find the mail server responsible for handling the recipient’s email address domain, such as or

Once the recipient’s mail server is identified, the outgoing mail server sends the message to that server. The recipient’s mail server receives the message and determines which specific mailbox or user the message is intended for based on the email address.

Finally, the recipient’s mail server delivers the message to the appropriate mailbox or user, where it can be accessed by the recipient using an email client or webmail interface.

This process typically occurs within a matter of seconds, and involves several different protocols such as SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) and DNS (Domain Name System).

With that said, the speed of email delivery can also be affected by the volume of email being processed across the web at that moment AND the size and capacity of the individual’s mailbox. Any spam or virus filters can also bounce an email message.