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Lotus Notes

Lotus Notes... is dead?

Well, there is not a day when you don't read it somewhere on the net. Professionals, even people certified and working on it have been discussing the demise of Lotus Notes for about 10 years.
And yet, there are more seats and servers on the planet every year.

Since IBM has bought Lotus in 1995, at which time there were 2 million Notes users worldwide. This has grown as of this writing (April, 2007) to a whooping 118 million.
This number is frequently compared to Microsoft Outlook use, but unfairly so, since Microsoft is counting pretty much any seat that uses Office (which includes Outlook), even if people don't use the program at all. Also, some of them will be homeusers, while Lotus Notes is only used in the enterprise environment. While Outlook is used by many that have heard from a neighbour that is is supposed to be good, each one of these Lotus Notes seat know exactly why they use it and that there is no substitute (see features below).

The sadest story of all for me as an expert in Lotus Notes, with almost 10 years of consulting and troubleshooting experience is that most people and businesses don't even know what Notes can really do.
They just use it for e-mail and miss out on the best part of it.

Lotus Notes is always compared with Microsoft Exchange and unfairly at that, since Exchange does a little more than mailing, but Notes does a lot more.

So, why should you use Notes?

Well, here are the points that I always mention to customers:

1. Security

Lotus Notes has rock hard security and has so far with good reason not integrated itself in Windows security wise. One has to consider that Lotus Notes sported already strong encryption, public/private key authentication in 1998, when pretty all products of Microsoft still could not be mentioned in the same sentence as security without sounding silly.
Now, Microsoft is catching up. But, secure, stable and therefore mature and reliable software takes years and years to ripen and become so. Security in Lotus Notes is uniform in everything, applications, web, client, server and seamless and has been so for more than 10 years.

2. Replication

I can't believe that nobody cloned replication yet on other software.
Replication is a marvelous feature, providing total offline functionality and data distribution. While Exchange offers some offline functionality, it is still dependent on the server. In Lotus Notes, ALL applications, mail, calendaring and even databases are totally functional without a server, on the clients laptop, while on the road.
Replication also only copies changes to documents and works very fast and extremely reliable.
If you ever tried to have several accounts in Exchange and mirror them on several workstations and laptops, while still providing total offline access from every station independently, knows what I mean. In Notes, no problem at all.

3. Fulltext Index

One thing that amazed me in Outlook was the missing fulltext searching function.
What do you do when you search for a main in midst 120 mails? Wait 2 seconds... What if you have 200 or 2000 or even more? Well, you wait and wait and wait....
Lotus Notes treats a mailbox with e-mails like a database and is ready to handle tenthousands of documents, preparing a index that speeds up searching, making every search take the same time, 2 seconds, no matter how much data has to be searched. Want to include PDF documents and word and excel files attached in documents/mails too? No problem, tick a box and it is done...

It is always amazing for me to see that customers don't know the three big positives about Notes and many just think it is a less functional copy of Outlook.

Another great thing is, that everything is transparent. Much like the open source approach, all functionality that happens in Lotus Notes is scripted in formula or Lotus Script, which means that when something goes awry, I can actually find out, which has led me to promise "that I can fix any problem, no matter what" and so far I never had to break this vow (otherwise I would not dare to utter it).
As in open source, everything is possible, there are no limits of what can be done and fixed for a customer. The only point is, as always in business, how much time does it take, is it feasable?

Talking about this point:
It is one of the predominant points in companies take up of Linux. They can control and "own" Linux. Want a thing changed? Anything? Hire a programmer and all the doors are open.
While in proprietary software, there are clear impossibilities. Want to change the Windows XP TCP/IP stack, or change functionality in Internet Explorer? It cannot be done, simple as this.
Microsoft has relaxed this a little, in the shared source initiative, which is in my eyes more a PR stunt. In reality, the customer cannot get access to the whole source code and the control remains with the vendor.

this document was created on:
10. Oct. 2006
and last updated on:
9. May. 2007