Friday musings about… Lotus Notes?

Lotus Notes/Domino isn’t something I’ve thought about much lately at all. I’ve not been working with it for the past few years (which I’ll comment on later in this post, because, reasons), however this week coming across a conversation on a popular social media platform got me thinking about a few things.

The post was asking for suggestions for an on-premises email solution that “isn’t Exchange”, and it didn’t take long before some comments about Lotus Notes crept in (image heavily edited, lots of other replies removed, I only left in the anti-Notes ones):

I found this interesting for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, these were technology people, and they didn’t know the difference between the Lotus Notes client and the Lotus Domino Server. How many “IT Professionals” (I hate that term so much) would have a hard time differentiating between Exchange and Outlook, even if they didn’t work with it regularly? I’d wager that most people would be able to make the Exchange/Outlook distinction, but Notes/Domino are always conflated – branding fail there, IBM.

Secondly and more interesting is that Domino server would probably be a great choice for the stated requirements. You can connect any email client up to it, it has great webmail (well it did last time I looked) and would give you the ability to have a nice non-Exchange option without having to resort to a lesser known brand name or product. “No one ever got fired for buying IBM” and all that, you’d think that support should be easy to obtain (which is not really the case here in New Zealand, although again a disclaimer should be issued that I’m a little out of touch here) compared to some of the lesser known and open source options. It also has a very good track record in terms of security, even if some people might say that’s “security through obscurity”. Of course I can’t comment on cost, because IBM’s licensing changed every few months when I was working with it, however based on the state of play when I last looked they were making progress in providing better licensing options so I’d wager that there’d be a competitive pricing option available now.

(Mini musing – it’d be very interesting to know which version of the Notes client people above had been exposed to.)

My point being that it’s interesting to see a good server product being automatically dismissed because of people’s conceptions about the client (which you’re not forced to use, except for admin, although even that can all be done on the web now).

A final internal musing was made was on how little I miss having anything to do with running an on-premises mail server. I understand that cloud hosted email isn’t for everyone, but these days I’m very thankful to take any opportunity reduce the amount of infrastructure that I’m responsible for.

I mentioned in the opening paragraph that I’m no longer working with Notes/Domino, and I’m really REALLY glad about that - which probably makes the rest of this post seem a little strange, so I feel compelled to offer an explanation of sorts. As a developer/company owner, working with the technology in this region (NZ) felt like an exercise in legacy support and very little else. Developers like shiny new things! Company owners like interesting opportunities! Notes/Domino in NZ did not have much of those things. However, I worked with the products for around 15 years, and I know its strengths as well as its weaknesses. The Domino Server is a pretty robust and reliable creature, and having compared notes (!) with a few Exchange Administrators (can you restore an individual mailbox in Exchange without having to restore the entire mail store yet? Serious question!) I’d probably be choosing Domino Server if I ever had to administer an on premises mail server again in my life (please no, please no, please no).

I also spent a few years working with ASP.NET/Visual Studio at the same time as doing some occasional Domino Development, and the time period in which that overlap occurred offered some very interesting comparisons in terms of innovations and changes introduced in each technology over said time period.

So yeah, I don’t miss Notes/Domino, but I can still acknowledge that it does some things very well, and I’d certainly never dismiss its server technology simply due to some pent up rage about the (non-mandatory to use) client software.

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Posted on Thursday, October 16, 2014 6:17 PM | NZ Notes/Domino

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