Lotus Notes or Microsoft Outlook?

"Lotus Notes or Microsoft Outlook? We need to make a decision on an email solution for our organisation. Currently we have a Lotus Notes setup but many us are more used to Microsft Outloook. Could you advise on the following please

(1) Which is better , Lotus or Microsoft Outlook for normal run-of-the mill email requirements for an organisation?

(2) If Microsoft, is it possible to tranfer across from Lotus ?

(3) What costs would be associated with such a move?"


 This is a good question, and an important decision. 


Lotus Notes - Features and Benefits

lotus notes

Firstly, I must confess that I have never had the pleasure of Notes.  If your organisation is currently using it, you will be better equipped to identify the pros of Notes.  However, all of my reading on the topic indicates that Notes is a lot bigger than email.  In fact, Notes' anecdotal lack of support of html/css standards in the display of emails suggests that maybe email is not its best feature.  IBM have crafted it as a complete collaboration platform, of which email is just a part.  In all of my reasearch, a common theme is that if it is only used for email, Notes is largely wasted.  However, if its other features are harnessed to enable and drive the other business processes within your organisation.

For example, this excerpt from IBM
"Lotus Notes 8 is much more than email, unlike competitive offerings, Lotus Notes 8 integrates work by building in instant messaging and presence awareness, office tools to create and edit documents, presentations and spreadsheets and infusing a business' custom applications, including HelpDesk, CRM, Sales Force, Discussion Forums, Blogs and more."



Outlook - for Better and Worse

microsoft outlookOutlook, on the other hand, is all about the email.  Sure, it has loads of nifty personal information management tools, like the calendar, taskpad, reminders, contacts, etc.  But these functions are secondary to sending, storing and receiving email.  When integrated with Exchange server (Exchange is to Outlook what Domino is to Notes), calendars and inboxes can be shared, creating a neat and pleasantly familiar setup.  Outlook is easy to use, and in my experience, people love it.

When researching Notes, another consistent theme was that where Notes was bigger and better for more things, Outlook was reputedly a better choice for pure email.

Personal Experience

Whilst I have not had the benefit of Notes experience, I have had the following with Outlook/Exchange.

When set up correctly, Outlook and Exchange can work well and be a very pleasant environment in which to work.  However, Exchange is complex and difficult to administer, with a steep learning curve.
Outlook can cause administrative headaches regardless of Exchange, if, for example its local PST stores become corrupt, or for apparently no good reason.  Sometimes it just breaks.  I have, over the last couple of years, noticed a steady reduction in the amount of trouble staff at The Wheel experience as we migrate from Outlook to Thunderbird, an open source alternative email client.  Thunderbird has no calendar built in, but as it is from Mozilla, the people who brought you Firefox, it has a host of add-ons which are all downloadable for free, including a calendar.

Other Choiceskerio mailserver

The Wheel has chosen Kerio Mailserver as its email server.  KMS is specifically for email, but also includes task and calendar functions.  It is easy to administer, has all the features I would expect in such a product, such as integrated anti-virus, spam filtering, aliases, IMAP and POP3 protocols, etc, etc.  KMS also includes a good webmail interface as standard.


Migrating Email

Moving email systems requires some manner of export facility on the part of Notes/Domino, which can output your email stores, etc. to some simple and common format, e.g. xml or csv.  Then, your new chosen system must be able to import the previously output file.   Outlook 2002, for example has a host of options for importing different files from different applications. If you do decide to move from Notes, get help from your chosenIT support company: people get very upset when they lose their emails.   If you have yet to choose support company, maybe this project will be a deciding factor in the choosing.

Outlook 2002, 2003 can be used, with a downloadable connector to open your mailbox on a Domino server, so that could be a cost effective way of getting the familiarity of Outlook without the cost of a migration to another system.     http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/outlook/HA010739021033.aspx

Here's an idea

Another alternative is Gmail.  Many people do not realise that Google can host your entire organisation's email in Gmail, using your own organisation's domain name.   Using an IMAP (the protocol for web mail) compatible email client such as Thunderbird, or GMail's Outlook connector you can use your familiar desktop interface to access your Gmail, but equally you can access it from any web browser.  With no expensive server software, no hardware and no messing.  And to boot, you then have access to Google's other collaboration tools, e.g. it's spreadhseet, word processor, etc.