Lotus Notes? What’s that, you say?

Way back in the olden days, the training side of my company was taking off like wildfire. I had developed a few consistent and growing clients when one day my main client asked me if I had ever heard of Lotus Notes. I had heard the name but didn’t really know much more. She told me that I should get involved with it because it was going to be big.

Well, I listened and I learned. In short order, I had invested in a new box for the server, bought the software, installed it, and started developing applications. In those days, Lotus marketed the product as being soooooo ready to fly right out of the box with templates galore.

Remember Release 5 back in 1999? “Super Human”?

That was the last of the marketing. These days you never see any marketing. We’re up to Release 9 and Lotus is now owned by IBM. Those of us who are interested can find specs and press, but the average computer user has either never heard of Lotus Notes or complains about having to use it at work because it is the company e-mail. Many times Notes users don’t even know that it does anything besides e-mail!

When the client and server versions split into Notes and Domino respectively, back in Release 4.5, consumers seemed to fail to grasp the difference. Even today, when companies are seeking developers or admins, they never fail to ask candidates, “Do you know Lotus Domino?” To those of us who know the product, it simply points up IBM’s failure to be clear in their marketing as to the difference between Lotus Notes as the client software and Lotus Domino as the server side of their product to people who need to work with it as their productivity tool.

Anyhooo, I built a company based on Lotus Notes/Domino. I became a Lotus Business Partner and got all the Lotus Notes software as part of that membership. I passed the certification tests and had pretty wallpaper. My contract trainers accessed the Lotus Domino server via the web to get all the information they needed to complete their training assignments.

I built one database application for their classes and one to track the courseware they were sent. Another database tracked customers and another allowed us to exchange feedback, maps and directions to client sites, policies, procedures, and documentation.

As the Internet grew, so did we and I further developed our Lotus Domino websites so that contractors completely used the Internet for access to the server applications. I hired someone from Virgina as my Operations Manager. With Lotus Notes, he could stay on top of things anywhere he had Internet access.

So what made all this possible?

First and foremost, it met my needs for ease of use, sharing information and most of all, security. In my experience, little tops Notes/Domino for the number of levels of security or the certainty of maintaining that security. For instance, how many Domino websites do you hear about that have been hacked? I check our logs frequently and while many attacks are seen, none are successful.

Moreover, when was the last time you saw a virus originate from a Lotus Notes e-mail flaw compared to those coming from your friendly Outlook or Outlook Express clients? Good luck with that.

To those died-in-the-wool relational database fans, SQL, Oracle, DB2, MySQL, and others absolutely have their place. And Domino exchanges data with them all the time. For coding flexibility, Notes integrates its formula language, LotusScript (a form of Visual Basic), Java, JavaScript, HTML, XML and more to keep us all interested and awake. It even works on a variety of platforms.

If I sound like a commercial, I apologize. I guess I get a little defensive after hearing from all the sources that do not really seem to understand the benefits but are quick to point out the drawbacks. I always leave that to others.

For me, Lotus Notes and its evolutions met my information sharing needs and jump-started my IT career. Time for the next phase!