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Terry Rynda's Thoughts on Exchange vs. Domino

1) You will find that a "migration" to Exchange 2000 and the required Active Directory will be more work, money and headaches than you could POSSIBLY have with Domino. It will be more expensive, more work, and much less functional than staying with Notes. We are going through it now, and it is a nightmare. Believe it or not, most of the problems are with the Microsoft applications installed on the workstations. Apparently, the people that made laws barring incest knew what they were talking about.

2) Even though Exchange gets you in the door with slightly lower cost per user for licenses, you need to look at the TOTAL cost structure to realize that Domino is actually cheaper. After you factor in the cost for everything; licenses, hardware, support, Administrators for all the extra servers, Exchange is actually pretty expensive for what you get. The support costs, helpdesk and administrators, to support Outlook alone, appear to exceed the license costs. Exchange/Outlook is kind of a "valley-girl" combination. It looks attractive, but there is nothing between the ears.

3) You didn't say how many users you have, or the size of your current Information Store, so I'm going to use some real world examples from my place of business. I maintain one of the 4 servers in our Site, and we have 6 Sites. Anyway, each of the servers has about 1000 users with a 200M mailbox limit. We currently have an IS that is about 100G. The Notes servers that USED to hold mail now only do applications, and a few mailboxes. They also hold about 100G of data apiece.

The Exchange server is expensive. It needs a lot of horsepower. It needs a lot of memory. It needs a LOT of fast disk space. I just retired 2 Notes Enterprise servers that were still running fine. Pentium 133 EISA w/96M, and Pentium 150 EISA w 128M. Both were still working fine, with no complaints from users (granted, not a lot of users on them, but still handling mail and database applications). You can't even load Exchange on something like that.

4) Since we would have an IS larger than 16G, we needed to buy the Enterprise (expensive) version of Exchange. The same is true even in Exchange 2003. Domino will run on just about anything.

5) If you need to do any IS maintenance on the Exchange machine, you need to have at least 110% free space on the IS partition (technically, it can be elsewhere, but no one does it that way). That means we are now having to expand the 205G IS partition because it could not ever do an offline defrag or IS repair without more space. So now we are going to have to have a 450G partition to support the 100+G IS. If you need to do a mailbox restore, you need to have a near-twin server sitting around doing nothing most of the year, waiting to be called on once or twice. Yes, I know about brick-level backups, but I also know about the drawbacks with it. Configuring an Exchange agent for brick-level backup is not simple (although it should be). That 100G IS file is single-instance storage. Brick-level backup is about 4 times as large, and takes about 4 times as long. We start our backups at 8:00PM, and it runs for 4.5 hours. If we do the math, a brick-level backup would complete at 2:00PM the next afternoon. Very few users can access the server while it is doing a backup. And for those that can, the access time is unbearable. Sorry, we start work at 6:00AM. And every user needs access to their mail. We stopped doing brick-level backup real quickly. I know servers, disks and tape drives are relatively cheap nowadays, but that's still a lot of real nice hardware that sits around doing nothing most of the time. I would love to have one of my Notes servers running on the hardware we have committed to the Exchange recovery server.

6) The Domino servers, whether they do mail, apps, or both, only really need about 20G free space to give you room to breathe, not &at least 110%8 of the partition in use. If you have a problem with last nights backup, just run it the next day. No one even notices the load. It takes twice as long to run the backup, because hundreds of users are connected to the database applications, but the users don't notice any difference in speed. We tried that with Exchange. Once. Brought the whole business to a halt. No one could get Outlook to connect to the server to get to their mail until we got the job cancelled. Also makes testing your backup jobs kinda fun. Like every time you update/upgrade your backup software or backup agents.

7) If one user needs a restore on Domino, since they are individual databases, you do a restore of that file from tape to an alternate directory. Tell the user to get out of his mailfile or application. You can copy/paste documents from one database to another with your Notes client, or replace the whole database. No one else is affected. Takes about an hour, including the inventory of tapes twice (once for the restore set, then again when you're done for tonight's set).

8) An Exchange restore, unless you want to shut everyone else down, has to be to a recovery server (the near-twin server that sits idle most of the time). The 4.5 hour backup takes 13 hours to restore to a different server. We use an ADIC 8000 DLT, which isn't the fastest, but it's pretty decent, and it's physically attached to the recovery server. Takes 3 times as long to restore the backup to the local machine because the System Attendant service knows that the Registry isn't for the same server the backup came from. And you better start that restore right away in the morning, because it needs to be done in time for the tape drive to be available for tonight's backup. After you get it restored, you have to get the Directory to match up with the IS. More fooling around. Then you have to connect to it with a client and export the mailbox in question (or exmerge from the server) to a .pst file. Then you take that .pst file and either import to the users mailbox on the production server, or open it and copy documents. Calendar stuff shouldn't be copied, because it won't recognise updates to meetings. An import without duplicates is best. This is about 2 days of fooling around, and that assumes you have no problems getting the IS or DS services to start. It sucks. Exchange 2003 has a limit of 20 Stores. Still not as good as individual databases. If one of those IS corrupts, all users in that store are down until you get it fixed. Oh, and backups won't run until it is fixed, just in case it DIDN'T crash. We had this happen, when a transaction log corrupted, and Exchange committed it to the IS, corrupting it. Apparently, Exchange does do an integrity check on the IS, since it recognised the corruption right away, it just doesn't do an integrity check on the 5M transaction log before commiting it to the 100G IS and corrupting it. We restored from backup, and let it play back 3 hours of transaction logs, before it again corrupted the IS. We finally figured out it was a corrupted transaction log. Start over with another restore, then a lot of fooling around with checkpoint and transaction log files, to get it to keep almost all of the mail. Another 2 day job that should have taken an hour. And no mail in or out of that server during that time, and no users able to access their mailboxes on the production server, or use OWA through the recovery server.

9) Domino has a built in Certificate server, and can do S/MIME with about 10 clicks. You have to set your Person document on the server to keep Internet mail in the sender's format. You have to set your location record on the client to send Internet mail in MIME format. And you have to set your ID file to use that Internet certificate as your default when signing or encrypting Internet mail (assuming you have more than one Internet certificate).
Microsoft will sell you their Exchange Keyserver. (yes, you can run it on the Exchange server, but there is a reason they tell you in all their white papers and Knowledge Base articles to run it on a separate server. Actually, they tell you to run everything on a separate server....). More hardware and more licenses. And it gets really ugly with Active Directory. HA, we issue certificates from our Notes servers. Getting a certificate and installing it and configuring Outlook to use it and backing it up is about a 45 step process in the MS world. Takes about 10 clicks in Notes. Oh, and if you use XP and don't have Active Directory, it breaks every time you change your domain password. You have to delete your certificate from IE, and restore from backup. Notes keeps the certificate in your ID file, and you don't have this problem. UPDATE: and when you do migrate to Active Directory, ALL your Outlook and IE clients will be broken. All certificates will have to be imported from backups. Except for Notes, Mozilla, Netscape, Firefox, AIM. In other words, the only things that get broken in the migration to Microsoft Active Directory, are Microsoft applications.

10) Secure access from the internet to a users mailbox, or database apps, on Notes, consists of forcing port encryption on the Domino servers, and opening port 1352 through the firewall. Firewall Admin makes one change. Notes Admin checks the encrypt box in the Admin client, then issues a "restart port TCP" command from the virtual console. Done. Secure.
On Exchange, we had to set up Outlook Web Access on another server, set up and secure IIS (that's an oxymoron), set up Certificate Services (another real pain, with almost every Knowledge Base article telling you do it differently, and none of them working correctly), and force it to always use SSL. MS own whitepapers "highly recommend" that OWA not be run on a server that has user mailboxes. We use our recovery server, so it doesn't seem so much that the 450G of Ultra-SCSI3 RAID5 are totally going to waste on the server, waiting to do a restore. And it took a lot of time and firewall testing to get it to work. And it only works with IE. And it breaks every year, when the certificate expires. Then you have to learn Certificate Services all over again, unless you are an IIS expert with time on your hands, which you don't have, since you are supporting Outlook. Oh, and since we have to "reach" in from our DMZ, we had to set up a secure server that was exposed to the internet, using SecureID for authentication. More hardware, more software, more administrators. It was NOT an IIS server. Sun things just have to be done right (I know, I know, really bad Solaris pun...).

11) Calendar and Scheduling are awfull on Exchange. If you are going to use Scheduling for meetings, do not underestimate the problems this can cause. It doesn't get any better on the newer versions. They just don't care. The Marketing people can say they have it, and move on to the next feature. Well, Yugo's had four wheels too.
They have no tool to enable rooms to automatically accept or reject meeting requests. We use what most other people do, the free AutoAccept Wizard. It's a pain to set up for each room, and hardly a week goes by without 2 groups showing up somewhere for a meeting at the same time, and the room accepted both meetings. Or it won't accept a meeting for a time that the room shows as empty. Then you have to create a profile for that room, go in and turn off the autoaccept script, wait for the user to send the meeting request, and manually accept it for them. Then you have to remember to turn the script back on again. Apparently, the AutoAccept script doesn't look at the room calendar to see if it's busy. It looks at what it has accepted in the past. So if a user reschedules a meeting from 8:00AM to 9:00AM, the room will accept the change. Even though someone else already has moved their 10:00AM meeting to 9:00AM. As if no one ever reschedules a meeting, or moves it to another room. Leads to some very interesting explanations to both groups. And of course, neither group gets anything accomplished as they spend the hour arguing who had the room first.
The Domino Rooms and Reservations database is centrally administered, from your Notes client. You don't need to configure each room from a separate profile. And Calendar or Schedule problems are an annual, not a weekly event. Oh, and Domino understands time zones. Set up a group calendar, with users in multiple time zones, and everyone knows that you are on vacation Wednesday. On Exchange, if they are in a different time zone, they can't tell if you are gone Wed or Thur. It shows you gone for 2 days. The other coast thinks you are gone both Tues and Wed.
I used to think Notes was bad, because about 5 times a year we would have something weird happen in the Calendars. Exchange/Outlook has this about 5 times a week, which makes it 50 times worse.

12) TNEF. Stands for Transport Neutral Encapsulation Format. Sounds like some sort of Internet mail standard for Microsoft to play nice with the rest of the world, but it isn't. Actually a proprietary format. MS Marketing threw that &Transport Neutral8 stuff in there to mislead you. Outlook composes, by default, in Microsoft Rich Text. Other mail systems do not understand that format. When you create a Custom Recipient in the Global Address List, or create a Contact, if that Recipient does not use Exchange, you have to remove the default check telling the system to always send in Microsoft Rich Text format. Otherwise, your formatting, and all attachments will be received as a winmail.dat or ATTxxxx.dat file. We currently have two executives having a problem with this, even though the GAL and Contact entries say NOT to send in TNEF format. Even when Outlook is started in safe mode (outlook.exe /safe). UPDATE: This problem was finally addressed in Office2000 - SP3. Although we opened a support call to Microsoft on this, and worked on it for 4 months, they were never aware that it was a known problem. I found it documented in the SP3 fix list.

13) Support costs. We used to have about 5 end user calls a month when the mail and scheduling was on Notes. Now we have about 5 a day (we have been on Exchange for about 2 years, so it's not teething problems). In 2 years, I printed out a 2 inch tall stack of docs from the Lotus Knowledge Base. In 2 years with Exchange, I am now on my third 6 inch stack. We used to have time to proactively look for small anomalies occurring on the servers. Fix small problems before anyone complains. Now we spend so much time with end users, we only have time to deal with the bonfires. Small problems get ignored until they are big problems. Thank God the Notes servers hardly need any babysitting. They have been almost ignored for 2 years. The only time they need rebooting is when we have to apply Microsoft's latest bundle of security patches. And when they do need rebooting, they can be down and back up in about 7 minutes. If our production Exchange server hasn't been rebooted in the last few weeks, it has so many memory leaks that it can take 25 minutes just to shut down. And Domino stores "events" in a log file. It's a database that can be configured to contain x amount of days of activity. We keep 30 days on line, and if we pull the oldest backup tape, we can look at activity for the last 75 days. It can be configured to log a LOT of different things. It's searchable. Exchange keeps most everything in the Application Event Log. We don't have a lot of logging turned on, but even with it set to 16M, it keeps less than 24 hours of "events". Good luck searching. It's very time consuming to T/S problems with it.

15) Antivirus apps. Another example of superior design. Domino anti-virus apps check mail before it ever hits the mail.box of the server, from which it is distributed to the user mailbox. It gets scanned, even if it is destined for another domain. Exchange gets scanned only if it is destined for the Information Store on that machine. If not, the infected message is just passed on to the next server. Yes, I am also aware that the latest versions of AV software have FINALLY addressed this issue. We aren't using one of the latest. If Exchange wasn't so poorly designed, it would have and should have been possible 10 years ago. Stop it at the gateway, or as soon as possible.
And when a virus is detected, on Notes, we got a message From: the server; with a Subject of "message to Recipient". The message body said who sent it, what the attachment was called, what virus it contained, and whether it was successfully cleaned or quarantined. The Exchange system passes it on as appearing to come from the original sender, with the original subject, and all plain text that was in the original message. If successfully cleaned, there is a plain text attachment with a huge file name: VIRUS_DETECTED_AND_REMOVED_info.pif_VIRINFO.TXT, and inside that file it tells the user that it was successfully cleaned. There are two problems with this. We spent 10 years telling our users to never open suspicious mail or attachments. The Outlook client doesn't show the complete file name. The user sees the VIRUS_ part and wigs out. Every time a new virus comes out, the HelpDesk gets buried with calls from users where it was successfully cleaned. Even when the AV software does it's job, they get buried. And it's not like these are rare events. Can you say mo' money? When we were on Domino, the Helpdesk only got calls when a new, undetected virus came in. That's the way it should be. Notes also has this thingy called an ECL, Execution Control List. Sets permissions on who can do what on your system. When malicious code wanted to something nasty to your system, you had to grant it explicit permission to go screw with your computer. We almost never got an infected machine.
A user had to do about 3 dumb things in a row to have a problem. Now they just need to have the Preview Pane turned on, and they are in a dodgy spot already.

16) SPAM. Ok, I'll let Exchange off the hook for this, but only because now-and-then comparisons wouldn't be fair. We all know that SPAM gets twice as bad every year. Suffice it to say that I found mailbox rules easier to create and maintain for users with the Notes clients.

17) Did I mention that Domino is also a web and application server. Mail is about 15% of the real power of Domino. We have almost 1000 application databases on our servers, and most can be accessed with either a Notes client or a web browser. Even real browsers, like Mozilla or Galeon. And even if you have Sun Java. And those databases have lots of neat features, like unread marks. Unread marks are a HUGE timesaver. Let,s say you have a database shared by many users. Like, for example, a Helpdesk call ticket database. Several times a day you go to the section assigned to your team. A quick glance at the unread marks tells you which call tickets have been updated. So you can QUICKLY see what documents have changed, without having to open every damn one of them to see if anyone has updated it.

18) Client Replication. Notes will let you work out of either the mailbox on the server, or a local replica, and switch between them during the same session. If you have a slow network connection, you work out of the local replica, and Notes network compression during replication cuts down on the network traffic, and replication takes place on a schedule, in the background.
Outlook allows you choose the network connection type when you first start it up, and you can choose to work online (mailbox on server) or offline (local replica, .ost file). You cannot switch between the two during the Outlook session, and it remembers your connection type for that Windows session, so you usually have to reboot in order to get to the other mailbox.

19) Archive files burned onto CDROM will not open in Outlook. It can,t work with read-only files. You have to copy the CD to somewhere and remove the read-only attribute from the file. Notes doesn,t like read-only either, but if you update all folders and views in the database before you burn it to CD, it will work fine. If you don,t, it will complain and throw up error boxes, but if you just click OK or Ignore a few times, you can still read the messages.

20) Here is a real good example of the user friendliness of the two systems. You want to print a list of the members in a Group (Exchange calls these Distribution Lists). In Notes, anyone goes to the Directory, finds the Group, and opens the document. Select File ) Print. OK, done in 5 minutes.
In Exchange, a normal user cannot even do this. They have to open a call ticket to have an Administrator do it. You need the Microsoft Exchange Administrator installed on your workstation. Open it and find the DL in it,s container. Open the DL to view Properties. Click Modify, then highlight to select all the users. Copy it to the clipboard. Paste into a text document and save. You get a semicolon-delimited string. Still not useful. Open the document in Microsoft Excel by clicking Open on the File menu, and point to the text file. In the Text Import Wizard, click Delimited, then click Next. From the Delimiters box, click Semicolon only, and click Finish. The contents of the text file are now in Excel. The following steps will line up names in a single column and print the list.
In Microsoft Excel, select the entire list of names to highlight it, and press CTRL- C.
Open a blank Excel document, highlight cell A-1, and on the Edit menu, click Paste Special. Click Transpose, then click OK. See, it,s simple to make a 5 minute job take an hour.

21) If I didn't have to leave right now, I could go on and on and on. Believe me, and there will be a pile of other folks agreeing on this, Domino is the way to go (hey, it is a Notes group after all, and Exchange proponents would be too embarrassed to be in here, lest they find out what they are missing).

Last Modified: November 12, 2017