Getting Started with a Lotus Notes to Exchange Mail Migration

I’m a reformed Lotus Notes user and from time to time, as a consultant, I work on projects that lead up to the liberation (err migration) of Lotus Notes users. As luck has it, I’ve invested quite a few cycles the past few weeks teeing one of these projects off. There’s quite a bit involved in planning one of these projects, and that’s not my goal for this discussion. What I thought would be useful, though is to give a quick overview of the coexistence and migration components as well as a couple links I’ve come across that are pretty useful. I’ll put some info on configuring the various coexistence pieces in a separate post later.

My assumption if you’re reading this is that you’re familiar with Exchange but not with Lotus Notes. It’s very helpful to have skilled and knowledgeable Lotus administrators at your disposal, but, sometimes this doesn’t work out in your favor. With that in mind, I’ll do what I can to help you navigate the components of Lotus Notes that are going to be relevant. The first thing you’re going to need is a copy of the Domino Administrator and Lotus Notes client on your machine. This often comes as a single package – just be sure to select “single user mode” during the install if you’re prompted. First, though, the Domino Administrator end user experience, in case you aren’t yet familiar:

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At some point you’re going to need to do something that’s only available in the Domino server’s command line interface. If you’re running Domino on Windows, you can Remote Desktop to the server and launch the Lotus Domino Console. If you’re running Domino on something else, or you don’t have Remote Desktop access, the console pictured below is also available inside the Domino Administrator program. To get to the console via Domino Administrator, switch to the Server tab and then the Status tab inside there, and finally, select Server Console. Pictured below is the Lotus Domino Console application available on Windows:

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The Help file in the Domino Administrator console is really pretty useful. Unfortunately it’s a bit of a clique thing, because IBM seems to primarily make the help file available in the form of a Notes database. Some places seem to have it indexed on the Internet, but, Google isn’t real good at finding this it seems. If you simply go to Help>Help Topics on the menu bar of Domino Administrator, the database will open up.

The Global Address List (GAL) equivalent in Notes is the Notes Address Book, usually called the “NAB”. It’s possible to have more than one of these, but, for simplicity we’ll assume you’ve only got one. The NAB is usually stored inside a database called names.nsf. Inside the NAB are person documents for all your users. The person document is the rough equivalent of the Active Directory user object. Users with a proper mailbox in Notes will have the “mail file” field populated in their person document. Mail files are what Notes calls mailboxes. Everyone gets a separate file on the file system. You’ll be spending a good amount of time in the NAB, so hop over to the People & Groups tab in the Domino Administrator program and take a look. You can double click in any field to edit it.

If you’d like to create a new user and mailbox for them, switch over to the Configuration tab and then drill down to Registration> Person on the right. Fill in the form and check Advanced in the bottom left. On the Mail tab, pick where you want to create their mail file using the Mail Server button. On the ID Info tab, check the In File” button and browse to a folder to store the Notes ID you’ll need to access this user’s mail file. Finally, click Register to make things happen. If you go back to the NAB, you should see your new user.

That’s the quick tour. As painful as the tool looks, it’s moderately intuitive once you start poking around. If nothing else, the contextual help in the document editors can be amusing:

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The actual migration of data and the coexistence period are two problems you’ll need to tackle. There are a couple companies that make tools in this space – Quest and BinaryTree. I’m familiar with the Quest offerings in this space and I’ve used them successfully at a number of customers, so, that’s what I’ll focus on going forward. That said, BinaryTree is a reputable ISV and you should certainly do your homework. On the Quest side, there are two products which can be purchased individually:

  • Notes Migrator for Exchange (NME)
  • Coexistence Manager for Notes (CMN)

NME is the product which is primarily responsible for the actual data migration. It can do some limited directory sync task, but, it’s really geared towards migrating data. CMN on the other hand has three components:

  • Free/Busy Connector
  • Mail Connector
  • Directory Connector

The Free/Busy (F/B) connector enables Lotus Notes users to view calendar information for Exchange users and vice-versa. This component is the most complex to setup, but also quite likely the most important. The Mail Connector serves as an SMTP gateway between Notes and Exchange. The service adjusts the contents of messages so that they work and display correctly in the opposing clients. It also can handle some of the nuances of Lotus Notes email such as Doc Links and Active Mail. Finally, the Directory connector will ensure that users or contacts in Exchange and person documents in Notes are in sync and the address books for end users are functionally identical regardless of which system they’re on.

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