What is it: a Web publisher for Lotus Notes
Applications: real-time Web publishing; online discussions; and collecting information from the Internet
Notes Domino is a combined Web server and publisher for Notes. It makes the contents of Notes databases available via a browser. While Notes itself can be used across the Internet, this system allows anyone to access information stored on the Notes server.
The Internotes Publisher has been on the market for some time. But Domino incorporates the Web server which is needed to give access to the pages it produces. Also, it is better than its predecessor because it can produce Web pages on-the-fly.
Domino is free and currently available for Windows NT only. But it is being converted for other operating systems and should be released next year. It can be added to an existing Notes server within minutes, although you have to take the server temporarily offline.
The system takes a company's Notes databases and selectively makes them available for browsing. It converts the forms used in Notes into HTML, and displays the same graphics you see in the Notes client.
This requires a browser that can view HTML tables, which has been available for some time on Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer. From this browser, anyone can search the databases you publish, and the information in them. This could be a product catalogue or other information that might be of value to your business.
The beauty of the system is its integration with Notes. The information seen by Internet users is held in standard Notes databases. These may have already been developed in your organisation. By keeping your own records up to date, you are automatically updating your Web site.
Users on the Internet can also fill in Notes forms, which are placed directly into the Notes database without further processing. This is much easier than using an Internet programming language such as CGI scripts.
It allows changes to the data format to be incorporated much faster.
Because Domino also supports the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) standard, orders can be placed online without worrying about security problems with credit-card details.
The information input by the Internet user is entered by Domino directly into the Notes database, as if it were being done by someone using a Notes client. This saves on the cost of extra data processing, and the information can then be incorporated into a workflow system implemented using Notes.
Orders coming in via phone, paper or the Internet can then be treated identically. So staff can concentrate on responding to orders rather than converting from one system to another.
Domino hooks into the Notes security system, and uses the access control lists. This can be used to restrict parts of the site to employees of your own company, or to obtain demographics of the people using your Web site.
Administration of the system is the same as with internal Notes users.
Also, it means you can verify remote workers as securely as with the full Notes client. Because a Web browser can be run on a fairly low specification machine, users working at home or on the road don't need to upgrade to use Notes databases.
The Notes client has many more facilities, which use a lot of memory and slow down the processor. Some older machines simply cannot run the client at an acceptable speed. You can use a browser to access the same information, but it is difficult to change it for your own use. If you want to create an intranet, this is the Lotus way to do it.
Lotus uses Domino in online discussion forums. The Notes database for a discussion is a standard template, and with a small amount of customisation this can be used for the Internet. Staff who spend a lot of time on the road could use the online discussion forum to keep in touch with head office or for support.
Notes Domino could be very useful for organisations already using Notes but which want to create a Web site without employing extra personnel or retraining existing staff.
As the administration of the system is the same as that of Notes, only one skill-set is needed. There are virtually no new concepts to learn.
If your business is already using Notes for administration or information sharing, Domino can extend that capability to the Internet, and allow a whole new way of doing business. Because it is free, it has to be worth considering.
Verdict: in situations where Notes is already installed, or where a decision has been taken to use Notes, Domino adds a Web capability at no extra cost, and with little extra effort. For a Web site with up-to-the-minute information, Domino can deliver without having to retrain staff or administrators. For more visual appeal, special Web databases can be built.
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