Installing and Managing Collabra Share, Lotus Notes, and Microsoft Exchange

In November, 1995, I discussed the basics of groupware and the capabilities of the top three groupware products for Windows NT. This month, let's look at the installation and administration of Lotus Notes, Microsoft Exchange, and Collabra Share. Installation

Installing any of these products is not like installing a word processor or a spreadsheet. These are complex programs, and, unfortunately, they have complex installation programs as well.

Lotus Notes
Server: Version 3.2 of Lotus Notes server comes on a CD and installs relatively easily. To install Notes, you must first install the Notes administration program. I fired up the INSTWIN program from the Notes CD; unfortunately, I should have read the directions. For some unknown reason, you must manually edit the Registry and change a path statement before Notes will install correctly. So after editing the path and then running the INSTWIN program, I chose the files--and the directories that I wanted to install them to.

With the installation program, Lotus also sends you the Notes guided-tour program. It's a good overview of what you can do with Notes. After you install the server Administration program, you can install the server. This is similar to installing the Administration program, minus the Registry shenanigans. You can specify which files you want to install and where you want to install them. Everything went smoothly.

Total installation time: 0:30 hours.

Client: First, it may be important to know that the Notes client is not a 32-bit Windows NT application. To install the client software on a workstation, you need to run the INSTWIN program from the workstation\windows directory. The program prompts you to choose the files--and the directories that you want to install them to. When you run Lotus Notes for the first time, you must tell it how you're going to connect to the server. You can choose network connection, remote connection, network and remote connections, or no connection at all.

Notes creates a special ID when the administrator sets up your account on the server (you can optionally supply the ID on disk). By default, this ID is attached to your name in the global name and address book. When you connect to the server, the ID is detached, and nobody else can register with it. Then, you must tell Notes what your username, home server, and network type are.

This is where I had problems. Even though I told Notes I was using a certain network type, it insisted I was using a different one. A call to Technical Support resolved a bindings problem. Finally, you need to tell Notes what time zone you're in, and then you're done.

Total installation time: 2 hours (most of the time was spent tracking down the pesky network problem).

Microsoft Exchange
Server: There are many steps to installing Exchange Server, but it's not as complex as it sounds. It installs from CD. First, you create a service account for Exchange Server and add it to the Domain Administrator group. Then you run the SETUP.EXE program.

After installation is complete you have to add mailboxes to Exchange. You can create them from existing NT user accounts, or you can create new accounts and mailboxes. In addition, the installation adds an Exchange option to the User Manager program. Then, you'll want to make the Exchange services run automatically when your system boots. Even though this was a beta version of Exchange, it installed easily.

Be aware that whatever account you install Exchange from becomes the Exchange Administrator, by default. You can grant additional Administrator privileges to other accounts; however, it's not a very intuitive procedure, and it took some poking around.

Total installation time: 0:30 hours.

Client: Installing Exchange Client was very straightforward. The Exchange Server CD contains a directory with all the client software. Currently, Exchange has clients for Windows NT, Windows 95, and Windows for Workgroups. There's a Macintosh beta, but I didn't have a chance to include it in this review. You must have the appropriate network protocol running on both the client and the server for them to communicate. If you are running Windows for Workgroups on a Novell network and you want to talk to Exchange Server, then NWLINK must be running on the server and IPX/SPX or IPX/ODI must be running on the client.

After installation is complete, you can configure the client. If you are running on NT or Windows 95, this is pretty easy. First, you specify the Exchange Server to connect to, along with your login alias. Then, the Exchange client displays public and private folders and your mailbox information (see Screen 1).

If you are using Windows for Workgroups, things are a little more interesting. I had a lot of problems getting Exchange Client to run consistently. One trick I found was to run Schedule+ first and then run Exchange. However, even after this, the Exchange Client failed to run more than a third of the time. Again, the clients I tested were beta, so I hope this will be fixed by release time.

Total installation time: 0:10 hours each on Windows NT and Windows 95; 1:45 hours on Windows for Workgroups.

Collabra Share
Server: Collabra Share requires a little grunt work before you can install it. First, you need to create a service account for the Collabra Share server service. Next, you run the Client/Server Edition setup program. The program prompts you for a directory in which to store the Collabra Share registry and forums. In addition, you need to make sure the Remote Procedure Call (RPC) services are started.

Total installation time: 0:30 hours (mostly due to disk swapping). The process would be much faster if the program were available on CD.

Client: You must have an email package installed to use Share. I had problems when I tried to use Exchange as the email package with Share. I've heard that Share 2.1 is completely Exchange-friendly (see the sidebar "Collabra Share Moves to Netscape" on page 67), but I didn't find it so. After telling Share to use Notes as my email package, however, all went well.

Total installation time: 1:25 hours (I spent most of this time trying to make Share work with Exchange).

Contact Info

Collabra Software * 800-474-7427
Email: info@collabra.com
Web: http://www.collabra.com

Lotus Development * 800-346-1305
Email: info@lotus.com
Web: http://www.lotus.com

Microsoft * 206-882-8080
Email: info@exchange.microsoft.com
Web: http://www.microsoft.com

Administration

Lotus Notes:
Managing a Notes server is pretty complex. Administration is carried out mostly in the Notes server console (see Screen 2). The console application is text-based, rather than GUI-based, but it's not bad. Registering users and setting security is done from within the client, which is GUI-based. The server console is where you find information about tasks, users, etc.

There's also a remote console available from within the client. Most of the commands you need for day-to-day management are easy to find and easy to understand. I did have some problems getting the knack of creating new accounts, but I quickly found the answers in the manual. All in all, Notes server administration isn't bad. I'll be curious to see what Notes 4.0 brings to the table.

Microsoft Exchange:
Of the applications I reviewed, managing users was easiest in Exchange. This is simply because Exchange uses the security already built into Windows NT. This feature alone would vault Exchange to the head of the line in most administrator's minds. But you also get a rich set of tools that enable you to easily get a feel for what's going on. You can monitor disk usage by user and by forum. You can set limits as to how much space any individual user can use or how large a public folder is allowed to grow.

You also get link monitors, which watch the round-trip time between Exchange Server and either foreign hosts or another Exchange Server. In addition, there are server monitors that notify you of problems with any of your servers. One server can monitor any number of Exchange Servers.

My favorite feature is automatic escalation. It enables you to deal with server problems in a logical manner. For example, if Server A isn't responding, it automatically tries to restart the Exchange services. If Exchange Server still doesn't respond, it restarts the machine. Still no response? It's time to notify the administrator.

The SDK for Exchange is available for third-party development. It allows you to fully integrate new add-on software for Exchange with the Administrator program. You can also use Performance Monitor to see what impact Exchange Server is having on the system it's running on.

Another useful feature is the Exchange Client Setup Editor. It allows you to customize the default options for the Client Setup program. For example, you can graphically move users and all their corresponding data from one server to another as needed. Or you can perform a full 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week online backup and restore. There are also a backup API for third-party development and other administrative tools available. Of the packages I reviewed, Exchange had the best set of administration tools.

Collabra Share:
Managing Collabra Share is done with the Administrator tools (see Screen 3). The majority of your time is spent overseeing security-related issues. Registering users for forum access and changing forum permissions are very straightforward with these tools. You can also manage replication and even create a site on another machine with them.

You may want more than one administrator to help you manage your Collabra Share network. You can assign administrator privileges to another user with the Administrator tools. Administration can be performed remotely or on the server. The Administrator tools function is available through the client. Overall, it's very easy to manage. While Collabra Share is not as complex as Lotus Notes or Microsoft Exchange, the Administrator tools are first-rate.

See the sidebar "System Requirements".

Contact Info

Collabra Software * 800-474-7427
Email: info@collabra.com
Web: http://www.collabra.com

Lotus Development * 800-346-1305
Email: info@lotus.com

Microsoft * 206-882-8080
Email: info@exchange.microsoft.com
Web: http://www.microsoft.com