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Breaking down your LotusLive options

Get a summary of the various LotusLive products and decide whether the price charged is worth what you get in return.

The two hottest topics in IT right now are cloud computing and software as a service. While there is considerable confusion between the two, I like to distinguish them this way:

  • Cloud computing -- a distributed, amorphous collection of computing resources available via the Internet.

  • Software as a Service (SaaS) -- a business model for delivering applications from the cloud.

LotusLive from IBM is a set of SaaS offerings that address areas typically associated with Lotus products. These items include email, calendaring/scheduling, online meetings, screen sharing, file sharing, project coordination, online discussions and instant messaging. LotusLive comes in eight flavors, and generally speaking, the more you pay, the more features you get.

While there is no single chart that compares all the flavors on one page, I created my own chart using the information from multiple tables on the LotusLive website. I have arranged the products in approximate order of increasing price.

Note: I've glossed over many of the details for the sake of brevity, so be sure to see the LotusLive site for full information.

Name Features Price
iNotes Browser-based webmail $3 per user, per month
Lotus Notes Email with Notes client or browser $5 per user, per month
Connections Basic social networking for business, instant messaging, no online meetings $6 per month, with unlimited collaborators
Collaboration + Webmail Basic social networking, instant messaging, webmail, no online meetings $7 per month, with unlimited collaborators
Engage Expanded social networking, instant messaging and online meetings $8 per user, per month, with unlimited collaborators and up to 200 meeting attendees. All internal attendees must subscribe.

Or $46 per month, with unlimited collaborators and up to 15 meeting attendees
Suite Expanded social networking, instant messaging, online meetings and webmail $10 per user, per month. All internal users must subscribe.
Meetings Online meetings $6 per user, per month. All internal attendees must subscribe.

Or $39 per month, with up to 15 attendees.
Events Online meetings and meeting event management $79 per month, with up to 1,000 attendees.

If you already have an email solution, one of the most attractive options is LotusLive Connections. It mimics many of the features found in the standard (locally installed) Lotus Connections product.

Is LotusLive worth the price?
Remember that with SaaS, you pay each month, since you never own the servers or software. Personally, I believe LotusLive is worth its price, if you can accept its main drawbacks -- which are its lack of customizability and control. When you use LotusLive, you accept it as it is.

Consider this example. Let's say you have a company with 10 employees. LotusLive Suite costs about $100 per person, per year. This company would pay around $1,000 per year for email, instant messaging, shared contact lists, calendaring, project tracking, online meetings, etc. Could a company this size run its own email and application servers for less than $1,000 per year? The answer is clearly no.

That $1,000 has to cover server hardware, floor space, software licenses and employee (or consultant) time to install and maintain the infrastructure, which is simply impossible.

An organization of 100 people will pay about $10,000 per year for LotusLive Suite. Could it run its own servers and software, to deliver these same services, for this amount? No. This money is less than 10% of a standard full-time IT salary, taking into account office space, benefits, taxes, etc. Could someone run an IT department for 100 people on one-tenth of their time? No chance. Also, they still have to pay for the server hardware and licenses.

How about a company with 1,000 employees? LotusLive Suite will cost about $100,000 per year. This is serious money, but the answer, in my judgment, is the same. There is no way to buy and maintain the needed IT infrastructure for this amount. I have never seen one person alone meet the IT needs of 1,000 people. Also, this does not include paying for servers, software and a room to put them in.

For any size organization, I would expect there to be a designated LotusLive administrator who sets up new accounts, handles training and communicates with IBM. For 10 employees, this could be a small part of someone's job. For 1,000 employees, you may need several LotusLive administrators/troubleshooters. Even taking this into account, I still maintain that LotusLive is well worth the price.

About the author
Chuck Connell is president of CHC-3 Consulting, which helps organizations plan, install, customize, and use Lotus products.

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