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Log off idle Lotus Notes users for better Domino Server performance

You may not realize it, but idle Lotus Notes users are taking up load of unused space and resources on your Domino server. Learn about a simple notes.ini parameter that Domino administrators can set on their servers that will log idle Lotus Notes users off the server and clear up valuable Domino CPU and memory resources, courtesy of contributor Andy Pedisich.

You may not realize it, but idle Lotus Notes users are taking up loads of unused space and resources on your Lotus Domino server. Learn about a simple notes.ini setting administrators can configure to log off idle Lotus Notes users, to clear up valuable CPU and memory resources, and improve Domino Server performance.

The problem was obvious, but the solution wasn't. And it started to hurt my head looking for answers. For years, I'd been using the Lotus Notes client from my office in Philadelphia, accessing one of our main Domino mail servers, which is located somewhere in Colorado. By the way, I think it's rather funny that I forget exactly where the Domino mail server is. I forget because it doesn't really matter where it is. It just about doesn't matter where any server is physically located anymore.

Anyway, first thing in the morning when I fired up my laptop and hit the Domino server, it would rock! Opening my email was quick and easy, even with a mail file that is close to 2 GB; and getting to applications was snappy too.

But after a while, I would then be attracted by shiny things. You know how it is… issues with clients, writing proposals, answering the phone, and a million other distractions, after which I'd get back to Lotus Notes and hit the F9 key to get a refresh of the inbox. Then I would wait, and wait, and wait, while the lightning bolt silently pulsed and I drummed my fingers impatiently on the mouse pad.

Sometimes I would hit Control/Break and then re-access my mailbox and miraculously, everything would be fast and back to normal. But I wondered about that solution and how stupid it seemed. Why should I have to do a Control/Break just to get the Domino server to respond like it was supposed to? Mind you, this didn't seem to happen when I was connected to a Domino server over a local area network (LAN). It only happened when I was connecting over a wide area network (WAN) and the Internet.

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Then it dawned on me that there might be some kind of disconnect happening between the Lotus Notes client and Domino Server. The Domino server seemed to be ignoring the client, but the client didn't realize its love for the server was unrequited. I decided to conduct an experiment and force a periodic automatic disconnect. I added a notes.ini parameter to the server that I now insist all my clients' servers use. The powerful, yet humble, Server_Session_Timeout.

Server_Session_Timeout is a parameter I like to use to make sure that Lotus Notes users don't take up valuable Domino CPU and memory resources when they are idle.

You may not realize this, but when Lotus Notes users connect to Domino using the Notes client, then become inactive, they remain connected to the server for a default time of four hours! Yes, that's right, four hours of taking up a connection slot. Four hours of sandbagging memory resources! And all the while they are doing nothing to deserve it.

Letting users be idle for four hours also messes with the statistic Server.users. The number of Lotus Notes users I see connected doesn't truly reflect the number of concurrent users on the Domino server. The users that appear to be active at noon might have logged in at 8:30 a.m. to check their email and haven't used Lotus Notes since! This makes it very difficult to get a grip on the true number of concurrent users when you're trying to consolidate servers or work on performance issues.

In all of my clients' Domino servers I routinely set Server_Session_Timeout =30, meaning that after 30 minutes of inactivity, a Lotus Notes user connection is dropped and the resources are freed up for other more active and deserving users.

If the idle user comes back to the desktop and moves a mouse or touches a keyboard, bingo, they are reconnected automatically. They don't have to re-enter a password and they never know that their connection has been dropped and that they've been reconnected.

IBM Lotus recommends that this parameter should be set no shorter than 30 minutes. Otherwise, the server might spend more resources reconnecting people than it should.

Anyway, back to the unrequited advances of my Lotus Notes client to my Domino server. This is clearly a case of "do as I say, not as I do," since my own mail server was literally the only Domino server I touched that did not have this setting.

After adding this parameter, the difficult re-connection client/server nonsense disappeared. The Lotus Notes client remained peppy when talking to the Domino server, with no more lags after a period of my idleness.

I suspect that the deliberate drop of the client connection by Domino made the client aware that it had to reconnect to continue working on the server. My connection is now more reliable and no longer exhibits a delay when I return after being drawn away to other technical business.

Try this parameter on your Domino servers. Once you do, you'll probably end up placing it in the notes.ini parameter section of the default server configuration document. You've got nothing to lose and will stop wasting valuable Domino server resources holding connections open for Lotus Notes users that are away from their desks.

About the author: Andy Pedisich is President of Technotics, Inc. He has been working with Lotus Notes and Domino since Release 2. Technotics provides strategic consulting and training on collaborative infrastructure projects for customers throughout the world. You can contact Technotics through their Web site at

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