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Notes licensing: Not so mysterious

This article aims to demystify Notes/Domino licensing. I wrote it to help my readers, and also to help myself understand the options more thoroughly.

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Keywords: Notes, Domino, license, CEO, Express
Technical Level: All

One of my frustrations about Notes/Domino is the licensing model. Every time I think I understand it, Lotus seems to change things. When one of my customers asks me about the best way to purchase Notes/Domino for their organization, I frequently answer, "Let me look into that," instead of knowing the answer off the top of my head.

This article aims to demystify Notes/Domino licensing. I wrote it to help my readers, and also to help myself understand the options more thoroughly.

The key concept for Notes/Domino licensing is that you must have three things in order to use this software legally.

  1. A legitimate copy of the workstation software. This is usually Notes, a Web browser, or a POP mail client.

  2. A legitimate copy of the server software, if any. This is Domino.

  3. A client access license (CAL) that permits your workstation software to access your server.

Given this background, let's look at the four licensing options that Lotus offers, organized from simple to complicated.

  • CEO, which stands for Complete Enterprise Option. Under this model, you pay a fee per employee, and then are free to use Notes/Domino in any way you want in your organization. You get Domino, Notes and CALs for all users. You can have any number of servers, with any mix of Notes or Web access, with any combination of e-mail or application databases. The minimum number of employees for this option is 100, but you must pay for all employees, even if they don't use Notes/Domino. A typical volume price for Passport Advantage customers is about $220 per employee.

  • User Express -- Under this model, you pay a per person fee for who uses Notes/Domino. There are two sub-models with User Express: Messaging Express and Collaboration Express. The first entitles users to e-mail, calendaring and the built-in discussion templates. The second adds support for any Notes/Domino application. In both cases, the organization can run any number of Domino servers and access those servers with any client software, including Notes. You get the Notes/Domino software and CALs.

    An important point to keep in mind about User Express licensing is that it is per-person, not per-copy of Notes, or per-ID file. If fifty people share one Notes kiosk, you pay for fifty Express licenses. If all those people share a common Notes ID, you still pay for fifty Express licenses. If you have no Notes users, but ten Domino Web mail users, you pay for ten Express licenses.

    With User Express, you may not set up partitioned servers or clusters, or use a few of the advanced directory features. You also do not get Domino Designer, but can purchase this separately.

    Both User Express options are intended for the small-to-medium business market. Your organization must have between 1 and 1,000 employees, and you can purchase between 1 and 1,000 licenses. You do not have to buy a license for each employee, if some employees do not use Notes/Domino. A typical price for Messaging Express is about $96 per user; Collaboration Express about $113.

  • Server Express (Utility Express). Under this model, you pay a fee per CPU, which can then be accessed by any number of people as a Web application server. You get the server software and unlimited Web CALs, but no client software. You must purchase Notes separately, if you are using Notes. Individual mail files and calendars are not permitted on the server. Partitioning and clustering are allowed with Utility Server.

    A typical price for Utility Express is $2,500 per CPU, up to a maximum of four CPUs. Since it is targeted at the same SMB market, the company must have less than 1,000 employees.

  • A La Carte. With this license model, you pay separately for each of the items I listed above: server software, workstation software and client access license.

    • Server software -- There are three versions of the Domino software: Messaging Server, Enterprise Server and Utility Server. The first is for e-mail/calendaring/discussion only; the second supports all applications; and the third supports non-e-mail applications only. Messaging Server supports partitioning. Enterprise and Utility add cluster services. In all cases, you must buy workstation software and CALs separately, except for Web application access to the Utility server. With Utility Server, you get unlimited Web application CALs for that server.

    • Workstation software -- In the Lotus world, this means Notes or Domino Designer. If you are accessing a Domino server from the Web, your browser might be Internet Explorer, Firefox, or something else. If you are using Domino as a POP mail server, your mail client might be Outlook, Eudora, or something else.

    • Client access license -- There are six different Domino CALs: Notes for Messaging, Notes for Collaboration, Web Access for Messaging, Web Access for Collaboration, Designer, and a limited e-mail CAL called WebMail.

      Most copies of the Notes software include one of the Notes CALs, and Designer includes its CAL. Each Notes CAL also includes its matching Web access CAL. So Notes Messaging users can also check their mail from the Web.

      The limited WebMail CAL allows browser access to mail NSF mails (but not iNotes) and to POP and IMAP accounts. It costs about $37.

    Since A La Carte is the most complicated licensing scheme, here are some typical scenarios and how they are licensed.

    • You are running Notes as a standalone workstation product for personal address book, calendaring and as an e-mail client accessing a non-Domino POP e-mail server. You need only that copy of the Notes software. No CAL is required because you are not connecting to Domino.

    • You have a small business with one Domino e-mail server and five Notes e-mail users. You need one Domino Messaging server, five copies of Notes and five Notes for Messaging CALs. You get the latter two items bundled together when you buy the Notes for Messaging product.

    • You have a Web enabled Domino application running on one server, with five hundred users. You need one Domino Utility server only. This server includes unlimited Web Access for Collaboration CALs for that server. The workstation software (a browser) is free to each user separately.

      You have the system described above, but you also want to modify the Domino application. In addition to the items purchased above, you need to buy one copy of Domino Designer for each programmer who will be using it.

    • You have one Domino server, fifty Notes workstations, and one hundred users who share the workstations. Each user has a mail file. There are some Notes-based discussion forums, but no custom Notes applications. Users also check their Domino e-mail from home with a Web browser. You need one Domino Messaging Server, fifty copies of the Notes software (which include matching CALs), and fifty additional Notes for Messaging CALs. You do not need any Web access CALs, since these are included in the Notes CALs.

Please note that the terms User Express and Server Express are my terms not Lotus'. I find they clarify the purpose of the various Express offerings.

I should also point out that there are some details I have glossed over, such as user rights to Lotus Instant Message features. I plan to address these in a future article.

For more information see

Chuck Connell is president of CHC-3 Consulting, which helps organizations with all aspects of Domino and Notes.


The article does not distinguish that with the Notes Collaboration Express, you do NOT pay for the server license (see IBM Web site), just the number of user licenses -- or should you?

—Malcolm P.


I thought this was pretty clear in the article, maybe not. With Collaboration Express, you pay per-person. There is no separate server license.

—Chuck Connell, tip author

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