Challenges faced While Migrating Lotus Notes to Other Clients

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  • Published on
    May 17th, 2017
  • Updated on
    March 9, 2021
  • Read Time
    6 minutes
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Lotus Notes email application owned by IBM which came into existence in 1989. That is used for Email communication as well as Personal information management in our everyday life. It eases to manage the mailbox data that e-mail data, calendar events, tasks, meeting, and appointments, etc. saved in .nsf file format. IBM Lotus Domino has been with us for decades.  Mid-sized to very large companies have been using this IBM Domino that supports their business processes; many of those applications are business-critical, e.g. because they store information that is subject to legal requirements. But the IT world keeps changing and new technologies nearly every day. Because of which companies need to continuously review their IT strategy in order not to fall behind. Many of those companies already have decided or are in the process of Lotus Notes Migration. This blog will discuss the challenges of migrating Lotus Notes. Many of those companies already have decided or are in the process of Lotus Notes Migration. This blog will discuss the challenges of migrating Lotus Notes.

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Reasons Behind Migrating Lotus Notes?

Early 90’s when Lotus Notes become popular for email management, group chat, and bulletin boards which provided true online collaboration workspaces for users. Notes replica allowed the user for keeping the multiple replicas, maintaining NSF Database on various servers and local desktop. Ever since websites came into fashion, Lotus Notes started losing much of the UI and custom formatting available through the Notes client. Though it really helps in keeping the data safe it is highly complex and expensive when it’s come to maintenance. For the most part, the migration from Lotus Notes has been toward Microsoft Outlook, Thunderbird, Apple Mail many other popular clients

How to export Lotus Notes to Apple mail,  
How to migrate Lotus Notes to Outlook

Projects to migrate to other applications are mostly driven by cost-saving considerations. In rare cases, technical aspects might be the reason too, e.g. because an application does not fit into the company’s overall IT strategy anymore or because an application has reached the end of its life cycle and will not be supported by the vendor in the future. The major challenges to be addressed during an application migration project can be distinguished into two groups: Business and technical aspects. The major challenges that are addressed during Lotus Notes migration are mainly divided into two aspects as

Let’s start with the Business challenges that are mainly faced by small companies.

Business Challenges

Migrating Lotus Notes business challenges

From a business perspective the major challenges of a Lotus Notes migration are:


The main cost drivers to migrate Lotus Notes files are:

  • Analyzing of data that needs to be migrated.
  • Selection of an appropriate technology replacement.
  • Customizing the target Email client to implement the required functionality.
  • Definition, implementation, improvement, and control of the migration process.
  • Ensuring that we get high quality of context after migrating data from Lotus Notes.

Legal Requirements

Ensuring legal compliance throughout the entire migration process can be one of the costly elements of such a process. The entire process must be defined, implemented and controlled in order to make sure that the documents are migrated completely without any errors but there are high chances of occurring errors if done with hands.

Technical Challenges

lotus notes migration tech challenge

As studied, the technical challenges are more complex than a business challenge. From a technical perspective, the following challenges need to be addressed for Lotus Notes Migration

Encrypted documents

The document encryption is possible in Lotus Notes applications. If an application contains encrypted documents, the technical approach that could be used to export Lotus Notes documents from to another emails client must support on-the-fly decryption of documents during the extraction for a successfully migrating Lotus Notes.

Varying types of documents 

A single IBM Domino application may contain a different document with different types of data, each with its own set of files, links, attachments, and metadata. When we think of export data from NSF database and storing the information into a new system, it’s important that each document is exported in a way so that none of the information that makes up the document is lost on its way from IBM Domino to the new target platform.

Rich text fields

Text Data stored within Lotus Domino documents can have different data types as date and time type or text type etc that can be easily handled by any of the targeted platforms but richtext fields become a difficult task to transform into a format that supports some another system. IBM Domino richtext adheres to a proprietary specification which cannot be easily extracted and transformed into a format that can be reused in another platform.

Document attachments

The documents in Notes can contain other files either as a normal attachment or as an Object Linking and Embedding objects. Normal attachments can be easily extracted and stored can be as separate objects.  But OLE objects require some special processing for migrating Lotus Notes documents to other clients.

Linked documents

Lotus Notes with document rich text fields may contain links that may be connected to other Lotus Notes NSF File. The link target may reside in the same application as well as in another LN application document. This can be quite challenging to export data of NSF database to other clients as these links between documents should be maintained in the target system.

Versioned documents

Versioning is a feature that is widely used in IBM Domino applications, especially in document libraries which maintain that other data files like updated file types or updated metadata of the file. When we are extracting the document from an IBM Domino application, it becomes important and challenging task to preserve the version and keep all information so that the development of a particular document from its initial creation to the last modification can be easily traced.


IBM Lotus Notes uses C-API that basically controls the export of documents, metadata, and attachments to any other Platform. When Migrating LN is important to export all data contented within a particular Document to maintain the proper structure and originality of the context.  Executing the migration for Lotus Notes documents by the manual way can be easy to export normal attachments but not easy with OLE objects contained in rich text fields to export to other clients.

lotus notes migration

To overcome the challenges of Migrating Lotus Notes to other Popular Email client Like Outlook, Thunderbird or Apple Mails, there are migrating tools recommended NSF to PST Converter or NSF to MBOX Converter or NSF to EML Converter to overcome the Lotus Notes Migration Challenge.

Recommended: How to export Lotus notes to Thunderbird

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