Comparing GroupWise 5.5 with Lotus Notes, Microsoft Exchange and Netscape's SuiteSpot


An idea first created nearly ten years ago, groupware has since grown to meet one of today's primary business needs by making it simple for users to communicate and collaborate, and to continue doing business even when not physically connected to office workstations.

In the past decade, three providers have emerged to steer the groupware industry - a trio of vendors that form the top tier of the industry's leadership: Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Notes, and Novell GroupWise. As the market matures, however, features offered in these products are becoming increasingly similar, making it hard to differentiate between them. Thus in an industry where competing products offer like choices, users are returning to the basics by purchasing a groupware solution that provides the lowest total cost of ownership (TCO) and the highest productivity rate among its users.

Overview: TCO + Productivity = Value

For Novell GroupWise, the method of comparing TCO and productivity rates could not be more favorable. A study by Creative Networks, Inc.(CNI) reveals that GroupWise gets used more often and more effectively than its competitors - saving up to 600 percent more time at information sharing than Exchange or Notes users. This savings translates into increased productivity for GroupWise users. The product is also more cost-effective to buy and maintain than its competitors. Comparing the TCO of each product in a similar test bed, the Gartner Group concluded the cost differentials (per user, over the period of three years) as follows: GroupWise: $136; SuiteSpot: $167; Exchange: $470; Notes: $719.

The reason for GroupWise's success goes beyond feature-based comparisons into the heart of what makes a difference to those using those features. That difference is the added value generated by GroupWise's unique integration with the Network Operating System (NOS) and Novell Directory Services (NDS).

This tight integration with NDS gives GroupWise many of the significant cost savings over its competitors while aiding the end user to be more productive due to the simplicity it creates. NDS is more powerful than competing single-application directories, for it functions as a multi-application directory, known as an enterprise directory. While a single-application directory gives value to only one application (a separate directory must be maintained for each application), an enterprise directory like NDS acts as a single point of maintenance and profile information access.

With a single-application directory, for example, you need to maintain an email address book, a human resources directory, etc. With NDS, each of these applications can be maintained in a single location. Another key value of an enterprise directory is its integration with NOS, allowing the security of a network to be managed centrally.

This unique integration empowers GroupWise with a significantly lower TCO and maximized productivity rate for both users and administrators. It also reduces staffing and staff cross-training by it's out-of-the-box simplicity, by enabling entire networks to be managed through a single point of administration, and by combining messaging staff and network administration to a far greater degree than its competitors (CNI).

The following five points detail the numerous benefits of GroupWise, and how these benefits will lower your company's operating costs while increasing the productivity of your end users, IS managers and administrators.

1. GroupWise is easy to implement, and works right out of the box.

The more time and effort you expend to implement a solution, the more the solution costs. A product that requires special coding or programming is going to be more expensive to implement. A product that requires extensive third-party add-ons is also going to require more training and effort to implement and use. A product that isn't supported on the platforms you use will garner life-long costs in terms of both process and operations, if it can be implemented at all with any practicality.

GroupWise saves enormous amounts of time, effort and money by it's directory-enabled implementation, by being ready to go right out of the box, by offering the fullest functionality without extensive add-ons, and by being usable across many critical platforms.

Directory-enabled Implementation: No Need to Create New Accounts

GroupWise's integration with NDS eliminates the need to "create" GroupWise accounts - these user accounts already exist within the enterprise directory. The product uses information already defined in the system, avoiding the need to enter user information into the workgroup solution separately. Administrators need only assign GroupWise rights to the existing user profiles.

Solutions not integrated with an enterprise directory like NDS cannot leverage existing directory user IDs. Exchange users, for instance, must be created and associated with NT user accounts one at a time. The Notes public address book is not integrated in any way with a NOS directory database; nor is SuiteSpot - it has only a single-application directory, and is not NOS-integrated. Thus user accounts for these workgroup products must all be created and managed separately from existing NOS accounts. This is similar to building two parallel infrastructures on your network - requiring double the time, effort and cost to create and maintain.

GroupWise's ability to leverage pre-existing user profiles saves significant amounts of time and effort. In lab testing, these savings are vividly expressed: in one example, before the administrator could even install Exchange, he had to set up the NT Server Domain infrastructure - which took two weeks. Then "the importation of users into Windows NT domains was very cumbersome . . . [Y]ou still have to edit each individual account to type additional required information when you create the Exchange account for the users, as only certain fields are imported from the bindery." Conversely, "It wasn't necessary to create new accounts for GroupWise users. It was possible to assign GroupWise accounts to more than 400 users within five to ten minutes." (PC Line, "Novell GroupWise 5.x versus Microsoft Exchange 5.x")

Client Distribution

Directory-enabled networking makes a significant difference in the ease of client software distribution as well. The Novell Application Launcher (NAL) allows administrators to distribute the GroupWise client to desktops on the network without physically interacting with workstations. NAL centralizes and automates this client distribution, allowing administrators to schedule it for optimum delivery.

Without integration with a NOS directory, it's impossible for the three competing products - Exchange, Notes or SuiteSpot - to launch client-side software throughout the network centrally. At best, administrators using these products must rely on local-server launches.

In lab tests, not using directory-based management tools revealed real-world impact on time, effort and - ultimately - implementation costs: lab testers had to ". . . set up an Exchange Profile for each user on their workstation to point the workstation to the correct Exchange Server. This needed to be done for each and every user. Each workstation also required the Microsoft Client for Microsoft networks to ensure that an Authentication to the NT Domain could be made." (PC Line, "Novell GroupWise 5.x versus Microsoft Exchange 5.x")

No Programming or Third-Party Purchases

GroupWise provides an off-the-shelf collaborative solution - without requiring custom development. Out of the box, GroupWise covers the full range of workgroup functions, including messaging, calendaring, scheduling, task management, document management, document imaging and editing, and Web publishing.

This functionality does not have to be programmed - it is inherent to the product. You can access the entire range of GroupWise functionality immediately, without hiring programmers or waiting for customization. Lotus Notes, on the other hand, requires costly programming before it can even be installed and continues to accrue programming expense as functionality slowly gels out of the development process. The difference between these two products is fundamental: GroupWise is a comprehensive out-of-the-box collaborative solution requiring minimal user and administrator expertise; Notes is a development framework requiring costly development and administrative overhead.

Even those competing solutions that do not require heavy programming before use - like Microsoft Exchange/Outlook or Netscape SuiteSpot - often require you to purchase additional products to achieve the functionality that GroupWise provides within the base product. Exchange, for instance, offers no out-of-the-box document management - a mission-critical function in many organizations.

Another benefit that makes GroupWise so easy to implement is the proven scalable messaging infrastructure it's built on. Most other solutions are founded on more complex infrastructures. To take advantage of Notes' full functionality, for example, a system administrator qualified in Notes must first set up a replication table, user ACLs, discussion databases and so on. Likewise, SuitSpot is built primarily on a Web technology comprised of several server components - a loosely integrated architecture that introduces significant challenges in both administration and use

GroupWise is the only product founded on, and tightly integrated with, an enterprise-level directory solution - NDS. The directory automates much of the GroupWise implementation - including client installs and user set up - and with GroCross-Platform SupportpWise all of the product's features are available for immediate use

Cross-Platform Support

While most of the available solutions run in heterogeneous network environments - with the exception of Exchange, which runs only on NT - only GroupWise brings those environments together through NDS.

This is especially pertinent for existing NetWare sites. Exchange/Outlook requires you to create an entire NT infrastructure alongside NetWare just to run messaging, calendaring and scheduling. This NT infrastructure is less scalable, and often requires more servers than the existing NetWare network infrastructure. This parallel environment is expensive to both implement and administer.

Likewise, Notes/Domino requires a separate NT or Unix infrastructure with which it is only loosely integrated. Notes is also complex in its administration, relying on both GUI and DOS utilities.

2. GroupWise is easy to administer, saving time, money and effort.

Unlike any of its competitors, GroupWise leverages a directory service that is fully integrated into the solution and NOS. This integration, along with GroupWise's advanced security system and problem solving capabilities, makes administering both the network and the workgroup easier and more efficient.

One-step Administration

Only GroupWise has the ability to manage your entire communications/collaboration infrastructure through its unique integration with NOS and NDS. This union enables GroupWise to perform directory-enabled networking -- intelligent networking with one strong security system and a single log-on. Unlike its competitors, GroupWise is managed in one place, along side the network and the other networking solutions. According to the International Data Corporation (IDC), directory-enabled solutions reduce the time, cost and effort of management by more than 50 percent.

Directory-based management continues to reap benefits as administrators manage and maintain busy networks. Administrators can use NWAdmin to manage all user assignments on the network - including those workgroup functions associated with GroupWise - from a single point, regardless of where they are physically on the network. And since GroupWise is platform-compatible, you can extend this centralized management throughout a mixed NetWare / NT / Unix environment. Separate GroupWise 5.x systems (like geographically separated locations) can be automatically synchronized on a single enterprise cross-application directory - while Exchange's and Notes' cannot.

Administrators can also move users on GroupWise far easier than on any other system. With a simple drag-and-drop action, you can move any user (or groups of users) from one site to the next. This action automatically moves all messages, associations and rights as well, even across servers - it's a one-step move. In fact, you can even move users within NT domains.

In contrast, Exchange administration is difficult and awkward, relying on trust relationships between NT domains. These trust relationships are notoriously hard to manage and present security loopholes where least expected. Trust relationships can be broken inadvertently by network administrators; and while moving users is possible, it is not practical - site-to-site moves require administrators to first remove users entirely from the former site and then recreate them completely on the next. SuiteSpot requires the use of both Netscape Directory Server and Messaging Server to move mailboxes between servers.

Administrators can also set up GroupWise agents to complete scheduled daily/nightly maintenance on user and message databases, document databases and directory synchronizations with NDS. Likewise, in one easy step administrators can force on-demand synchronization of the message system directory database or individual objects (users, etc.) of the directory database. This can be done at any time, and is effective immediately.

Synchronizing the messaging system outside the organization - say to a separate system or organization - is a difficult manual process in both Exchange and SuiteSpot. Administrators must manually export the directory and then send the export file to the other system for import. Any time changes occur, administrators must once again perform this manual process. GroupWise simplifies this process, allowing administrators to set up External Sync rules to synchronize two or more GroupWise systems. Synchronization requires no manual interaction, and synchronization to these external systems begins as soon as changes are made.

In addition, NDS enables administrators to centrally distribute client upgrades or service packs throughout the entire network, unlike competitors' costly need to go desktop to desktop, or server to server.

Problem Solving

In addition to the benefits provided by its directory, GroupWise monitors its respective databases on a 7x24 basis and will automatically launch into recovery mode if problems with message delivery or synchronization occur. By comparison, Notes will detect problems but will not automatically repair them - this must be scheduled or done manually by the administrator.

According to PC Line studies, "In case of database problems, GroupWise database check routines could fix problems in 99% of all cases. GroupWise has automated database recovery . . . [and] it is very easy to recover from disaster from within GroupWise, even while the system is running. [With Exchange], fixing database problems had to be done after hours . . . . In many instances, a restore of this database is required when serious problems occur, resulting in the loss of data."


GroupWise extends the NDS schema to accommodate security for its messaging-specific objects. While Exchange relies on NT's domain structure for security, it must still maintain its own directory because the domain structure itself is not extensible to messaging-specific objects.

3. GroupWise is easy to use, so it gets used often.

A product designed to bring your company together through coordinated communications and collaboration is only effective when it's used. If it's too hard to use - or doesn't do what users need it to do - the product is a waste of money to both buy and maintain.

GroupWise's interface brings together the tools users need to get their jobs done. The program is simply more functional - and functions more simply - than its competitors. This means GroupWise gets used far more often than its competitors (CNI), which increases user productivity enormously and cuts down dramatically on process costs.

A Better Use of Time

GroupWise is easy for users to learn and use, with an intuitive "e-mail" style interface that spans across all functions - including scheduling, calendaring, messaging, document and image management, workflow and Web publishing.

This ease of use translates into greater productivity for businesses using GroupWise, simply because GroupWise gets used more often and more effectively than its competitors - saving up to 600% more time at information sharing than Exchange or Notes users (CNI). Reasons for this discrepancy include the difficulty of using Exchange or Notes/Domino for groupware and collaboration activities. Instead of using the intuitive e-mail model, for example, Notes/Domino launches a discussion database.

The Universal Inbox

One way GroupWise makes life easier for users is by enabling them to access all types of messaging and document information from a single place, using a Universal Inbox. Exchange users can send and receive all types of messages from their Inbox but do not have out-of-the-box access to a document management system. And SuiteSpot requires the user to open three different applications - Collabra, Messenger, and Calendar - to access the same information.

Document Management

GroupWise also offers full document management through the same intuitive interface users already feel at home with for messaging and scheduling. This full-featured document management system is so secure, it is certified by the Defense Messaging System for classified documents. With GroupWise, users can store all types of documents and open them in all types of applications. Users can also import individual documents or entire directory structures of documents into GroupWise libraries previously created by the administrator. These document management libraries can be stored at the post office or in separate storage locations. In addition, users can share individual documents with other users, or they can send e-mail to other users and include document references (pointers to the actual documents) that other users can save then later access. All documents may have multiple versions; and, as users update documents, they have the option to re-store them as new versions or simply update the original.

By comparison, Netscape offers a server process called Compass Server that performs document management, but it is not as integrated with the base product and does not offer as many features as GroupWise - such as integration with applications through Open Document Management APIs (ODMA).

Exchange does not offer out-of-the-box document management - a company using Exchange must purchase an additional management tool from third parties. This is a considerable disadvantage for businesses because any document management product must be implemented, managed and used in addition to Exchange - resulting in technical support from two vendors and a more irregular upgrade path.

Web Publishing

GroupWise is the only solution that includes Web Publishing as part of its out-of-the-box base product. Masking the difficulty of HTML coding, Web Publisher allows users to publish Web documents as easily as sending an e-mail. Notes does not allow web publishing without the purchase of Domino, and Exchange will only do web publishing with the purchase of Web Access for Exchange.

Messaging & Time / Task Management

An address book is a critical tool for users who cannot share information unless they know to whom they should address e-mails, tasks, appointments and documents. GroupWise retains control of system address books while giving users full control over personal address books to individual end users.

GroupWise also allows users to create personal email distribution lists to share personal address books with other users, creating address books specific to department, workgroups or teams. Exchange and SuiteSpot do not have this capability, while Notes users must first grant access to their workstation hard drives to share address listings - a security breach in some organizations.

GroupWise also allows users to create a multiple-user calendar, allowing team and group members to view team/group schedules in a single view. Exchange/Outlook users can't do this - a real problem for workgroup activities. Exchange also lacks a phone dialing solution with its client software, while GroupWise ships with Conversation Place, which interfaces with TAPI or TSAPI aware devices.


GroupWise Workflow allows users to create workflow messages and track their progress. It supports routing slip capability by default, and allows users to design workflow processes using GroupWise's Workflow Professional. SuiteSpot offers no workflow function, Exchange requires third-party solutions, and Notes require extensive programming to provide a workflow solution.

Document Imaging

GroupWise Imaging is a full-featured image utility that offers library organization, scanner support and limited image editing. It allows users to scan images directly into GroupWise and helps to maintain archives of those images. Users can easily scan in an image and send it through GroupWise to other users or to users on other mail systems, including the Internet. The product fully integrates scanner software and hardware.

SuiteSpot does not offer integration with imaging technology, and Exchange offers no out-of-the-box imaging support. Notes supports OCR capability, but little else directly out of the box.

4. GroupWise is easy to access - any time, anywhere.

What's the use of a product if it isn't accessible wherever the user is at the time he or she needs them? No amount of time or effort saved can comfort the mobile user who cannot access files, mailboxes, messages, calendars or documents needed for critical moments on the road. And no cost advantage can be substantiated if it cannot be applied past a user's networked workstation.

To be fully effective, to come through on cost and productivity benefits, a product must be portable - the benefits of using that product need to be available anytime and anywhere. Directly out of the box, GroupWise offers access through more means than any other product - extending the "net" to wherever users need it to be.

Universal Access

The concept of putting all of a given solution's functions in one space simplifies the user's experience. GroupWise fortifies its Universal Inbox by making it accessible from nearly any device - including the Web, phones, fax machines, PDAs and pagers. With this wide range of access, GroupWise extends workgroup mobility as its competitors continue to offer access from a more limited list of devices. Exchange, SuiteSpot, Notes and Netscape all require third-party products to provide paging services.

Through the Web

GroupWise's browser-based access leverages business-to-business collaboration through the Internet without sacrificing its base functionality or requiring the purchase of add-ons or third-party products. Based on standard protocols, GroupWise allows users to access their Universal Inboxes any time, from any place, using any browser.

On the Road

For remote users, GroupWise remote connections are automatic and allow users to perform all network client software functions in remote mode. Synchronizing with the network mailbox is as easy as selecting the Remote GroupWise "Hit the Road" button. Conversely, Exchange remote users are not automatically connected to the network and must run the client in offline mode. GroupWise also "tries" remote connections in various ways - if one option fails, GroupWise automatically tries the next. Notes tries its connections only once - through a default port like IP or NetBIOS - and fails if it cannot connect this way

5. GroupWise is easy on your budget, reducing costs while increasing productivity.

Unlike Exchange and Notes, GroupWise - through both software efficiencies and cross-platform capabilities - allows companies to retain most of their investments in server hardware and software. On average, organizations implementing GroupWise purchased only 16 percent of their servers new, while Notes implementers had to purchase 75 percent new and Exchange implementers had to purchase 82 percent new (CNI). Comparing each product in a similar test bed, Gartner concluded these cost differentials as follows:

GroupWise: $136
SuiteSpot: $167
Exchange: $470
Notes: $719

Likewise, GroupWise is far more scalable than its competitors. On average, tripling the size of GroupWise results in a server increase of only 64 percent, while tripling Notes increases server needs by 123 percent and tripling the size of Exchange increases server needs by 162 percent (CNI)

Several analyst groups, like Creative Networks Incorporated (CNI), have looked at actual use when comparing these products. Their conclusion: GroupWise gets used more often and with less effort than Exchange and Notes - saving users more than 600 percent more time at information-sharing than either competitor.


Three out of four users who see GroupWise in action purchase it, and market awareness of GroupWise has surpassed that of both Lotus Notes and Microsoft Exchange.

The bottom line: GroupWise is a wise investment, offering the fullest set of collaborative features and access choices while significantly lowering ownership costs incurred through implementation and management. With GroupWise, productivity soars when users - able to use an intuitive interface no matter what they're doing - concentrate on getting their work done.

© 1998 Novell, Inc. All rights reserved. The Novell logo, NetWare and Novell Directory Services are registered trademarks and NDS is a trademark of Novell Corporation in the U.S. and other countries. Netscape Directory Server is a trademark of Netscape Communications Corporation. Pentium is a registered trademark of Intel Corporation. Windows, Windows NT, Windows 3.1, Windows 95 and Windows 98 are registered trademarks and Active Directory, Exchange, Windows NT Server, and Windows NT Workstation are trademarks of Microsoft Corporation. UNIX is a registered trademark of X/Open Company, Ltd. in the U.S. and other countries.

All other brand and product names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies