Shipper Switches from IBM Lotus Notes to Microsoft Solution, Improves Productivity

“We chose a Microsoft-based solution not just because it aligns with our strategic IT integration goals, but also because the new version of Exchange Server meets or exceeds our existing Notes functionality.”

—Rick Hall, Application Development and Support Manager, Tropical Shipping


Tropical Shipping provides containerized shipping services, cargo transfer, and other freight services. For many years, the company's systems for enterprise messaging and related functions were based on IBM Lotus Domino and Notes. However, Tropical Shipping wanted to better integrate these systems into the company's Active Directory based IT environment and to reduce Notes licensing expenses. In 2007, Tropical Shipping began deploying a comprehensive communication and collaboration solution with Microsoft® Exchange Server 2007 and Microsoft Office SharePoint® Server 2007 as its foundation. Although deployment is still in progress, the new solution is already supporting more streamlined IT management and more effective employee communication, resulting in improved productivity. It also provides a flexible, efficient path for migrating the company's Notes applications in the near future.  

The Situation

Tropical Shipping is one of the largest carriers of containerized freight to the Bahamas and the Caribbean. The company operates about 20 owned and chartered vessels, as well as state-of-the-art cargo transfer facilities in various seaside ports. Headquartered in Riviera Beach, Florida, Tropical Shipping is a wholly owned subsidiary of Nicor, a natural gas distribution company based in Naperville, Illinois.

For years, Tropical Shipping has used IBM Lotus Domino server software and the Lotus Notes client for enterprise messaging, document management, and application development. The company’s IT environment includes 1,000 users, 1,200 mailboxes, and about 40 Notes applications and databases. Three clustered Notes database server computers and two Notes application server computers support this environment from both a primary and a backup data center.

Tropical Shipping wanted to reduce expenses related to its Notes licenses. The company also sought to better integrate its communication and collaboration systems with the rest of its IT infrastructure, which is based on the Windows Server® 2003 operating system and the Active Directory® service. In particular, the company needed to resolve technical issues between Notes and other programs. “Notes databases are not completely relational,” explains Rick Hall, Application Development and Support Manager at Tropical Shipping. “As a result, making some of our Notes application interfaces work with other key systems that require relational databases was sometimes a difficult process.”

To address these issues, Tropical Shipping sought a cost-effective, easier-to-manage, and more integrated communication and collaboration solution.


The Solution

In September 2006, Tropical Shipping decided to switch its Domino/Notes–based systems to Microsoft® infrastructure software and technologies, including the following: 

  • Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 Enterprise Edition, which offers e-mail, calendaring, unified messaging, and other enterprise messaging functionality
  • The Microsoft Office Outlook® 2007 messaging and collaboration client, which displays Exchange Server 2007 information on desktop computers
  • Microsoft Office Outlook Web Access, a component of Exchange Server that accesses e-mail, schedules, and other information through a Web browser
  • Windows® SharePoint® Services, a technology in Windows Server 2003 that provides Web hosting, document storage, and application development functions
  • Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, which extends the capabilities of Windows SharePoint Services by adding organization and management tools, including out-of-the-box functionality for records management, search, workflows, portals, and personalized sites

Additionally, the Microsoft Visual Studio® 2005 Professional Edition development system is used for custom programming.
Hall says, “We chose a Microsoft-based solution not just because it aligns with our strategic IT integration goals, but also because the new version of Exchange Server meets or exceeds our existing Notes functionality.”

“Another key reason we selected Exchange Server 2007 is that it has enhanced clustering and replication features,” adds Michael Aback, Systems Analyst at Tropical Shipping. “Without such high reliability and rapid failover capability, we might never have started this project.” 

The Benefits

Deployment of the new solution is still underway, but Tropical Shipping is already experiencing the benefits of streamlining IT management processes and of promoting more effective communication, collaboration, and project management. These efficiencies, combined with reduced Notes licensing expenses, give the company a cost-effective collaboration infrastructure. The new solution also offers a flexible path for migrating the company’s Notes applications and provides a foundation for other future enhancements. 

“We looked at the true costs of our Notes licenses and determined that discontinuing them would offer immediate savings. And, we’ll be able to avoid the cost of upgrading storage systems for our Notes servers.”

- Rick Hall, Application Development and Support Manager, Tropical Shipping


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