This article will review all Enterprise Search features, giving some examples.  This will show all employees the value of using the Enterprise Search system in their organization.  We will also explain each Search product individually, and cover each Enterprise Search feature.

What is Enterprise Search?

When you need to store some information that will be useful later, you are looking at a “Classification and Search” problem.  I use the word “Classification” because it is a word that should always be linked with search terms.

Imagine you have 100 well-organized files in folders and subfolders, which you access through five or six clicks along the path.  You work in this way because you have become accustomed to using graphical operating systems like Windows, which base their classifications on folders, subfolders and some properties linked to documents.  Using this kind of system, you will be able to access the documents later, because you have classified them, and you will also be able to filter documents by using their properties.

In terms of scope, we are talking about “personal” systems, containing a few hundred documents (or a few thousand at most) documents for which you already know an approximate location, since you have classified and stored them.

Now, think about the Internet, which is intended as a network of networks that connects all the computers on the planet.   Through the internet, you can reach not only reach information stored on your computers, but also all the other documents and web pages which are housed on all computers and servers on the Internet (apart from those you are denied access to).  As you will appreciate, classification of, and searching for, information on the Internet is complicated, since:

  • Each computer has its own document-classification system.
  • You have access to huge amounts of information that should be indexed in an efficient way so that you can find it later.

This first complication is very difficult to address, since we can’t force everyone to classify web pages and documents in a consistent and unified way.

The second complication is tackled by search engines like Bing, Google or Yahoo! And although they have a high success rate, you sometimes spend hours and hours looking for what you need on the Internet.

So far, we have talked about personal computers (containing structured and well organized information) and the Internet (totally unstructured information).  We will now consider the middle ground – the Intranets and internal networks that companies use for their everyday processes.  This is where the term “Enterprise Search” fits in.  It is defined as an intermediate point because:

  • Both structured and unstructured information are present
  • You can propose some consistent and unified system for classification and tagging.
  • There are large amounts of documentation, provided by a number of people, so this requires an efficient search engine.

In addition, when we mention “Enterprise Search”, we need to take into account several issues:

  • Security. In an enterprise network, the resources that each employee can access depend on their role, and a careful study is made to ensure that security is implemented and employees have appropriate access.
  • Many different file types are present: PDF, DOC, PPT, ZIP, RDL, HTML…
    Information is being indexed from different repositories: the File System, Web Servers, Lotus Notes, Exchange, SharePoint, CRM, ERP, etc.
  • The combination of structured information (DBs, ERP) and unstructured data (web pages, documents, videos, etc.)
  • Vocabularies and firm-specific taxonomies (which must be made use of in searches)
  • Documents dates (date created, date relating to the analysis of a report, dates within documents, etc.) become more important.
  • Normally, users search for an exact document. Compared to an Internet search, in which you often don’t know what you’re looking for, with Enterprise Search a user usually searches for documentation that they know exists but don’t remember where it was stored.

 

Moreover, Enterprise Search also entails total control over the index and the results, unlike an Internet search, which is highly influenced by the ranking of results (even some SEO (Search Engine Optimization) techniques – can´t guarantee results).  Additionally, nothing can be done to modify the way in which results are shown.  With Enterprise Search, companies can adapt the search to their business´s needs, by changing the ranking model, and/or changing the way that results are shown – from, for example, plain text to a preview of a document, or even an annual sales report.

Enterprise Search Products in SharePoint 2010

SharePoint 2010 is a collaboration platform and as such has implemented a powerful search engine. However, there are also several editions of SharePoint 2010 and some external Search products that can be integrated within SharePoint 2010, and the possibilities these offer are:

SharePoint Foundation 2010 Search

This is the default search engine that comes with SharePoint Foundation 2010 (the “free” edition of SharePoint 2010).  It is very limited as a Search Engine. Some of its main limitations are:

  • It is only able to index SharePoint sites within the same Farm.
  • It supports no more than 10 million indexed documents.
  • No configurable user interface is provided.
  • It is only configurable at the site collection level.

Search Server 2010 Express (MSSX 2010)

The free version of Microsoft’s Search Engine, it can work independently of SharePoint, but can also be installed and integrated with SharePoint 2010.  In this way, it can be configured through SharePoint 2010 Central Administration, because it is installed as a service application.  This has several advantages over SharePoint Foundation Search, such as:

  • The ability to index several types of data sources (SharePoint Sites, Windows File Shares, Exchange Public Folders, Lotus Notes, Web Sites, IFilters for additional repositories, Structured content in databases through BCS)
  • User interface-based administration
  • Query Federation
  • For more, see Table 2

More information: http://www.microsoft.com/enterprisesearch/searchserverexpress/en/us/default.aspx

Search Server 2010 (MSS 2010)

This is the pay version of Microsoft’s Search Engine and is totally independent of SharePoint, as is the case with Search Server 2010 Express.  With Search Server 2010 you have the same capabilities as in the Express version, but the one server limitation is removed and it allows 100 million documents to be indexed without decreasing performance. The differences in the functionality it provides – such as scalability and index capacity – justify a move from the free version to this version.

More information: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd183108.aspx

SharePoint Server 2010 Search (SP)

The Search Engine integrated and built into SharePoint Server 2010. It’s main out of the box features include: people and expertise search with phonetic matching, social search, taxonomy integration, and query suggestions.

SharePoint Server has two license variants: the Standard Edition and the Enterprise Edition, both with the same Search functionality. The main difference is that with the Enterprise Edition you can purchase FAST for SharePoint, which adds more Enterprise Search functionality (see [2]).  We will refer to all editions as SharePoint Server 2010 Search or SPS. Enterprise Search features in SharePoint Server 2010 are components (or workload, in SharePoint terminology) that don’t have separate or additional licenses.

More information: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sharepoint/ee441229.aspx

Fast Search Server 2010 for SharePoint (FS4SP)

Microsoft bought FAST ESP in 2008, and some FAST ESP features were integrated with SharePoint 2010 in a new product called Fast Search Server 2010 for SharePoint.  FS4SP is an Enterprise Search product that provides an excellent search experience right out of the box, and the flexibility to customize searches and direct them via the ranking models to the content processing pipeline.  Some of the best Enterprise Search features are: similar results, entity extraction, visual best bets, deep refinements, scale-out scenarios, and the ability to index more than 500 million documents.

More information: http://sharepoint.microsoft.com/en-us/product/capabilities/search/Pages/Fast-Search.aspx

SharePoint Online Search (Office 365)

Microsoft Office 365 provides secure access, from anywhere, to professional email, shared calendars, IM, video conferencing, and document collaboration capabilities.  It brings together the following set of tools: Exchange Online, Lync Online, SharePoint Online, Office Web Apps and Office Professional Plus 2010.  SharePoint Online gives you a reduced version of SharePoint Search Engine, and this has some limitations, such as: it is not possible to configure crawler or content sources (it indexes automatically every 5 minutes and online over SharePoint Online sites), and it can’t be configured to manage properties. Other limitations will be shown later, in Table 2.

More information: http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/office365/sharepoint-online.aspx

In the next section, we will explain each Enterprise Search feature in more detail, and we will classify them by availability in each Search product.

Enterprise Search Features in SharePoint 2010

There are many Enterprise Search features that affect different components of the search engine: crawler, external system index connectors, the capability to modify the ranking model, the options available for customizing the results page, etc. Not all Enterprise Search features are available in all Products mentioned earlier.

There are several comparison tables below that classify each feature with the right search product.

The following set of acronyms will be used as table headers:

  • SharePoint Foundation 2010 Search = SPF
  • SharePoint Online (Office 365) Search= SPO
  • Search Server 2010 Express = MSSX
  • Search Server 2010 = MSS
  • SharePoint Server 2010 Search = SPS
  • FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint = FS4SP

IT Professionals Enterprise Search Features

Specific features for IT Professionals are shown in the table below:

Table 1. SharePoint Search Product Features Matrix for IT Professionals

Table 1. SharePoint Search Product Features Matrix for IT Professionals

 

Table 2. SharePoint Search Product Scalability Matrix

Table 2. SharePoint Search Product Scalability Matrix

Table 3. SharePoint Search Product Crawl Connectors Matrix

Table 3. SharePoint Search Product Crawl Connectors Matrix

 

Developers Enterprise Search Features

Specific features for Developers are shown in the table below:

Table 4. SharePoint Search Product Features Matrix for Developers

Table 4. SharePoint Search Product Features Matrix for Developers

 

More info about Enterprise Search for Developers: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ee556856.aspx  andhttp://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/sharepoint/ff420384.aspx

End Users Enterprise Search Features

Specific features for End Users are shown in the table below:

Table 5.SharePoint Search Products Feature Matrix for End Users

Table 5.SharePoint Search Products Feature Matrix for End Users

 

Conclusion

This article’s main objective is to bring together all features and products for SharePoint 2010 Search. You can find most of this information by searching on the Internet, but here you have it all together and concisely described.

As a SharePoint guy, when you need to choose one of those products to implement Search, you usually have one of three scenarios:

  1. SharePoint Foundation 2010 plus Search Server Express environment.
  2. SharePoint Server 2010 environment.
  3. FAST for SharePoint environment.

But perhaps you are asking yourself whether you should choose SharePoint Foundation 2010 + Search Server Express, or SharePoint Server 2010 Search

You will likely choose SharePoint Server 2010 Search if you need:

  1. People and Expertise Search
  2. Taxonomy and Social Search integration.
  3. To be able to search among up to 100 million documents

In what cases would you use SharePoint Server 2010 Search or FAST for SharePoint Server 2010?

(Note: You need an Enterprise SharePoint Server license in order to purchase FAST for SharePoint 2010.)

You will be likely to choose FAST for SharePoint Server 2010 if you need:

  1. To index 500 million documents or more.
  2. Custom Ranking Models
  3. Entity Extraction
  4. Context-based Search

References

[1] Getting started with enterprise search in SharePoint 2010 Products: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ff631149.aspx[2] Compare SharePoint Products:http://sharepoint.microsoft.com/en-us/buy/Pages/Editions-Comparison.aspx?Capability=Search[3] Fast Guide:http://www.microsoft.com/download/en/details.aspx?displaylang=en&id=8320[4] Alerts and RSS in Search Results:http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/sharepoint-server-help/receive-alerts-and-rss-feeds-of-search-results-HA010242016.aspx[5] Search Scopes for end users in SharePoint 2010:http://sharepoint.microsoft.com/Blogs/GetThePoint/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=575[6] Plan keywords, synonyms, and Best Bets (SharePoint Server 2010). http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh133422.aspx[7] Microsoft SharePoint Online for Enterprises Service Description. http://www.microsoft.com/download/en/details.aspx?id=13602[8] SharePoint Online Developer Feature Availability Matrix: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ie/gg454742.aspx[9] Search Technologies for SharePoint 2010 Products:http://zoom.it/So9H#full