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FAST Search in SharePoint

Improvements in search promise gains for SharePoint admins: Agnes Molnar guest post

Last week I was in Dusseldorf, Germany, where I participated in The Experts Conference 2010. I delivered what was by all accounts a smash hit PowerShell session, and a talk about Managed Metadata. Unlike many events at which I’m running around like a mad dog, I got to spend time socially and professionally with some of my fellow consultants and trainers, which really made the event special for me. One of the folks I’ve followed for a long time but had not yet spent “quality time” with is Ágnes Molnár, a SharePoint guru-slash-consultant based in lovely Budapest.

She’s a SharePoint search diva, and was kind enough to offer to introduce FAST Search to our SHAREPOINT PRO CONNECTIONS UPDATE readers. I’m really excited to be able to share her experience with you, so without further ado, here is Ágnes’ introduction to Fast Search—be sure to check out Ágnes’ great blog for lots of awesome search guidance!

FAST Search for SharePoint
By Agnes Molnar, guest author, SharePointPro Connections UPDATE

FAST Search Server for SharePoint 2010 is a new additional product in the SharePoint family with extra capabilities in Enterprise Search. In this column, my goal is introduce you the values of FAST Search.

User Experience

The Refinement Panel is a great component of SharePoint 2010 Search. It allows you to apply filters to a results set, with the filters being dynamically generated based on properties in the results set.

FAST Search greatly improves the Refinement Panel. First, the panel shows the exact number of results in each refinement category, so you’ll know immediately how many results you’ll get by applying a refiner.

Also, FAST makes deep refinement instead of the SharePoint’s shallow refinement. That means, all results’ properties will be extracted and used as a refinement for the result set (see Figure 1). Finally, the Refinement Panel can be customized as well.

The result set can not only be refined, but also sorted on any property. The results page contains a drop-down with specific properties for sorting, and the properties contained in this drop-down can be customized. (See Figure 2.)

In the results list itself, there are also some useful improvements. First, you can ask for similar results for your query. Also, Thumbnails are displayed for every Word and PowerPoint document, and a quick preview is available for each PowerPoint result (see Figure 3).

Best Bets were introduced in MOSS 2007, and continue to be available in SharePoint 2010 Search. FAST Search adds Visual Best Bets, which can be any kind of image or video. Visual Best Bets is a great feature for end users, who tend to respond well to visual previews and other visual search results. (See Figure 4.)

Besides text and visual best bets, promoted and demoted documents also can be defined for each keyword. Promoted documents are highly relevant for a keyword. When the user searches for the keyword, promoted documents will appear at the top of the result list. Similarly, demoted documents are less relevant for a keyword. When the user searches for the keyword, demoted documents will appear at the bottom of the result list.

Sites also can be promoted and demoted, defined on the Service Application level.

Moreover, different users have different requirements, and that’s extremely true in Search: a developer needs code examples and technical white papers, while a marketing manager needs diagrams, posters and presentations as results for the same query. With FAST Search Server, you can define different profiles based on user profile properties, and the results, promoted and demoted content, and visual best bets will be provided based on the user profiles.


From an administration perspective, FAST Search Server for SharePoint 2010 is a complex and robust product: the FAST Search component of a SharePoint 2010 farm can be single or multinode (with an admin and one or more non-admin servers), and can be scaled out quickly, with support for up to 500 million documents.

To achieve the full functionality of FAST Search Server for SharePoint 2010, you need first to perform the following installation and configuration steps:

- You have to have a SharePoint 2010 Enterprise Farm deployed

- Office Web Apps is required for the Thumbnails and PowerPoint Preview function:

o Install Office Web Apps to you SharePoint 2010 Farm (it can be installed even on SharePoint Foundation 2010);

o Deploy the Office (Word, PowerPoint and Excel) Service Applications

o Be ensure that all of Word Viewing, PowerPoint and Excel Calculation Services have been started

o Activate the ’Office Web Apps’ feature on your site collections

Deploying FAST Search Server for SharePoint 2010:

o Install FAST Search Server for SharePoint 2010

o Run the FAST Search Configuration Wizard and set the required configuration

o Deploy a FAST Search Connector Service Application

o Deploy a FAST Search Query Service Application;

o Create and import the certificate ’SharePoint Security Token Service’ for the right communication between the SharePoint and FAST engines

After performing these steps, you’ll be able to create a FAST Search Center and use its capabilites, or use the FAST Search API in your custom applications. I’ll write a detailed instruction column on Deploying FAST Search Server for SharePoint 2010 soon, stay tuned!

And you can always search, or just browse, to my blog.
__Agnes Molnar.

 For more reading about FAST, check out Jeff Fried's article "Introducing FAST Search for SharePoint: A New Choice in Search."

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