SharePoint Report Card: Search

This week, Microsoft hosts hundreds of Microsoft Valued Professionals (MVPs) from around the world at the annual MVP Summit in Redmond. The summit is a great opportunity for us to meet other community leaders in our technologies, to share and to learn, and to gain insight into Microsoft's direction for the future. I was lucky enough to be awarded MVP status in Windows Server Directory Services last year, and in Office SharePoint Server this year, so I'll be able to peek into Microsoft's collective brain to see a glimpse of the future of both Windows and SharePoint.  I'm really looking forward to the chance to interact with the product teams and with several dozen incredible SharePoint and Directory Services MVPs--many of whom I've worked with "virtually" but have never been able to put a face with the name.  I look forward to sharing some of what I've learned with you next week!


SharePoint Report Card: Search
While I'll be searching for answers in Redmond, I hope you've been looking at, testing, planning for, and rolling out Microsoft search technologies. In a recent newsletter, I began the process of looking at each of the scenarios that SharePoint is designed to address, and evaluating whether SharePoint delivers everything it promises, implies, or tries to get us to believe.  This week, I'll say a few words about search.

Users spend a lot of time looking for information--files on their local and network stores, information contained in those files or in email messages and attachments, data contained in databases. There's a huge ‘low hanging fruit' there--time wasted by users in less-than-productive search activities.  SharePoint's search story is a good one. Companies that have invested the time and resources into implementing Office SharePoint Server's search capabilities have found that the investment pays off in big ways.

Although there are certainly other enterprise search solutions--some of which may be the best on the Internet--there's a lot to be said for leveraging Microsoft's technologies to index and search business data, the vast majority of which originates in Microsoft desktop applications in the Microsoft Office suite.  There's also a lot to be said for the tight integration of Microsoft search into the UIs of Windows and applications that users work with every day.  I know from first-hand experience that Windows Desktop Search, which I've configured to search my Outlook and network data stores, has increased my productivity significantly.  The tools work, the indexing is efficient and highly configurable, the results are security-trimmed (meaning you don't see results you don't have permission to view), and the client experience is highly manageable.  As a customer of Microsoft enterprise search, you will also be the beneficiary of the investments Microsoft is making in search as it tries to gain Internet search market share against Google.  The technologies it's creating in that effort trickle down to make enterprise search the most rapidly developing platform coming out of Microsoft.

The search functionality provided by Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) is limited to the site collection--you cannot search across site collections.  Therefore, one year ago, I would have told you that even a small SharePoint shop really needed Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS), or at least Office SharePoint Server for Search, to search across WSS or MOSS sites.  Luckily, that story has changed.  Did I just mention that search is rapidly developing?  Last month, Microsoft released Search Server 2008 Express, which provides very rich search capabilities that include indexing across file shares and WSS sites.  This is the ideal solution, in my opinion, for many small- to mid-sized businesses.  And it's free.  Yep, you read that right: free.  The major restriction is that it can run on only one server, so you'll want to read up on how that might affect your design or even the choice of product. The next step up is Search Server 2008 or MOSS itself.  The search functionality of MOSS is now “one step behind” Search Server 2008, but will be brought up to speed soon with an update.

So if you have not yet implemented a search solution in your enterprise, don't wait any longer: go out and grab Search Server 2008 Express, at a bare minimum, or step up to Search Server 2008 or MOSS Search.  The report card is in, and SharePoint gets a gold star for Search.

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