Gartner: Google enterprise search has its limits

The analyst group claims that the search giant isn't offering companies the security, transparency or flexibility that they need

Businesses looking to use Google's search appliances should realise that the devices do not have the same level of security or customisation as products from some enterprise-specialist competitors, according to a report from Gartner.

Released this week, the report, Google for Enterprise Search is Simple and Popular, yet Limited,  outlines the strengths and weaknesses of the search giant's enterprise-class search appliances.

"Google's appliances are excellent choices for tactical installations that do not require regular tuning. Through to at least [the end of] 2007, however, enterprises should test the appliances before purchasing them and should not expect Google to measure up to enterprise-specialist competitors," the report states.

Google offers two types of search hardware; the Search Appliance for large companies, and the Mini for small and medium firms.

Price and the ease with which it is possible to install and configure the systems are major plus points, but the analyst group warns that the devices have shortcomings — especially around customisation. "Other [Google customers] have been shocked to discover that Google will not allow them to see more about how its systems work — a critical capability in sensitive environments. Most search vendors grant their users great control," the report said.

Gartner also highlights a lack of sophistication in the Google appliances when it comes to security. The analyst concedes that the levels of security the device can provide have been improved but not to the degree required by some enterprise customers. "[Large firms] say that Google lacks subtlety and flexibility in managing security from administrative perspectives. Some legacy security systems are still unreachable; however any inexpensive search vendor can have the same problem," Gartner warned.

Google launched the smallest version of its Mini range of hardware appliance earlier this month. The latest device has the capacity to search up to 50,000 documents and includes a year of support for £1,295.

"The price point for this product is a huge motivator. £1,200 is the price of a laptop or a Gucci handbag," Arvind Desikan, Google product marketing manager, told ZDNet UK.

The Google Mini is designed to enable small businesses to let employees and Web site visitors search documents, including blog postings and wiki entries. Google hopes to find customers among healthcare organisations, educational institutions, government agencies, and small to medium-sized businesses such as law firms and consultancies.

The original Mini, released last January, handles 100,000 documents and sells for £1,995 in the UK. Other Minis in the range include versions that can search 200,000 or 300,000 documents.

The Minis are aimed at smaller businesses than Google's other hardware device, the Google Search Appliance, which is designed for larger businesses and can support up to 15 million documents.

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