Microsoft's free enterprise search is a must try

Microsoft's free enterprise search is a must try

Summary: At the Heroes Happens {here} event in LA yesterday which saw the launch* of Windows Server 2008, one of the relatively hidden gems of the event in my opinion was Microsoft's free** Search Server 2008 Express.  It's is a streamline install of Office SharePoint Server 2007 with almost all the enterprise search features that most users would want and is a must download for any Windows Server shop.

SHARE:

At the Heroes Happens {here} event in LA yesterday which saw the launch* of Windows Server 2008, one of the relatively hidden gems of the event in my opinion was Microsoft's free** Search Server 2008 Express.  It's is a streamline install of Office SharePoint Server 2007 with almost all the enterprise search features that most users would want and is a must download for any Windows Server shop.

Even if you didn't own Windows Server 2003, 2003 R2, or 2008, it would seem like a great way to build a very cheap enterprise search engine appliance with a minimal Windows Server 2003 or above license and a simple 1U server for less than $2000 which is a LOT less than a $30K starting price Google Search Engine appliance with a 500K document cap.  Update 7:28PM - Wiredguy in the talkback pointed out that Google's Mini search appliance starts at $3K, but that only indexes 50K documents and it doesn't tie in to Active Directory as seamlessly and lacks Exchange support.  If you're a Windows shop with an IIS server sitting around with low CPU utilization which is quote common, adding Microsoft's Search Server 2008 Express costs nothing.

So why would you want an enterprise search engine for your company or organization?  Windows Vista (and XP users who add Windows Desktop Search or Google Desktop Search) know how useful it is to have relatively instant indexed search results for any document or email in their computer.  But those benefits stop at the local computer because you don't want every user crawling the network data resources redundantly since it would bring the whole network and server infrastructure to a halt.

An enterprise search engine gives you a centralized intranet website where users could go to a URL like search.mycompany.com and find any document in their entire corporate LAN (and to a lesser extent the WAN and some Internet sites due to bandwidth considerations).  Google's online search engine is great but it's stopped dead in its tracks at the corporate firewall and there's no way it can search your Exchange or Lotus Notes mail server or your file server documents.  The enterprise search engine bridges an essential gap between desktop search and google.com.  Documents or emails that would have been glossed over and forgotten about instantly pop up on the enterprise search server.

The search results are security-trimmed and active directory integrated so that the user will only see the documents that they have permissions to access.  With an Intranet IIS web server set for seamless Active Directory authentication, the user merely goes to the search portal and they're logged in automatically.  The server can also be tuned to crawl the network at off-peak hours with full or incremental searches.

Microsoft's Search Server Express comes preloaded with the following search connectors.

  • File servers
  • Web sites
  • SharePoint websites
  • Exchange Server public folders
  • Lotus Notes

To make Search Server 2008 Express work, you'll either need a free SQL Server 2005 Express database backend or Microsoft SQL Server 2005 and above.  Using the free SQL Express will limit the server to 1 GB and 4 GB database size.  Under most document sizes, a 4 GB index should allow you to index more files than the 500K document cap imposed by the $30K edition of the Google Search Engine appliance.  Buying a SQL server license will still end up being far cheaper than buying the Google appliance.  No matter what your opinion of Microsoft, I think this is one of those things that's definitely worth a try.  Enterprise search is finally affordable and it should become a fixture in any company's server room or datacenter.

 

* This was also a 3-month post launch party for Visual Studio 2008 and 6-month pre-launch party for SQL Server 2008.

** People who already own a copy of Windows Server 2003, 2003 R2, or 2008.

Topics: Microsoft, Browser, Google, Hardware, Operating Systems, Servers, Software, Windows

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

45 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Clients

    However, Google works with any client where MS requires that you be using a recent edition of MSIE. If, like $EMPLOYER, that doesn't apply then you're looking at an unbudgeted expense to buy new clients to go along with your "cheap" search engine.
    Yagotta B. Kidding
    • Google has/had an issue

      My PC is also my door to the wonderful world of the AS400 and People Soft. Google's search and the AS400 do not play together nicely with the function keys at all. As nice as it is, I had to remove the Google program for overall functional reasons. I suspect that there are lots of people in this position.
      Bill4
    • Wrong. You merely need to log in manually with your AD credentials.

      Wrong. You merely need to log in manually with your AD credentials if you use a non IE browser. Secondly, IE is pretty much de facto standard on corporate computers.
      georgeou
      • What if you don't have AD

        Remember NDS or eDirectory? Some of us still exist.

        We don't much care about being shunned either. That may convince me to consider google.
        nucrash
        • Can those work with SharePoint?

          Search Server runs on top of SharePoint Services as another site. You could have it available to all users and do anonymous login if you really wanted. You could also use local authentication or internal to SharePoint. If you could get the local LSASS to pass authentications using another authority, you should be able to wing something there, but its been awhile since I've done NDS or Edirectory.

          I guess what I'm getting at is its probably possible, but its not something openly documented or easily done at the moment.

          -SMFX
          SMFX_
  • I think I will pass

    I think search has just allowed us to become more disorganized. We need to get a better idea of where to put things in a top down method to better speed things along.
    nucrash
    • Search has one benefit

      mainly for someone new to the set up but i do agree with you.
      deaf_e_kate
    • Try it before you knock it

      You still need to organize your data and manage the security. Search just makes your documents usable by being searchable. All those great documents are worthless if no one can find it.

      I had the same attitude as you about desktop search until I started using it.
      georgeou
      • well we use google's one and it's great

        the microsoft one doesn't work on Server 2007 SBS apparently.
        stevey_d
        • How can it work on something that doesn't exist?

          And you do not use's Google's as you claim in a different thread below that you use desktop search "and a free program"

          But then again, the Google Search Appliance wont work with SBS 2007, either. LOL :)
          GuidingLight
    • Read digity's response

      http://talkback.zdnet.com/5208-10533-0.html?forumID=1&threadID=44910&messageID=830256&start=-9986
      georgeou
    • Good luck with that effort.

      Teaching users to store thing in a logical order is a lost cause. Been there, done that...
      No_Ax_to_Grind
  • Yeah, Sure. Just like Vista is a Must Try

    Have we not heard this garbled nonsense before?

    Why should anyone place any credence in the inflictions of such
    a completely failed product development offering. Can you say
    them: Xbox, Zune, Playsforsure, Spot, WM and (ta-da!) Vista -
    the last a product that George still wants to insist is hunky
    dory. Yup, go ahead George..... May I sell you a bridge?

    By the way, if anyone wants to see what a complete disaster the
    Vista launch was and how the Bloatfarmers were well aware of
    how disasterous it would be, you can download the entire file
    158 page from the now certified class action lawsuit here:
    http://blog.seattlepi.nwsource.com/microsoft/archives/132891.
    asp

    It shows the MSFT wizards at their truly astounding and,
    needless to say, incompetent best, trying to put more lipstick
    on an ugly pig called Vista and say: The Wow Is Now when they
    knew it would be another MSFT dung mess.

    Let us hope that it will cost them $billions so that they learn
    that screwing everyone will be very costly.

    Who is crazy enough to place any credence in a rogue,
    unethical organization like this run by chronic liars, cheats and
    crooks that has now been convicted twice for antitrust
    infractions. Why should anyone believe anything coming from
    Redmond because so much that it has said in the past was
    demonstrably false, misleading and fraudulent?

    Perhaps the only thing that can stop Ballmer et al. are criminal
    indictments. These, for many MSFT customers are fondly to be
    hope for.
    Jeremy W
    • Why should anyone place any credence in you?

      Just more sensless Bloat from a Microsoft wannabe.
      GuidingLight
    • Its so sad you had no clue what the topic was. (nt)

      .
      No_Ax_to_Grind
  • Like buying a car for the cup holders

    There are many ways to implement enterprise search, including email, without any MS products in the mix.

    [i]It???s is a streamline install of Office SharePoint Server 2007[/i]

    Some words don't belong next to one another and those would be "streamline" and "Sharepoint".
    Chad_z
    • This isn't sharepoint

      This isn't sharepoint, and you haven't actually tried the product.
      georgeou
  • Gave it a try and loved it

    Search Server Express is actually a fantastically simple product that is FREE. Love MS or not, they are commoditizing a market where vendors, like Google, have gotten away with charging for search by the document! That is insane, and it should be available to everyone. You don't have to use all of SharePoint and that is the point.

    If the rest of these replies don't see value in search then they must work in a company by themselves. If anybody works in an organization with file servers, public folders, any web content, chances are that you cannot find anything by browsing.

    this is a no brainer for my company.
    digity
    • Log your story as a Search Hero

      As a search hero, you can log your story and you will be highlighted on the Microsoft.com web site. http://www.microsoft.com/enterprisesearch/success/default.aspx
      cwalt
    • Great point

      "Search Server Express is actually a fantastically simple product that is FREE. Love MS or not, they are commoditizing a market where vendors, like Google, have gotten away with charging for search by the document! That is insane, and it should be available to everyone. You don't have to use all of SharePoint and that is the point."

      EXACTLY! Even if you are strictly a Google fan, this is GOOD for you since it puts competitive pressure on Google to lower their insane $30K starting price.
      georgeou