Microsoft has invested a lot into search technologies for SharePoint since the takeover of the Norwegian company FAST Search & Transfer. With SharePoint 2013 this merging process has reached by and large a completion at the product level. For Microsoft customers the range of search solutions has become much clearer since then.
For many users, SharePoint provides an important platform for collaboration and document management. However, the majority of enterprises and organizations uses a broad range of additional structured and unstructured content sources day in day out. These are ERP and CRM systems, data bases, file servers, Email servers and various Web 2.0 solutions and portals.
SharePoint Search vs. Enterprise Search
Search functions which are embedded into information systems serve primarily for content searches within these systems. This also applies to SharePoint. Despite its very powerful search it is not a universal enterprise search solution: Not all FAST Search (ESP) product features have been incorporated into the SharePoint search.
The SharePoint search is not a universal Enterprise Search solution
- With FAST Microsoft has abandoned a universal search in favor of a SharePoint-centric search.
- Limitations of the SharePoint search (functions which were not taken over from FAST):
- Lack of convertors for non-Microsoft file formats. The FAST advanced filter pack (Oracle OutsideIn) no longer exists. This affects the fundamental ability of indexing and document preview, including hit highlighting in search results.
- Lack of convertors for non-Microsoft file sources or major limitations in functionality (e.g., HTTP crawler and Lotus Notes connector).
- Missing processors to process specific XML formats.
- Lack of push-interface for SharePoint search.
- Inability to search for similar documents.
- Inability of SharePoint search to present a homogeneous search result from various data sources.
- With SharePoint search results’ sources it is not possible to realize search applications across data sources, i.e., meta data navigation across data sources. This means a major limitation for semantic solutions which are adapted to company-specific vocabulary.
- Mentioned limitations cannot be compensated by 3rd party add-on products. Practical experience has shown that 3rd party connectors severely impact the quality of a search solution.
Important additional functions of an Enterprise Search
- Indexing of non-Microsoft file formats
- Search index-based applications
- Meta data extraction from text contents (i.e., named entity extraction for the recognition of proper names or geographical terms within a text)
- Preview of found contents and highlighting of search hits for all indexed file formats
- Extended search (via a form rather than a simple search entry field)
- Saved searches, notification on new hits, search results as RSS feed
- Social search (tagging & bookmarking)
- High indexing and search scalability with low complexity (for installation, operation and required resources)
- Platform independence: intergator is completely implemented in Java and can be applied to Windows and Linux systems