Don't Settle When It Comes to Enterprise Search Platforms
|Mike Miranda in Enterprise Friday, July 24, 2015|
No company should try to operate for very long without an enterprise search platform. With so many options out there, though, you could be confused about which one is worth a spot in your organization’s budget.
Let’s look at two very common workarounds some have tried, and then we will talk about why you must go with a reputable developer when you make your final decision.
Leveraging Web Search Engines
One way a lot of companies have handled their need for an enterprise search platform is to simply use one like Google or some other web engine. On paper, this may seem to make a lot of sense. After all, who doesn’t trust Google? Most of us use it every single day and would be lost without the search engine giant. If you can leverage its power for your company’s needs, that would seem like a no-brainer, right?
Unfortunately, if you try this, you’ll learn the hard way that Google leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to this type of an environment. That’s not to say it won’t work; it just won’t work well and definitely not nearly as well as you want for a search engine working your company’s internal systems. Google and other web search engines are fantastic at what they’re designed to do. They are not designed to work in an enterprise search environment though. For that, you need a true enterprise search platform.
The major problem is that web search engines are all about sheer volume, which makes a lot of sense once you think about it. When you want to find a pizza parlor in your city, you want to know about every single option and then some. Google’s ability to harvest this much information and present it quickly is one of the reasons it’s so popular. Any search engine that can’t deliver this kind of volume is going to alienate users and soon be left on the scrap heap.
What web search engines like Google don’t do well, though, is carry out deep, detail-oriented searches. Again, this makes sense. Google is driven largely by keywords and backlinks. These are “surface searches” that weren’t created to do some of the tasks you need accomplished by an enterprise search platform.
Your employees may do some very simple searches, but they probably also have some pretty demanding queries too. Enterprise search platforms are designed to handle these types of searches and drill down to the last detail in any file or piece of data they come across.
If your employees aren’t able to do these types of searches on a regular basis, the search software you invested in will be a waste of money. Worse, it could land you with all kinds of other problems because your people will think they’re doing the best possible search they can and concluding that what they want can’t be found.
Also, don’t forget that your company stores information indifferent places. Yes, it may all be on the same server, but in the digital world, there are various “silos” that hold onto information. Each silo is its own environment with its own rules. When you try using a web search engine to look through all your company’s silos, what will most likely happen is that it will have to go through one at a time. This is far from ideal, to say the least.
If you have a good number of silos, your employees will most likely give up. They won’t want to walk the search engine from one silo to the next like they’re holding onto the leash of a bloodhound. The whole point of a search engine is that it’s supposed to cut down on the exhaustive amount of “manual” work you’d otherwise have to do to find the data you need.
Silos aren’t all the same, so you want a search program that can go in and out of the type you have without requiring the employee to reconfigure their query.
Open Source Software
Another very popular method of acquiring enterprise search software is to go with an open source title. Once again, on paper, this seems like a very logical route to take. For one thing, the software is free. You can’t beat that price, especially when it comes to an enterprise-level platform. This usually seems like an unbeatable value for small- and medium-sized businesses that don’t have a lot of leeway where their budget is concerned.
That’s just one benefit that proponents of open source search engines tout though. There’s also the fact that you can modify the software as you see fit. This gives the user the ability to basically mold the code into a result that will fit their company’s needs like a glove.
There are a couple problems though. The first is that you get what you pay for. If your open source software doesn’t deliver, you have no one to complain to. You can always do your research to find a title that others have given positive reviews to. At the end of the day, though, don’t expect much in the way of support. There are plenty of forums to go through to find free advice, but that’s not the type of thing most professionals want to wade through.
When you go with a true, professional version, your employees will never be far from help if something goes wrong. Most companies these days have email and phone lines you can use, but many also have chat boxes you can open up on their website. None of these will be available for your company if you go with open source software.
Also, you can definitely modify the search engine software, but this isn’t necessarily unique to open-source platforms. Professional search platforms can be modified a number of ways, allowing the user to streamline their software and fine-tune the result so they get relevant results again and again.
This type of architecture, known as a pipeline, is becoming more and more the standard in this industry. Enterprise platforms come with all kinds of different search features, but that can also be a problem if they start getting in the way of one another. To ensure there are never too many cooks in the kitchen, pipeline architecture is used to line them all up, one in front of the other. By doing so, you’ll have a much easier time getting the search results you want, especially because you can just reconfigure these features as you see fit whenever you like.
Ongoing Updates Are Yours
One very important aspect of professional enterprise search platforms that is worth pointing out is that most developers are constantly putting out updates for their product. This is the same thing web search engines do, of course. Google, Yahoo and Bing all release upgrades constantly. The difference, however, is that enterprise platforms get upgrades that are specific to their purposes.
While there are updates for open source software, expect sporadic results. The developer of your favorite title could give up and go onto another project, leaving you to look for someone else to continue creating great updates.
If you have a skilled developer who is familiar with open source search engines on your team, this may be an attractive option. Still, most will find this route is just too risky. Most of us also don’t have that kind of developer on staff and it wouldn’t be worth it to hire someone specifically for this reason (it’d be much more affordable to just buy professional software).
Also, remember that, even if you do have this kind of talent within your ranks, you’ll soon become completely beholden to them if you start trusting them with this kind of job. Having someone who is completely responsible for your search engine being able to work and not having someone else on staff who can offer support or replace them is not a good idea.
Scalability Is a Given
Every company understands how important scalability is. This is especially true when it comes to software though. The scalability of a program can really make or break its value. Either it will turn into a costly mistake that greatly holds your business back or it will become the type of agile asset you actually take for granted, it’s so helpful.
Open source platforms are only as scalable as their code allows, so if the person who first made it didn’t have your company’s needs in mind, you’ll be in trouble. Even if they did, you could run into a problem where you find out that scaling up actually reveals some issues you hadn’t encountered before. This is the exact kind of event you want to avoid at all costs.
Now that you realize the importance of going with a reputable developer, your next step is picking which one to choose. You definitely won’t lack for options these days, so just take your time to ensure you go with the best one for your business.
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