Recently I have been working with a few clients to come up with solutions to a range of Search scenarios. As a result of this I learnt quite a bit about MOSS Search capabilities and overcame a few issues. In this series of posts I will highlight guidance for deploying enterprise Search with MOSS and some ideas that worked well in some situations.
First up let's look at some guidelines for implementing SharePoint Search from an end users perspective. Typical end user requirements that I come across for Search is.. wait for it.. make it "google like". OK fair enough i'll just put on my everything google do we must follow hat and continue on..
Jokes aside I am going to highlight what MOSS Search is capable of and also actually that you can configure and implement Search to provide equal or better contextual results sets that meets your organisational business requirements compared to what your users perceptions of broken search.
My guidelines for implementing Search are as follows
- Create a separate document for Search requirements.. why?
Consider the following scenario for a MOSS Intranet deployment where you have a content edit and publish scenario. Typically you will use a specific site template and create a site collection at the top level and have a URL space of http://intranet and you will have sub sites as part of the site collection. So your intranet navigation is http://intranet/hr then http://intranet/policies and what have you. Now also consider that when you talk about Search it has two contextual meanings here in the above scenario. That is.
a) The content administrator who creates and manages the documents or pages
b) The end user who views the published version of the page
Would you provide your Search implementation to cover only the end user published scenario or both? Which one takes priority? By clearly stating your Search requirements you will be able to understand the complexities of catering for both and prioritizing on a solution that works best. Break down perceptions and understand the facts of what it means when a user says "I want google search". Ask and answer questions and write them down for the solution implementation teams to understand the business requirements. Clearly state what it does and does not do.
- Understand what you get with what.. huh? Basically depending on what version of SharePoint you install the Search experience and functionality is different. System architects should understand the differences by reading this MSDN article titled "Comparisons of SharePoint Search Versions" . The cost and implementation of going from being able to search in a single site to being able to search across the enterprise is quite significant.
- Understand what users say they mean by "I want to search everywhere!" In a corporate environment these are your content sources and file types which you need to index. (file shares, LOB systems, contact information, other portals etc etc). Scope your project so that you can roll out extra capability or sources in a feasible manner. Don't try the big bang approach. Start small think big. Align business requirements with your chosen technology in this case SharePoint. Does it give your users the ability to find the information from the sources you have identified?
- Understand what meta data is captured for what purposes. File shares have meta data embedded in document properties and these may need to be mapped to managed properties in SharePoint. Documents and Pages in SharePoint sites also have meta data. So you might need to understand from a user perspective what these mean when surfaced as results.
- Evaluating third party or extensions that are available to enhance the user experience. Does my chosen third party product disable some key SharePoint search functionality just to cater for a single search requirement? Should I get a developer to extend the search by building a custom search web part but use the MOSS Search API? What about community solutions such as Faceted Search?
As you see you have to be thinking about a few things when you talk about Search. In my next post I'll highlight my first point and show some practical samples.
Here are some links to sites that provide SharePoint Enterprise search guidance
Posted by Chandima Kulathilake
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