Looking Good: Software Options for Searching Microsoft SharePoint Data

Written By: Josh Behl

from September 25, 2012

Companies have invested in Microsoft SharePoint and other Microsoft business applications over the past years. They may even have some of these systems integrated in a few meaningful ways. But, how easy is it to find data within these systems? Individually, users can find what is needed but can users go to one application, search for some key words and get a consolidated results view of all that data? If not, it is important to realize it CAN be done and easier than one might think. Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 saw a number of key enhancements that make searching for data across systems within the context of one application more viable.  This article compares and contrasts a few of the possibilities to assist users in deciding which path to take.

Tools

There are combinations of tools available for finding a searching solution using Microsoft SharePoint:

  • Microsoft SharePoint Foundation 2010
  • Microsoft Search Server 2010 Express
  • Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010
  • Microsoft Search Server 2010
  • Microsoft FAST™ Search Server 2010 for Microsoft SharePoint

Microsoft SharePoint Foundation 2010 and Microsoft Search Server 2010 Express: These are free of charge to use on licensed Microsoft Windows® servers. These entry level products offer the ability to crawl and index content and provide a user interface for executing queries against the catalog of crawled content. Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 and Microsoft Search Server 2010: These products offer improved scalability and options for indexing content from many different sources, while fulfilling the configurability, manageability, and reporting requirements of an organization. Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 provides a great platform for creating general productivity search applications. Microsoft FAST Search Server 2010 for Microsoft SharePoint: This product delivers the power of FAST with the simplicity and total cost of ownership benefits of Microsoft products. Microsoft FAST Search Server 2010 for Microsoft SharePoint delivers the best general productivity search on the market AND makes it easy and  economical to build high-value search applications. Microsoft FAST Search Server 2010 for Microsoft SharePoint further enhances the crawling, content processing, user interface, and scale of Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010.

Each searching tool provides companies the ability to crawl a myriad of possible content sources such as:

  • Microsoft SharePoint sites
  • Microsoft Windows file shares
  • Microsoft Exchange public folders
  • Lotus Notes
  • Web sites
  • IFilters for additional repositories
  • Structured content in databases

Choosing

Any of the combinations above would do the trick. In addition to licensing differences and costs, the choice comes down to the number of records to crawl and how those results can be refined.

It takes diligent, collective thought on the part of an organization to select the right tool. Every organization could benefit from Microsoft FAST Search capabilities such as thumbnail previews of Microsoft Office documents, enhanced refiners, and dynamic metadata extraction of crawled content. But, that does not translate into a direct need to buy it. Simply purchasing and configuring Mi crosoft FAST Search Server is not the solution in and of itself, and requires some thoughtful consideration on the part of the organization.

For most organizations, the big consideration comes down to the number of records to be crawled and searched. Microsoft FAST Search can crawl in excess of 500 million records, Microsoft SharePoint Search approximately 300 million records, and Microsoft SharePoint Foundation around 10 million records. There may be initial benefits in starting small and building from there as the scope of an organization’s content expands and organizational needs become more refined.

Microsoft Dynamics Data

For all Microsoft Dynamics products other than Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, users can leverage Microsoft Business Connectivity Services to crawl the Microsoft SQL Server tables or views and search the data from Microsoft Share- Point. In the case of Microsoft Dynamics GP, users can perform record manipulation directly against the database from Microsoft SharePoint. For Microsoft Dynamics CRM, users need to do a bit more programming to accommodate Microsoft Dynamics CRM record manipulation from Microsoft SharePoint. However, in both examples, query and search for data in either database can be done by using any of the searching tools available for Microsoft SharePoint 2010. Even for Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, it is possible to search the data from Microsoft SharePoint. It is important to note that crawling Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online data does require some additional programming or perhaps a 3rd party tool. As these technologies evolve and as a organization is looking at consolidating their technology spend, take a moment to consider the use of the Microsoft SharePoint searching tools to better leverage those IT investments. For more information on leveraging Microsoft SharePoint, Microsoft SharePoint’s searching technologies, and Microsoft Dynamics, contact your local Microsoft partner.