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Business Search Goes Beyond The Browser

There's plenty to choose from when it comes to business search, at a wide range of prices.

The market for enterprise search is booming, growing 39% to $1.4 billion last year, according to IDC. Prices and features vary widely, ranging from the free IBM OmniFind Yahoo Edition to systems that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

For lightweight search--a few document repositories or a low-traffic Web site--OmniFind Yahoo Edition or Google Mini Search Appliance, which begins at $1, 995, are enough. But large companies with thousands of employees who use search in the context of their daily work--say, a legal department that uses e-discovery--may require a high-end search system from Autonomy, Fast Search & Transfer, or Endeca. "You need different tools to solve different problems," says IDC analyst Susan Feldman.

Web search tools and enterprise search products often coexist in companies, with employees using their browser search tool of choice on the Web and a company-provided search application when accessing databases inside the corporate firewall.

OmniFind Yahoo Edition can be installed with just three clicks by selecting which content repositories and intranet sites to search. At the other extreme, if a company wants to personalize search based on job roles, add layers of security, include taxonomies, and hard-wire answers to questions, the project could take months to complete.

Enterprise search bars are popping up all over the place. Fast has a connector for Microsoft's SharePoint. Autonomy integrates search with Microsoft's Outlook toolbar and SAP applications. Search boxes are showing up in CRM and workflow apps, too, often built in by the software vendor.

It's possible to search more and more business information, including PDFs, SQL Server databases, and file systems. There are specialists like Dutch company WCC, which can combine a fingerprint search with other data to find identity matches.

Increasingly, search will be a helper app that automatically populates forms with information from content repositories--Adobe's Intelligent Document Platform does that--or scans legal documents to automatically create lawyer profiles, as done by Recommind's MindServer Legal.

Illustration by Richard Borge

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