What is Enterprise Search?
Broadly defined, an enterprise search system is one that offers a way to make content from multiple data sources available to a defined audience. Primarily, it is used by businesses that require the means to store, retrieve and track digital information in an efficient manner. This may require pulling information from a range of containers — such as desktops, email servers, application databases, enterprise content management systems intranet web sites and more — and organising and ranking these in results according to company-defined parameters of relevance.
Enterprise search vs. Internet search
A good way to wrap one’s head around enterprise search is to compare it with internet search — something that we are all familiar with through online search engines such as Google. These search solutions are used to catalogue the public documents that can be found around the World Wide Web. However, internet search engines cannot access information contained behind an organisation’s firewall or in private company databases. And vice versa — typically, enterprise search systems don’t bother with public documents on the World Wide Web.
As a result, the way of ranking search results differs between enterprise search and internet search. The algorithms used to rank pages on the internet are based on a range of factors that indicate the authority and relevance of particular pages as a source of information to people on the World Wide Web. However, these algorithms won’t be relevant in an enterprise setting. Enterprise search systems must be tailored to suit the needs of the organisation utilising the solution.
Enterprise search components
In the average enterprise search system, the content goes through the following phases from source to search results.
- Content collection: The software gathers content from a range of often-varying sources. This process is often referred to as “crawling” with internet search, but it’s more commonly referred to as “collection” or “ingestion” in enterprise search.
- Processing and analysis: Because the content comes from a range of sources with varying formats, it must be streamlined before it can be fed to users. Various processes such as tokenisation and stemming are used to normalise the data.
- Indexing: The resulting text will then be stored in an index which can be optimised for quick retrieval, and which will contain information such as ranking and relevance for the text within.
- Query parsing: With an index in place, users can provide search queries through their application interface of intranet software.
- Matching: The query can then be compared with the index, and the enterprise search system will give search results based on matching documents.
The benefits of enterprise search
The biggest benefit of enterprise search is efficiency. Because employees need to access information which may be derived from a range of sources that have been changed over time, a software solution that provides immediate access to all of these sources has obvious benefits for organisational productivity.
The other big benefit is security. Not all employees will be allowed access to certain content contained within the enterprise search index. Enterprise search software allows authority levels to be provided for different employees so that only the data they are allowed to access can be found.