Google Preps Enterprise-Ready Desktop Search

By Matthew Hicks  |  Posted 2005-03-08

Google Preps Enterprise-Ready Desktop Search

Having released a full version of its desktop search application, Google Inc. next wants to hone the softwares enterprise features.

The Mountain View, Calif., company is working on an enterprise version of the application, officials confirmed to Google is providing few details about its features, but the enterprise edition will include the ability for organizations to install and run Google Desktop Search on multiple Windows accounts on one machine.

"We fully understand the needs of the enterprise and are trying to address them with new features," said Nikhil Bhatla, a Google product manager.

He declined to say when the enterprise version will be available or go into beta testing but indicated that Google wants to make desktop search more appealing to corporations.

eWEEK.coms Steven Vaughan-Nichols puts Google Desktop Search 1.0 through its paces. Read his review here.

Googles focus on desktop search for organizations follows earlier warnings from some IT analyst companies that enterprises should tread carefully with desktop search offerings from Google and other consumer Web search providers.

After the beta version of Google Desktop Search was released in October, analysts warned that it could expose previously hard-to-find and sensitive corporate information and be misused on PCs shared among multiple users. Google also patched a security hole discovered by university researchers.

Gartner Inc. warned enterprises to avoid widespread use of the software because of "security problems and lack of corporate-ready functions," while Meta Group Inc. advised IT departments to investigate security issues and develop user policies. Analysts with Gartner and Meta could not be immediately reached Monday for comment on the full release of Google Desktop Search.

The enterprise concerns about Google Desktop Search have little to do with inherent security problems in the software, said Stephen OGrady, a co-founder and analyst at analyst company RedMonk, in Bath, Maine. They largely center on its ability to find information that already existed on users machines, such as cached Web-page history, but has been difficult to locate.

"The concerns that everyone has are the ability to limit searches to the appropriate users and to have a per-user basis for restricting access to information," OGrady said.

Next Page: Shoring up desktop search software for enterprises.

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Google has begun to shore up the desktop search software for enterprises. The beta version, for example, was able to index password-protected Microsoft Office files. But the full Version 1.0 release, launched Monday, keeps password-protected files out of the index by default.

Also in the full release, IT managers can block users from installing Google Desktop Search if they use the Microsoft Group Policy Service. Google added a flag in its desktop application to respect the policy-based management feature of Windows, Bhatla said.

Enterprise features could become more important as users gain more exposure to the growing number of free desktop search tools. Googles top competitors—Yahoo Inc., Microsoft Corp.s MSN division and Ask Jeeves Inc. —all have unveiled test versions of desktop search.

Meanwhile, enterprise search vendors such as Autonomy Corp. plc and specialized vendors such as ISYS Search Software and Coveo Solutions Inc. make desktop search tools specifically for organizational use.

Click here to read more about the holes desktop search can reveal.

"What we have to get to is a recognition that these tools, to some degree, are inevitable," OGrady said. "People want, and in many cases, require the ability to search effectively for the information they have stored locally."

He suggested enterprise IT departments begin examining the tools more closely and weigh the benefits of using them against the likelihood for easier access to sensitive information. They must decide whether they need to use policy servers, centrally administer the applications or lock down PCs.

IT managers also should account for the hardware requirements of desktop search. The applications use about a gigabyte of hard-drive space for the search index and consumer processing power to refresh the index, OGrady said.

Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on enterprise search technology.

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