There has been a lot of discussion around search during the release of SharePoint 2010. Most of this has focused on FAST and FAST for SharePoint. Both of these products are excellent in the enterprise search space and well worth investigating.
There is another product Microsoft released as part of the 2010 rollout: Search Server 2010.
Search Server is an extension of SharePoint Foundation. It was available as part of SharePoint 2007 and was then known as Search Server 2008. Search Server gives you many of the enterprise search capabilities found in SharePoint Server for a small cost, or sometimes no cost at all.
These features include the ability to search across site collections—no more having to navigate to the site to be able to search across the contents. Search scopes can be defined; this allows you specify what content sources and type of results are returned, often seen in drop-down boxes or tabs in SharePoint 2007. To top it all off, you can also search across file shares, indexing all the content you haven’t yet got around to moving to SharePoint, or don’t want to move.
Another enhancement in 2010, which comes with SharePoint Foundation, is the capability to consume data from line-of-business systems using Business Connectivity Services. In the 2007 days, this was only possible using SharePoint Enterprise edition. Now, using Search Server, you can search across the external systems and display results to users using the friendly SharePoint interface.
Where Search Server gets really exciting is the two versions available, Express and Standard. Express is free—that’s right, no cost at all. Over the past few years, anytime a client wants WSS or SharePoint Foundation now on a single Web front-end farm, I have been installing Search Server. Express allows you to have only one server running both the index and query roles. For many smaller organizations, this is perfect. Search Server Standard allows you to scale these roles out to multiple servers.
So now you are asking yourself, what don’t you get with Search Server? We have scopes, file share and BCS, allowing you to search database content and custom application. Search Server does not give you people search because the profile store is only part of SharePoint Server. You also don’t get the ability to use term store-based refiners on your search results page; again, this is because the Term Store or Metadata Service Application is only available in SharePoint Server.
So if you are looking for a low-cost enterprise-grade search solution, make sure you have a look at Search Server 2010. You might even be able to take advantage of the free Express version.
Joshua Haebets is the Principal SharePoint Consultant at Evolve Information Services in Australia. He can be contacted at Joshua.firstname.lastname@example.org.