Google releases enterprise desktop search tool

Google has made available a desktop search tool tailored for the workplace, about eight months after it introduced a similar tool for consumers.

The workplace tool, called Google Desktop Search for the Enterprise, is available for free download on Wednesday at http://desktop.google.com/enterprise.

Google decided to develop the product because it received many requests for a workplace version of the consumer desktop search tool, said Matthew Glotzbach, product manager for the Google Enterprise group.

Like its cousin, Google Desktop Search for the Enterprise is designed to let users find information stored in their PCs, such as e-mail messages, word processing documents, spreadsheet files and photos.

"Information is growing at insane rates, especially in the business environment," Glotzbach said. "The average person in the workplace can't find what they're looking for anymore [in their PCs.] There is so much information that they're overwhelmed."

The two products, which are free, share a feature that has been a tad controversial in the consumer tool: they take snapshots on the fly of every Web page a user views and index the content. Some users have expressed concern this might be counterproductive if sensitive or confidential information is captured as a user surfs the Web, such as credit card numbers, passwords and online banking information. Users can configure both tools not to capture secure HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol over Secure Socket Layer) Web pages.

With the right amount of marketing, it's reasonable to expect a widespread adoption of the Google enterprise tool, because it's free and Google's brand has a degree of cachet among IT professionals, said Eric Peterson, a Jupiter Research analyst.

"The big challenge Google will face is security. Is this tool locked down? Is there anything in the tool that could potentially open up the enterprise to the outside world and leak information?" Peterson said.

Google made the right decision in creating an enterprise version of the desktop search tool, because this functionality is much more needed in work PCs than in home PCs, Peterson said. The information stored in work PCs is typically much larger and more diverse, he said.

"Any enterprise business of appreciable size should be considering putting desktop search in their PCs, simply to improve the productivity of the staff," he said.

Unlike the consumer product, Google Desktop Search for the Enterprise has a series of installation, distribution, management and security features for IT departments to use when rolling out and configuring the product for their users. For example, all user data and index files can be encrypted, and an installer package is included for enterprise-wide distribution. Also, the tool can create different indexes in a machine that is used by different people, and it can ensure each index is accessible only to the user for which it was created.

Another feature found only in this enterprise version of the product is the ability to index e-mail messages from IBM's Lotus Notes platform, support which was made possible through a collaboration between Google and IBM. The plan is to extend this support in future upgrades to other Lotus Notes data such as calendar entries and applications built on top of this IBM system, Glotzbach said.

Google Desktop Search for the Enterprise is also integrated with the company's enterprise search tools, called Google Search Appliance and Google Mini, which companies use to index information residing on their servers. For example, when a user runs a query against the Google Search Appliance or Google Mini, the enterprise desktop search tool automatically launches that query on the user's PC, Glotzbach said.

With this move into the enterprise desktop search space, Google will compete against established players such as X1 Technologies and Autonomy. It will also compete against Microsoft, who this week announced its intention to develop an enterprise desktop search tool, which should be available in beta form by the end of the year.

The Google news doesn't come as a surprise. A Google official acknowledged to IDG News Service in January that the company was developing a desktop search tool for the enterprise market.

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Juan Carlos Perez

IDG News Service
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