Desktop search

Written by Jim McElgunn

Some of the most valuable information in your company is right on your own computer. If only you could remember where you stored it.

Now, thanks to new desktop search programs from Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft and Ask Jeeves, you can find that data as easily as you can use a search engine to troll through billions of Web pages. It will take only, say, 0.26 seconds — unlike the minute or two that Windows’ search tools sometimes spend crawling through your files. And the new programs can even track which matches you click on. Over time, they become better and better at ranking near the top of the list the matches you’ll find most relevant.

Google has an edge in this new turf due to its dominance of Web searches. The Mountain View, Calif.-based firm’s just released Google Desktop Search 1.0 can find text and images stored in an array of file types — Excel, Word, Outlook, instant message, PDF, e-mail, Web pages, video, still and audio files — although only for Windows users.

Robert Matheson, president of Glenbriar Technologies Inc., a Calgary-based provider of information technology services, says the value of the new search tools lies less in scanning files on a single PC than in searching globally across multiple databases and applications. You could, for instance, look through separate inventory databases from each of your three warehouses, or pull together archival material stored in various applications — all at blinding speed.

To do that, you’ll need a new sister product to Google Desktop Search called Google Mini. Priced at US$4,995, it targets small and mid-sized enterprises with up to 50,000 documents. Mini delivers unified search results across a company’s databases from more than 220 file types.

However, that kind of power also poses risks. “If you don’t properly control your use of search tools so your databases can’t be ‘can-openered’ by people who shouldn’t have access to them, you’ve got yourself a privacy risk,” warns Matheson. That’s why it’s crucial your IT department stays on top of who has permission to search sensitive company data such as inventory, customer and health-benefits files. You’ll need to configure access so that “if the president does a search, he’ll find more than an accounting clerk would — maybe a lot more.”

© 2005 Rogers Media Inc.

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