Google Launches Enterprise Desktop Search Tool

Google rolled out yet another search product today, turning its focus back to corporate users again as it unveiled an enterprise version of its desktop search tool, one that features enhanced security and other features.

Google Desktop Search for Enterprise creates a single interface from which a business user can search the Web with Google, as well as search through files on his or her own desktop and a company’s intranet. The software will be available for free download starting today.

Unlike the consumer version, none of the search information collected by the desktop tool is transmitted over the Internet to Google, a key security enhancement that Google said business users had asked for.

Competition Rising

The tool also features the ability to search Lotus Notes e-mail files, thanks to a partnership between Google and IBM, one that Google said would result in the ability to search other software program files in the future.

With the launch, Google is racing to beat Microsoft and other competitors to market. Earlier this week, Microsoft debuted the full public version of its own desktop tool and said that it would have an enterprise-quality product — with some consumer-focused features stripped out — ready for the market by the end of the year.

Google Product Manager Matthew Glotzbach told TechNewsWorld that the search giant had heard from many companies that its employees were using the consumer version of Google Desktop to find information in the fast growing archives of e-mail and document folders on their personal computers.

At the same time, corporations are increasingly wary of allowing individual users to install freeware without approval and are instead “locking down” networks to only allow approved, filtered software to be installed.

“We just got a tremendous response from various corporations — those who are our enterprise customers and those who are not — saying what a great concept and great technology this was but that we need an enterprise version,” Glotzbach said. “What we heard is that people were saying it’s nice to have for consumers, but it’s almost a requirement for businesses. You really need in a business environment a fast, easy way to search through all the content you’re faced with on a daily basis,” he added.

Safe and Sound

Enterprise-friendly features include a plug-in co-developed with IBM engineers that enables Lotus notes e-mails to be indexed and searched, an important asset considering that some 100 million users worldwide are on that messaging platform — and considering that Microsoft, not exactly a close ally of Big Blue’s, likely will not be able to offer the same feature.

Google said it was working with IBM to be able to integrate search of more of the firm’s software offerings.

Addressing security concerns was also a major component of the enterprise version, Glotzbach said. Encryption has been added to protect information as it is moved between network and desktop, and the tool has been upgraded to enable multiple users on a singe workstation. Google also added administrative controls to enable rules and restrictions to be built in that fit a customer’s specific needs.

Eric Peterson, site operations and technology analyst for Jupiter Research, told TechNewsWorld that the most likely adopters of the desktop product will be companies already using the Google search appliance.

“The ease with which IT should be able to install the app throughout the enterprise will certainly be appealing, and the administrative stuff they’ve added looks relevant and useful,” Peterson said.

In some ways, he added, despite the huge amount of attention desktop search has received on the consumer side — not all of it positive given concerns about privacy and security — desktop search might be the most valuable and relevant in the corporate environment.

“Big companies have all kinds of information storage and retrieval problems, especially on the level of individual PCs,” he said. “Desktop search is an excellent solution for that problem.”

Feeling Generous

Glotzbach said Google felt comfortable giving the desktop product away as freeware because it believes it will drive usage of the Web search tool, which is ad-supported, and eventually could help drive additional usage of its range of enterprise products.

Google also sees a largely underserved market where no single product has claimed dominance. “There really isn’t any solution that has gotten real traction in the marketplace,” Glotzbach said.

Though its consumer-focused Web search product gets the lion’s share of the attention and provides the bulk of Google’s revenue and profits, the firm has made a significant push into the enterprise space since launching its business-focused unit two years ago.

Earlier this year, Google debuted the Google Enterprise Mini, a search appliance that dramatically cut the entry-level prices of obtaining a Google search box for corporate networks, a move aimed at bringing more small and midsized businesses into the fold.

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