Since an attempt to parse, in the simplest terms, the “enterprise search” market in January, I have been exposed to no less than 77 products and vendors whose offerings have been brought to my attention. Add to that another 20 or 30 peripheral offerings in the text mining and text analytics sphere and you’ll understand why the need for a focused view when considering products.

Selling and marketing at its best sells to a need. Need expresses something about users, user behaviors, user requirements, and problems to be solved. Need also implies emotions and that may present a problem when it comes to making business decisions.

Nothing plays into emotional business decisions like money, as illustrated by one IT manager’s reaction to this week’s Yahoo News story about Google offering its search appliance for small Web sites for $100 for up to 5,000 pages. Noting that $500/year would support up to 50,000 Web pages, he thought it could be a solution for the company’s intranet. In a tough budget situation it seemed to make sense because the maintenance fee for current search software far exceeds $500.

Let’s be clear, Google is offering site search for a Web site on the World-wide Web, not internal enterprise sites. There is a huge difference in the number of variables to be considered not the least of which are:

  1. Who is authoring and maintaining the target content, and what do they expect to have the search engine do with the tags and content?
  2. Who are the users, what are they looking for, and how do they expect it to be displayed?
  3. What is the software providing in the way of managing and supporting metadata
  4. Where is the software going to run and be maintained?
  5. What are the security and authorization considerations?
  6. What about all the internal content that is not “Web pages” (e.g. PDFs, spreadsheets, slide shows, images) with their associated metadata that may not be supported in this license but are fundamental to an enterprise search solution
  7. What do page ranking and ad management have to do with internal search requirements?

Just to be clear, there are other solutions that may come with levels of Web site search support that are more suited to many small organizations, internal and external. This week I learned more about one such offering, PicoSearch that has options from free to very reasonable monthly charges bundled with service for hosting search for an organization’s content. It can also provide some levels of password protection and security controls. This may not be an optimal choice for organizations with complex and multi-faceted search interfaces but could be perfect for associations, educational institutions, and small businesses with straightforward product lines.

Keep in mind, inexpensive does not mean “cheap” and it is also not the first qualifying criteria for what is “appropriate.”