The Google Search Appliance (GSA) is going away and support will end in 2019. Whether you’re using the GSA for intranet search, e-commerce site search, public website search, support portal search, or other use cases, finding the right search platform to replace your GSA will be essential to your strategy.
Many search products, from established technology leaders as well as start-up ventures, could potentially replace your GSA. But given just the sheer number of available options on the market, you might be asking yourself a lot of questions.
How do I select the right replacement that will grow with my organization?
How do I minimize risks and avoid pitfalls during a GSA transition?
For most organizations, being able to maintain the GSA search functionalities that have worked well thus far is going to be critical moving forward. Thus, the ability to replicate the existing search functionalities should be among your first set of search engine selection priorities. And as you delve into the nuts and bolts to evaluate different search engine options for your inevitable GSA replacement, you should consider these five essential criteria.
1. Core Technology
What’s the base programming technology? Is it open source or commercial? What are the total licensing costs? What are the skill sets needed? How scalable is the search engine? It’s best to lay out the answers to these questions up front.
Modern search engines, open source or commercial, often have the ability to scale up to millions and billions of documents. However, scalability isn’t usually out-of-the-box – the more documents you need to store and index, the more sophisticated the configuration needs to be in order to handle high data volumes. You need to have a good understanding of how simple or complex it is to scale your search engine for future requirements.
2. Data Preparation
Content processing and indexing are among the most critical functions of a search engine. Content processing ensures that data from disparate sources plays well together for completeness and relevancy during the search. And scheduling crawls for search engines are essential to indexing content. As you compare search engines, various aspects of content processing and indexing will need to be considered to ensure you find the combination that works best:
- Records merging
- Entity and data extraction
- Data normalization
- Speed of indexing
- Indexing latency
- Dynamic fields
3. Relevancy and Query Functionality
Relevancy ranking is the process of sorting the document results so that those documents that are most likely to be relevant to your query are shown at the top. Relevancy depends on consistently testing and improving algorithms. The better your understanding of the user intent, the higher search relevancy you can reach with your search engine. Thus, your search engine should be able to support and optimize query-based search functions, depending on the types of data, business problems, or customer-facing applications you have.
Where multiple repositories are involved, implementing security can be complex, as the various groups and roles from each repository must be unified into a single schema for filtering out unauthorized results. In addition, make sure your search engine can support the optimum and secure configurations for your connectors. In many organizations, the most sensitive documents are kept in repositories with particularly complex security regimes. The GSA provides enterprise-grade security, so finding a replacement that has that capability is essential.
5. User Interface
The user interface (UI) configuration is just as critical as the back-end configuration. You need to have a user-centric, intuitive interface with which users are familiar (think Google search or Amazon site search) and able to conduct search and analysis productively. For internal administrative users, requirements for the administrative dashboard and alerting configurations differ between organizations, but are must-haves for most. Some search engines provide pre-built UI templates that can be customized while others require building one from scratch but offer higher flexibility for customization.
In conclusion, the Google Search Appliance (GSA) offers powerful features for enterprise needs. Identifying a comparable (or even better fit) search solution can be overwhelming, but the right selection will enable your organization to transition smoothly from the GSA and do much more to enhance search in the future. So start planning early and make sure your in-house IT staff or technology vendor has the bandwidth and skill sets needed to conduct a thorough assessment of the elements and functionalities above.