Choosing a search technology for SharePoint projects

Has the question of SharePoint Search vs. FAST Search come up in your planning sessions? Do your users have requirements that can “only” be met with FAST Search? Is Search Server Express an appropriate decision in your environment? Microsoft has provided a range of enterprise search products so teams have options when deciding how to provide search functionality in their project. This means that teams need to make an additional decision when choosing to provide search, which product is right for me? Every situation needs to be evaluated on the merits, but I’ll provide you some quick questions to point you towards an appropriate product.

Question mark

1. Installation on a single server and no licensing costs? Go with Search Server Express. This edition provides for up to 10 million items(which requires installation on an external database. No database, you’re limited to approx 500,000 items.)


2. Provide Search using out-of-the box features for up to 50 million items? Go with SharePoint Server 2010. SharePoint Server 2010 provides search capability for up to 100 million items, so 50 million items still provides plenty of upside room to grow. However, if the corpus of information to be searched is under 50 million items, SharePoint Server 2010 should be capable of meeting your needs.


3. Searching between 50 million and 100 million items? This range is not so cut and dry, both SharePoint Server 2010 and FAST Search are reasonable choices at this range. The hardware requirements for both search technology will be similar, so more research is necessary at this level? Are you sure that you won’t go over 100 million items to index? Are you planning on augmenting SharePoint Search with third party functionality that may be available in FAST Search? What are the needs defined by your search administrator (at this level, search rankings, relevancy, and sources needs to be actively managed, and is likely becoming a full time role).


4. Searching over 100 million items? Go with FAST Search for SharePoint. Microsoft has tested FAST Search with over a billion items and provides prescriptive guidance for sizing and operating farms well over 500 million items.


5. Building a Search specific application? In addition to customer/user facing applications, these technologies are appropriate for component use by developers. Your architect and development team needs to define their needs and look at the extension points available in these products to determine the proper product. The FAST Search architecture provides many more extension points to allow developers to customize how the engine crawls, indexes, and organizes search data. Episode 64 of the SharePoint Pod Show goes into detail about these types of decisions, and I encourage you to give it a listen.