Alternatives for Google Mini Search

Google stopped selling its Google Mini Search (that bright blue hardware) appliance this summer, leaving many businesses searching for a new tool to power their site's search function.  Fortunately, Google will continue to provide technical support for businesses that signed up for the Mini, up to two years after the contract was first signed. After that, however, Google will no longer provide any support, replacements, or service updates.

This will leave businesses that choose to stay with Google Mini with no alternative or backup to the search software should something go wrong. For this reason, many are turning to Google's suggested alternatives: the Google Site Search and the Google Search Appliance. Which is the better option? Well, that depends.

The Google Site Search is likely the preferred option for small- to mid-sized businesses, as it is inexpensive and easy to use. It is highly customizable for your brand, can contain unlimited content and the cost is based only on the number of queries recorded. Google branding itself remains optional and the Google Ads can be turned off as well. Best of all, there is no hardware or software to maintain.

The downside to Google Site Search is that it only searches on external websites and public outlets, not internally. Basically it is the same as, only within the website. It does not search for any secure or internal content at all. Because you are relying on Google, Site Search is also not ideal for websites with rapidly changing content. The service agreement allows for 24 hours for indexing, although it does typically get done quicker than that. Still, because of these limitations, as well as the pricing structure, Site Search works best with companies that have relatively low amounts of queries.

Google Search Appliance (GSA), on the other hand, provides greater flexibility and for that reason, is Google's leading enterprise search solution. This enterprise search solution can do it all, housing hardware, software, and support all in one package. The GSA also has built in flexibility to meet almost any search need, working with any information, and scours through internal, secure, or external applications and sites. It is more robust and scalable than the Mini, and offers RAID support.

The biggest advantage to GSA is the ability to use relevance algorithms. Through Google employee work, GSA is able to keep up to date with relevance algorithms and consistently improve the user experience. The search process gets smarter and more efficient while competitor's relevance typically degrades as time goes on.

Other key GSA features include highlighting the user's preferred content, auto completion, search filters, people search integrating Sharepoint 2010 profile information, automatic spell check and user added results in which internal users can suggest the best results for specific searches. Finally, managers can set up custom security protocol to control what users are allowed to see.

With all these features, the biggest negative for small- and medium-sized business is the price. The GSA starts at $30,000, but there are possible discounts for Mini clients. Per the contract (usually two or three years), support, hardware replacement coverage, and software updates are all insured. However, when that license point ends, users will either have to renew their contracts or the GSA will no longer search or serve data.

Overall, Google is still very much dedicated to Search. They have no plans on exiting any aspect of the Search market, including enterprise search. Rather, they are eliminating dated technology and bringing in the new.

There are alternative options to Search functions but Google has long argued that they are more like toolkits and not full solutions. Google also argues their total cost of ownership of GSA (which includes hardware, software, configuration, implementation, maintenance and license) is far lower than the competitions.

For businesses still relying on the Mini, now is the time to start researching your next move. Failing to plan could result in an inexcusable search function letdown. As for the blue piece of Mini hardware, whether it ends up in a dumpster or as a coffee table is up to you.

Russ Klitchman is Director of Operations at Adage Technologies. Adage Technologies was formed in 2001 with a specific focus on driving business value through web technology. Today, Adage offers a wide variety of web development solutions, including custom software, content management, and mobile applications. The company provides business technology solutions across a variety of industries, including healthcare/medical, performing arts, and insurance.