Internal Search Engines Get You Where You Want To Go
By Barry Nance The only two ways to find out where information is located on your company's Web site are to read the mind of the person who organized the site or use a search engine. Although using some search engines will make you wish you were a mind reader, querying your company's internal Web site is often the only practical way to find what you're looking for. If you don't have a search engine, or you're looking for something better, read on.
We invited search engine vendors to submit their best software for finding information on internal corporate Web sites (intranets). Our criteria narrowed the field to 10: Digital Equipment Corp.'s AltaVista Search Intranet eXtension 97; Folio Products' Folio siteDirector 3.1; Infoseek Corp.'s Ultraseek Server 1.1; Inmagic/Lycos' DB/Text Intranet Spider; ISYS/Odyssey Deve lopment's ISYS:web 2.0; Maxum Development Corp.'s Phantom 2.0; Microsoft Corp.'s Microsoft Index Server 2.0; Netscape Communications Corp.'s Netscape Compass Server 3.0; Quadralay Corp.'s WebWorks Search 2.0; and Verity's IntelliServ 1.0.
To view the Report card.
The intranet used for this review consisted of a Microsoft Windows NT Server computer, a Sun Microsystems SPARC Solaris machine and a variety of clients (OS/2, Windows95, Windows NT and Apple Macintosh). On both the NT and Solaris Web servers, we published a v ariety of document formats, including plain text, Adobe PostScript and PDF, formatted HTML, Active Server Pages (ASP) scripts, Word for Windows (versions 2.0, 6.0, and Office97), Excel 97, WordPerfect 6.0 and a number of GIF and JPEG images. The approximately 20,000 files totaled 330 MB. Most of the files contained random material, but we salted some with predetermined, known content so we could test each search engine's ability to find particular needles in the haystack.
We judged each engine using simple but comprehensive criteria. A good search engine must be quick, unobtrusive and easy to administer. It should let you express your query in terms you're familiar with. It must display results (produce HTML) people can understand and use. And, of course, it must find what you're looking for. Our test questions sought company information, product specifications, technical reports, human resources policies and employee data. For example, our first question to each search engine was, "When did the CEO graduate from college?"
All the products we tested indexed Web pages and documents quickly enough so that performance was not an issue. Our testing implied you'd need gigabytes of extremely volatile Web content to slow the indexing process to the point where search results became stale and out of date.
Our evaluation rated Infoseek's Ultraseek Server as the best search engine for private intranets, with AltaVista Search Intranet eXtension 97 a useful, but not as sophisticated, runner-up. We liked Microsoft Index Server, a basic engine with Microsoft extensions, a shade more than Netscape's Compass Server search engine, which is a basic product with some Netscape twists. However, neither came close to Ultraseek Server in our tests.
To download an Adobe Acrobat .pdf format version of the Internal Search Engins chart, click here.