John Croson's Blog Home: Windows Search

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Windows Search

I'd written an article a couple of months ago about leveraging Microsoft Indexing Services in the enterprise to facilitate searching network shares and publishing an ASP interface to an intranet for your users.

My environment consists of a Windows 2003 Standard server providing the Indexing Services, a second AD / ASP / MS SQL 2k Windows 2003 Standard server with attached SAN and numerous network shares holding nearly 1tb in size, indexed by the Indexing Server. The Indexing Server also hosts the ASP pages for user searches.

I've found out several things lately about Indexing Services, and would like to take a moment to point out some basic principle's of this technology:

  1. It's not necessary for the windows workstations to have Indexing Services enabled to enjoy a speedy network file search experience. In fact, many people will recommend that this service be turned off and disabled on workstations, since it can slow performance.
  2. To give Windows Desktop Search (WDS) the ability to benefit from indexed network shares, set up Indexing Services on those servers hosting the files. WDS will find the index and search it. There is one important caveat; while Indexing Services is indexing data, that database is not available for searching, and WDS reverts to simple file searching, which is snot-slow. The client will also not benefit from any iFilters that may be utilized by said Indexing Server.
  3. As pointed out above, in my environment the users do not have the luxury of using WDS to search the servers index database, since they are homed on a different server; until now.

I recently read an interesting article on Windows Search 4, a replacement for WDS 3. I'll note that WDS 3 caused many issues in my environment when it was released by Windows Update Services as a patch to WDS 2.x, causing me to do the RunAroundAndRemove dance.

As I mentioned in my other article, I wanted to provide a better search mechanism, and at the time the ASP page was the ticket, since I had the spare server, and didn't want to bog my app server down.

When I found Windows Search 4, I immediately saw light at the end of the tunnel. There are many features in this that are lacking in WDS:

  1. Group Policy for management.
  2. Operates in low priority I/O, and utilizes resource management resulting in better performance.
  3. Vista style preview handlers that allow document browsing in the preview pane.
  4. Support for EFS-encrypted shares.
  5. Federation of searches to remote indexes.

I immediately installed the client on my test XP workstation, and the server component on my production *gulp* server. Note: It WILL reboot, so perform this during off hours! If I had a "dev" environment, I'd use it...

After configuring the server index locations, you will be able to search them from your Windows Search 4 clients.

I have to say, I'm still testing this, but it works very well, doesn't seem to suffer from some of the shortcomings of Indexing Services, and looks shiny!


Peter Lobo said...

Can I search sql server database with windows desktop search.

I have requirement to create a similar search but all the database resides in database server.

Any advise will be greatly appreicated.

John Croson said...

My belief is no, that it is only designed to search file stores, and indexes housed on file servers.

You'll likely have to expose any database information to the user using an application of some sort.

Good luck.