Category Archives: Information Access

Why the “Google Paradigm” Has Damaged Enterprise Search

by Barry Murphy

In last week’s post about what we are looking for with enterprise search, I mentioned what we call the Google paradigm.  A reader asked me to be more specific about what the Google paradigm actually is and it’s a worthy request.  The Google paradigm is actually a summation of the resulting perceptions based on the popularity of Google; those perceptions are that enterprise search is as easy as Google web search, and that a central index of an enterprise is the right way to do enterprise search.  The result of these perceptions is an approach to enterprise search that has not solved the problem of allowing business workers to easily and quickly find the information they are looking for.

It is important to note that web search is not the same as enterprise search, and therein lies the major problem with the perceptions caused by the Google paradigm.  Google is an excellent tool for informational web search – I use it frequently when researching various topics that I need to learn more about.  The point is that Google is for Web search, which uses organic linking (looking at the number of sites that link to a particular page) to determine the rank order of results.  That approach provides zero value in the enterprise because the users typically have more than an inkling of what they are looking for, and perhaps have specific criteria they know are relevant, and thus require an interface that allows them to quickly filter the result down to a manageable number.

But, in reality, enterprise search is often synonymous with Google – the web search paradigm.  There is a tendency to think of search as easy.  After all, Google completes search queries for users; it is easy to assume that technology will eventually just know what users are looking for and offer it up to them.  This message is reinforced in the age of Big Data and business intelligence.  There is a fascination with the stunning dashboards we see in CRM and SFA applications.  There is a belief that analytics will replace any need to search and find information.

While analytics will certainly help many business processes, its biggest impacts will be in feeding structured data into business processes and informing those responsible for the process of performance.    There is much value to be had in that and the Big Data market prospers as a result.  Despite the availability of advanced business intelligence tools, though, business workers still struggle to find the one email or document necessary to complete the next urgent task.  People waste hours looking for it, only to most likely recreate all that work when they can’t find what they need.  Organizations lose millions of dollars per year to this lost productivity and typically don’t even know it.  Companies implement traditional enterprise search to help employees, but only make searching more frustrating because those solutions do not leverage the power of the business worker’s brain.

Web search – the Google paradigm – has allowed us to take search for granted.  When doing a web search, however, users are typically searching for something authored by someone else and the system is using programmatic analysis to conduct the query.  For a business worker, though, search is very different.  The worker has a sense of what they are looking for because it is very specific to them – the method of analysis is personal, not programmatic.  Web search is inquisitive in nature.  But, the web search approach – which has been pushed on users by IT for years – does not work well for business workers looking for the information needed to do their jobs.

The Google paradigm also ignores the challenge of scalability.  Indexing the enterprise for a centralized enterprise search capability requires major investment.  In addition, centralization runs counter to the realities of the working world where information must be distributed globally across a variety of devices and applications.  The amount of information we create is overwhelming and the velocity with which that information moves increases daily.

 

Google_data_center

Google Data Center (Click to enlarge)

 

The image above is of a Google Data Center (one of more than several dozen that power the internet).  Look at the sheer magnitude of just what it takes to power those Web searches we are all so used to.  This illustrates exactly why it is so hard to “Google the enterprise.” And yet many people, and even CIOs, think doing so should be easy.  Such has been the approach to scaling traditional enterprise search solutions in the enterprise.  And while Google obviously has solid software to drive its web search, hardware and sheer computing power on a massive scale are essential components of Google’s success.

The only “successful” enterprise search deployments – as judged by customer references – tend to exist only in a very specific type of organization: highly regulated, with deep pockets.  These organizations can make enterprise search work because, due to regulatory and Legal drivers, they have unlimited budget for hardware to make the solution scale.  They are also able to invest in double digit FTE’s to implement and maintain the system over time.  But, these organizations represent “the 1%.”  Most organizations do not have the budget or human resources needed to make traditional enterprise search work.

There will always be hardware investments required to make productivity search work, but such investments do not need to be heavy in the way that traditional solutions have been.  Rather, organizations should look at more flexible options that mirror the realistic IT environment they live in.  That environment typically includes a hybrid of on-premise, virtual, and cloud-based infrastructure and content spread across multiple repositories.  Rarely – if ever – is content centralized.  As such, a good productivity search solution will allow access to the content that business workers need the most while leaving as little footprint with IT as possible.

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Filed under Desktop Search, Enterprise Search, Information Access, Information Governance, Information Management

As Desktop-as-a-Service Gains Traction, Do Not Overlook Productivity Search

by Barry Murphy

Oftentimes, federal government agency IT departments are technology early adopters because of mandates to cut costs and increase efficiencies and business agility. It is not surprising, then, to see FCW.com pointing out that agencies are embracing Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI). Benefits of VDI include simpler and more automated systems administration, better control over security (always a big factor for government agencies), and lower costs for client-side support. Those “hard” benefits are only part of the story – VDI also enables worker mobility (especially important to the Department of Energy) and helps enable more “green IT.” Because VDI provides a zero client environment, it can reduce the required power consumption per desktop, thereby reducing the environmental impact of the agency’s IT systems. This is perhaps more of a soft benefit, but a necessary one nonetheless.

As the FCW article states, there are now two options for deploying VDI: on-premise and through the Cloud, as Desktop-as-a-service (DaaS). There are good market options in both directions, with on-premise providers like Citrix and VMWare, and DaaS providers such as Amazon (with its Workspaces offering) and the aforementioned VMWare (with its Horizon offering). Whichever direction an organization chooses for its VDI, it is critical to remember that business worker adoption and acceptance is the key to ROI. In my experience, one thing that scares business workers when moving to VDI is the potential loss of easy access to their information assets. With VDI, it is a best practice to turn off Windows indexing, and that can leave a business worker without the ability to search for his or her information.

DaaS

With VDI in the Cloud, the DaaS provider will want to manage virtual computing resources diligently – also meaning that desktop indexing will likely be turned off. And with government agencies increasingly storing information in the Cloud, it can make search of that data a challenge. There is an opportunity to ensure a better business worker transition in these environments – build in productivity search requirements up front. Business worker access to information is an important component of easing any kind of end-user angst when transitioning to a new desktop environment. Providing these workers with unified access to common information like email, files, and SharePoint will help with change management and user acceptance. And it is important to stress again – without the end-users, there is no ROI on these VDI projects. Therefore, the upfront productivity search requirements should include a search solution that supports VDI environments and that is deployable in the Cloud, like X1 Rapid Discovery.

The move is on to VDI in the federal government, and industries like financial services and professional services are also in the midst of VDI roll-outs. These early adopters will set the trend of many industries. If the early adopters require excellent business worker productivity search experiences, acceptance of these new technologies will be much smoother and more successful. And that is good for everyone – VDI vendors and customers.

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Filed under Best Practices, Cloud Data, Corporations, Desktop Search, Enterprise Search, IaaS, Information Access, Information Management, Records Management, Virtualized Environment

Cloud Search: Not As Simple As You Think

By Barry Murphy

Corporations and Government agencies are moving data to the Cloud in droves.  No matter which analyst firm you look to on Cloud storage adoption, you will find consistent results:

  • Forrester Research reports that 40% of enterprises surveyed indicated they have already rolled out workloads on public clouds or have near-term plans to do so and that the number will increase to 50% this year.
  • IDC predicts that from 2013–2017 public IT cloud services will have a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 23.5%, five times that of the IT industry as a whole.
  • Gartner says Cloud Computing Will Become the Bulk of New IT Spend by 2016 and that spending on public Cloud services will have a CAGR of 17.7% from 2011 – 2016, with spending on Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) itself will have a CAGR of 41.3% in that time period.
  • In eDJ Group’s recent Cloud services adoption fast poll, Greg Buckles found that less than 5% of respondents reported that all information is kept on-premise on company infrastructure and cloud services are not being actively considered.

Cloud-icon_magnifying-glassNo matter where data is being stored, though, the fact remains that the ability to search that data will be critically important.  Workers still demand unified access to email, files, and SharePoint information, and they want fast-as-you-type search results regardless of where the data lives.  In addition, Legal teams require that search queries and collections execute within specific time-frames.  But, Cloud search is slow, as indexes live far from the information.  This results in frustrated workers and Legal teams afraid that eDiscovery cannot be completed in time.

Lest you think this is not a big deal, consider the following story.  When I was at eDJ, we worked with a very large enterprise client that wanted to move its collaboration system to the Cloud.  The problem was that the Cloud system the client was contracting with could not meet the Legal Department’s requirements for speed of query results and collection.  This significantly slowed down the movement to the Cloud until the client had worked with the Cloud vendor to ensure that search and collection could execute at the necessary speeds.  The delay frustrated an IT team anxious to reap the promised benefits of the Cloud and cost the project team significant man-hours.

This story highlights the need to granularly define search and eDiscovery requirements before moving data to the Cloud.  Most “cloud search” solutions pass queries through connectors, and then the Cloud vendor needs to figure out where in its vast data center the index lives, find the content, return the query result, and then the customer will need to download all the content.  The result is a slow search and another copy of the data downloaded on premise, which basically defeats the purpose of moving to the Cloud in the first place.

If a customer wanted to speed up search, it would have to essentially attach an appliance to a hot-air balloon and send it up to the Cloud provider so that the customer’s index could live on that appliance (or farm of appliances) in the Cloud providers data center, physically near the data.  There are many reasons, however, that a Cloud provider would not allow a customer to do that:

  • Long install process
  • Challenging pre-requisites
  • 3rd party installation concerns
  • Physical access
  • Specific hardware requirements
  • They only scale vertically

The solution to a faster search is a cloud-deployable search application, such as X1 Rapid Discovery.  This creates a win-win for Cloud providers and customers alike.  As enterprises move more and more information to the Cloud, it will be important to think about workers’ experiences with Cloud systems – and search is one of those user experiences that, if it is a bad one, can really negatively affect a project and cause user revolt.

 

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Filed under Cloud Data, Enterprise eDiscovery, Enterprise Search, Information Access, Virtualized Environment

Search as a Desktop Virtualization Enabler

Desktop_virtualizationby Barry Murphy

 

Too often, search is taken for granted.  When I first started doing research on eDiscovery in the cloud, the prevailing attitude was, “as long as information is searchable, eDiscovery is taken care of.”  Sadly, many organizations have learned the hard way that it is not that easy.  There is much more to search than meets the eye.  But, most organizations do not figure that out until it is too late – until search does not work in the desired manner or at the required speed.

eDiscovery is not the only area where search is overlooked and becomes an issue.  In fact, search is a critical function for today’s knowledge worker.  Despite the importance of information access, unified search of workers’ most critical assets (email, files, desktop content, and SharePoint) is not always a huge requirement of IT organizations.  It is to end-users, however, and that is one of the reasons that X1 has had such success with the Search 8 product – it has a user-friendly interface that provides simple, fast access to the information assets users need the most.

The lesson that I have taken away from being involved in the search market is that search as a standalone application may not seem sexy, but it provides a real return on investment.  It also allows organizations to ensure that investments in other technologies are optimized.  This fact can be seen especially in virtual desktop (VDI) environments.  Desktop virtualization promises many benefits: lower IT costs; streamlined administration of IT assets; and end-user flexibility in terms of accessing the desktop from anywhere.  Given the popularity of BYOD, the consumerization of IT, and the need for mobility to support telecommuting, VDI is becoming more and more important.

It is the little details of IT projects, however, that can have big impact on results.  Some organizations find that the cost savings anticipated from VDI are less than expected because of high disk resources necessary to support Windows indexing on the virtual desktop.  Or, best practice is followed and Windows indexing is turned off – and then users are unable to search for information on their desktops.  There are two possible outcomes from this, and both are bad:  either users are rendered unproductive because they cannot easily find information or they simply reject the virtual desktop and find ways around the system.

In order to ensure that VDI deployments meet expectations, organizations can build unified search into requirements early on.  At the very least, this will help to ensure that end-users are more receptive to the virtual desktop and allow them to remain productive.  Getting end-users to buy in is often half the battle when deploying new technology.  As I mentioned, though, search is often an afterthought – an issue that only comes up after a VDI deployment where end-users complain or reject the solution outright.  That is why it is important to make search a requirement early on.

When it comes to VDI environments, a good search solution must decouple the search UI from the indexing service.  Otherwise, indexing will require virtual desktop computing resources and cut into VDI cost savings.  The goal is to minimize the RAM usage and search client footprint on the virtual desktop.   It sounds simple, but traditional search solutions are not architected for this.  We at X1 are doing a webinar with Citrix on this very issue – enabling lightning-fast search in VDI environments.  The webinar is on April 10, 2014 at 1pm ET / 10am PT.  Please click here if you would like to join us to learn how to use search to enable optimization of desktop virtualization deployments.

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Filed under Desktop Search, Enterprise eDiscovery, Information Access

Highlights from Reed Smith’s SharePoint eDiscovery Webinar

by John Patzakis

Reed Smith recently hosted an excellent webinar on SharePoint eDiscovery challenges, led by Patrick Burke with the firm’s eDiscovery team. The webinar featured a substantive and detailed discussion on the nuances, pitfalls and opportunities associated with eDiscovery of data from SharePoint sites. This topic is very timely as the majority of enterprises are deploying the Microsoft platform at an accelerated rate, with the solution reaching $1 billion in sales faster than any other Microsoft product in history. Burke noted that “SharePoint has exploded across corporate networks, and are filling rapidly with ESI,” but that “the bad news is that it’s not centralized. There is no single place to go to search through the ESI across an organization’s SharePoint sites to identify which SharePoint Site holds the ESI you’re looking for.”

As SharePoint enables enterprises to consolidate file shares, Intranet sites, internal message boards and wikis, project management, collaboration and more into a single platform, it provides significant operational efficiencies as well as eDiscovery challenges. The vast majority of current SharePoint deployments are versions 2007 or 2010, and neither have meaningful internal eDiscovery or even export features. This is one reason why SharePoint eDiscovery is fraught with over-collection, resulting in much higher costs and time delays that what is typically seen with other similar data stores such as email servers and file shares.

In addressing best practices for eDiscovery of SharePoint sites, Burke advised, among other key points, that the litigation hold process must not only involve individual custodians but the SharePoint administrator as well: “As it usually isn’t feasible to search all an organization’s SharePoint sites, the first step is to talk to the key custodians (through litigation hold questionnaire processes) and ask them which SharePoint sites they use (to identify) relevant ESI.” From there, “the cross-check involves talking with the SharePoint administrator, who can look up all the SharePoint sites to which the custodian’s belong.”

A full video recording of the webinar can be accessed here >

Appliance-based eDiscovery solutions or remote collections do not work as it may take weeks, if not months, to copy a multi-terabyte SharePoint site over a network connection and a large corporation may have several dozens of SharePoint silos from which to collect.  Manual collection efforts, which are geared toward mass “data dumps,” are also time consuming and are typically very costly due to the extensive processing and data massaging required to put the SharePoint data back into context.

Instead, what is needed is a solution such as X1 Rapid Discovery can quickly and remotely install and operate within the same local network domain to enable localized search, review and early case assessment in place. X1 Rapid Discovery’s full content indexing and preview of native SharePoint document libraries and lists, as well as its robust search, document filters, intuitive review interface uniquely enables targeted and contextual search, preservation and export of SharePoint evidence in its native format. In fact, we believe it is the only solution available that enables true in-place early case assessment and eDiscovery review of SharePoint sites, including iterative search, tagging and full fidelity preview in place, without the requirement to first export all of the data out of the platform.

To learn more, sign on to the recorded webinar or please contact us for a further briefing to learn how to save your organization or your clients tens of thousands of dollars on litigations costs associated with SharePoint.

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Filed under Best Practices, Case Law, eDiscovery & Compliance, Enterprise eDiscovery, Information Access, Preservation & Collection