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Free Search Engine for Your Enterprise January 31, 2008

Posted by Doriano "Paisano" Carta in Enterprise, Microsoft.
Tags: , , ,
Microsoft Search Server 2008 Express is a free (for now) search solution for the enterprise. It’s easy to install and can be up and running within minutes. It looks and feels like search engines we use every day. Includes subscription service that sends update notifications of your search results via e-mail and RSS alerts. Watch this brief video to see how it works.

What can You Search?

Network File Shares
Local Intranet
Corporate Website
Microsoft Exchange Public Folders
Federated Search Connectors

What are Federated Search Connectors? (See video)

Federated Search Connectors allow your Microsoft enterprise search solution to pass search queries to a target system and accept and display results returned from that system.

They are based on the Open Search standard, making it easy to configure federated searches for a wide variety of existing information services. The configuration data for a Federated Search Connector can be packaged and reused as a Federated Location Definition (.FLD) file.

Here are just some sample connectors you will be able to search within your enterprise:
News: Live.com News, Yahoo News, Google News, Wired, The Register
Information Resources: MSDN, TechNet, Wikipedia, Encyclopedia Britannica, Yahoo
Media: Flickr, Yahoo Images, YouTube, PodScope
Blogs: Technorati, Google Blog Search

Technical Resources
Here’s a
6 minute video that demonstrates what the user will see.
Here’s the Installation & Configration video.

Comparison of Microsoft Search Solutions
The chart of features will show the differences in features for Microsoft Search Server 2008 Express, Search Server 2008 and their flagship SharePoint Server 2007. The free express version does everything that the commercial Search Server solution does except for High Availability and Load Balancing.

Microsoft Search Server 2008 Release Candidate is free. The RTM (Release to Manafacturing) version will also be free. Will it always remain free? Don’t count on it, bub! However, by then everyone in your organization will be so hooked on it that there shouldn’t be any problems getting the purchase order approved by the powers that be.

Free Download and System Requirements:

  • Processor: 2.5 gigahertz (GHz) (minimum)
  • Memory: 2 gigabytes (GB) RAM (minimum)
  • Operating System: Any of the following editions of the Windows Server 2003 or newer operating system with the most recent service packs: Standard Edition, Enterprise Edition, Datacenter Edition, and Web Edition.
  • Hard disk: NTFS-formatted partition with 3 GB of free space (minimum)
  • Microsoft .NET Framework 3.0 with ASP.NET 2.0 enabled
  • Windows SharePoint Services 3.0
  • Microsoft Windows Workflow Foundation Runtime Components 
    Note: Search Server 2008 Express can be installed on one computer only. It supports an unlimited number of Web front-end servers, but only one application server.

Final Thoughts:
No matter how you feel about Microsoft or their operating systems, their Search Server 2008 Express is worth a look if your organization needs a way to index and search volumes of documents and other bits of information. Besides, the price is right!

By the way, Microsoft’s Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) 3.0 is also free and commonly called SharePoint-lite.
Here is how SharePoint can help you build your own social network for the enterprise for free!

How to Sneak Social Media into the Enterprise January 10, 2008

Posted by Doriano "Paisano" Carta in Enterprise, social networks.
Tags: , , ,
Something strange happened today. Earlier in the day, I had posted a comment on Chris Brogan’s blog in response to his excellent piece “Challenges of Social Media Types in the Workplace“. I shared how torn I was as a Systems Administrator because I had to block access to many popular social networking sites that I enjoyed and appreciated on a personal level. I also believe that these technologies can and will become commonplace in the workplace of the near future. We just have to figure out how to get upper management to let down their guard and give these new ideas a chance. But the trick is, how?Well, here’s where it got interesting. I spent most of my day after that point working on what used to be a dull and mind-numbing experience: Composing SOP (Standard Operating Procedures)!

I had to complete five new ones, no less! What I didn’t realize was happening was the fact that I was sneaking Web 2.0 in thru the backdoor and into our company and embedding it into our network!

How you might ask? Well, quite by accident or was it subconsciously? You be the judge.

Making the Connection

As I was creating the first SOP, I came to the section where I had to list referencial materials such as forms that must be filled out for all procedures mentioned in the document.

I knew I had all of the forms stored on my SharePoint 2007 Enterprise system in the IS Forms folder. I also had the SOP documents stored on SharePoint in the SOP folder right near the forms. Hmmm, I thought. Why don’t I just use hyperlinks on the form names that could actually launch the Word or Excel application and open the form required? Simple habit from my blogging experiences.

I added more hyperlinks not just to the forms but to all other resources referenced in the document such as the list of authorized Vendors with contact and account information, computer inventory databases, spreadsheets used to track Blackberry numbers and so much more.

Strengths in Numbers

There were many sections where I needed more information and feedback in order to complete. Instead of the usual emailing back and forth of documents with colleagues trying to complete a document, I thought it might be more efficient if we somehow collaborated on the document in realtime. Since SharePoint didn’t have this feature and we didn’t have our own solution in place yet, I decided to use Zoho Meeting. Within minutes I had a few of my colleagues all looking at the same documents and screens that I was looking at it, right from their own desks. We took turns making changes to the procedures and in no time at all completed what would’ve taken days previously!

Seeing The Light!

OK, so now this usually boring activity is becoming more fun and becoming alive because it could actually turn out to be a useful tool. I was only beginning the process of smuggling Web 2.0 in thru the kitchen.I arrived at a difficult section in the document where I had to describe a process that I could do with my eyes closed but it was hard to explain in words. I wondered, how would I explain this on the web? As I was staring at the screen I saw a lightbulb. No, not the proverbial idea lightbulb but something at the top of my screen that looked like a lightbulb. It was the icon for the Jing Project screencasting program that I had recently installed! I smiled as I put web 2.0 and 2.0 together. I would create a screencast of the difficult and detailed sections of my SOP! Talk about perfect timing!

After creating the screencast and creating a hyperlink to the movie from within the document, I couldn’t believe how much I was enjoying the once tideous and excruciating process had become!

The document that used to be a listless static piece of paper was now a supercharged webpage with images, hyperlinks to forms, spreadsheets, databases, contact lists, websites and more.

Tip of the Iceberg

Needless to say, this was a rather simplistic example of how we can incorporate some of the best features of social media and social networking into the enterprise.

There are countless other ways to do this limited only by the imagination. I’ve already begun to think of ways to add live group chat to the process and video conferencing, perhaps with twitter feeds and flickr embedded images. We just need to look at the way we’ve always done things from a different perspective.

Think Web 2.0 which doesn’t just mean FREE, my friends. I think it means thinking outside the box and towards making everything more collaborative, effective and heck, even fun! What’s wrong with breathing some life into the stale, musty business world? Who says we have to let all the kids on Facebook and MySpace have all the joy? We each have the choice to do something differently or do them the same way we’ve always done them. In the end, it’s up to you which path you take.

Me? I’m taking the road to funville!

Excuse me, there goes my snitter. What did Scoble get himself into this time?!