We all think of Google as a giant Web-based search engine, which, of course, it is. But for small businesses looking to add search capabilities to their intranet or Web site, Google is also in the hardware business with its Google Mini search appliance.
The Google Mini was originally announced last January and offered the capability to index and search up to 50,000 documents at a price of $4,995. In April, however, Google bumped the document capability to 100,000 documents and cut the price to $2,995.
|It's still blue, but now the Google Mini searches up to 300,000 documents|
While the company says Goggle has sold thousands of Minis, Rajen Sheth, product manager, Google Enterprise, wouldn't say exactly how many the search engine giant has sold. He did say that "we've seen success beyond what we'd imagined." When it comes to search, he said, "small businesses have the same needs as enterprises."
The Mini is a 1U rack-mountable box that plugs into a network Ethernet port. You then configure it to index your company intranet or Web site. Once it's up and running, the Mini is designed to let you search across all of your company's documents and Web sites with all the benefits of the familiar Google interface and features.
Return on Investment
While paying anywhere from $3,000 to $9,000 for search capabilities may seem like a hefty investment, it's already paying off for ToolFetch.com, according to Andrew Brown, CEO of the New York-based construction equipment supplier. Brown said that since adding Google Mini, the number of searches on the site is up 30 percent.
|ToolFetch.com claims a 15-20 percent increase in sales thanks to Google Mini searches.|
Brown said that the Mini was easy to set up, and that after connecting it to the server, you just point it the Web site. "It took a couple of hours to index the site." He wasn't surprised by the dramatic increase in searches after adding the Mini. "I knew it would help. When people look for products, especially nowadays, they go right to search," Brown said.
He added that with the site's previous search engine, if potential customers typed "cement mixer" rather "cement mixers," they wouldn't get results. "Another problem was with misspellings, people typing things like 'lazer' instead of 'laser'." The bottom line: "Sales are up 15-20 percent due to search," Brown said. "The Mini's basically paid for itself in a few months."
Customize at Will
Companies that buy the Mini have the choice of using either the Google look and feel or customizing the results to look like a proprietary search. "It's completely optional and flexible," Sheth said. You can make small changes using the wizard interface, according to Google, or you can completely change the look of search results using XML tools. For example, you can configure the software to display product photos along search results something particularly appealing to e-commerce operations.
Google says the Mini can index more than 220 file formats. The Mini indexes the first 2.5MB of any HTML document and the first 30MB of binary files (e.g, Microsoft Word or PDF files). You can, according to Google, set the Mini to crawl and index content at set intervals. The Minis Web-based interface is designed to let you access administration features remotely.
The Google Mini also is designed to help you improve your Web site efficiency by generating reports on page errors and broken links. It also provides reports on search term frequency.
Current Mini customers can upgrade to higher capacity, but the company doesn't offer any upgrade discount. "We're priced almost at cost," Sheth said. For larger enterprises, Google offers the GB-1001, GB-5005 and GB-8008 search appliances, which accommodate 500,000, 5 million and 15 million documents, respectively (prices start at $30,000 for 500,000 documents).
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