Everything You Need to Know About Enterprise Search

What is Enterprise Search anyway? And why should you care?

This guide is intended to answer those questions. After reading this article, you will understand what Enterprise Search is, why it matters now more than ever and how exactly it works.

This content will be especially useful if you’re looking for a way to emulate the Google Search experience with internal documents behind your organization’s firewall.

With that, let’s get started!

What is Enterprise Search?

Before we can understand the value of Enterprise Search, we need to know what it is. And to understand that, we need some important context.

For decades, Enterprise Content Management (ECM) vendors and people who work in Enterprise Information Management have struggled to grab customer data and bring it into their proprietary repositories. This has often meant that important corporate data ends up in a number of different silos – and the larger the enterprise, the worse this problem tends to be.

And this leads us into the much bigger problem for organizations all over the world: Their content is growing beyond human scale. They have millions of documents scattered between multiple file systems, databases and content management applications. To further complicate things, each application often has a different access method.

To solve these problems, organizations need a common interface so users can easily find the information they need to do their job.

That’s where Enterprise Search comes in.

Put simply, Enterprise Search is the practice of identifying and enabling specific content across the enterprise to be indexed, searched, and displayed to authorized users.

Content without access is worthless and, in the worst-case scenario, might even be a liability. Enterprise search unlocks your content so your organization can enable users to find the information they need from anywhere, in any format, from anywhere inside their company – in databases or any other document management system.

Most importantly, the best Enterprise Search tools make this process incredibly easy for your end-users. That leads us to our next question….

What makes Enterprise Search great?

As you can see, there is a lot to love about Enterprise Search and the value it brings to organizations with an overwhelming amount of content.

We believe Search is so much more than a simple indexing tool. It’s the art and science of making content easy to find.

This can be really powerful. Here are a few ways advanced search capabilities can make an impact:

When you have crucial information buried in multiple repositories, it can be incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to find what you’re looking for. Enterprise Search brings together those many different databases and digital locations into one interface, allowing leaders to make important business decisions while ensuring users can find the information they need.

Enterprise Search gives these enhanced search capabilities and puts them into the hands of the entire organization.

It takes permissions into consideration, ensuring users only see results they need to.

The best enterprise search tools provide more than just federated search across all of a company’s corporate data; They also permit users to enrich data with values that are meaningful for their own business needs.

How does it work?

Enterprise search is made up of several sub-systems and there are quite a few things happening behind the scenes. Let’s use Shinydocs Discovery Search as an example:

  • We start by crawling through the various shared drives and corporate repositories inside an organization.
  • This creates a searchable index, allowing us to build a unified search experience right in the browser.
  • This unified experience, more commonly known as federated search, allows users to go to one location to find everything inside their entire organization.
  • With this new system in place, end users can find the content they need to do their job in a more effective and efficient manner.

This is Just Like Google, right?

Not really.

When we talk to customers, they often talk about Google. Of course, Google doesn’t handle private data, but it still leads to inquiries around why an organization’s enterprise search isn’t as good as Google. The problem is that enterprise search is completely different from a Google internet search in many ways:


In an enterprise, the amount of generally available information that you can find on the internet is relatively small. Most information is proprietary and needs fine-grained security controls.


Google’s killer feature was PageRank—a relevance algorithm that calculated how authoritative a web page was based on how many other pages are linked to it (and, recursively, how authoritative those pages were). This worked tremendously well on the internet, which is a set of linked documents (pages). But in the enterprise, there is little or no linking between documents. And, as we’ve seen, calculating the relevance of a result to some search (for some user in some domain doing some task) is hard, and is not the same for all users.

If your users use Google’s performance as a benchmark for expectations, here are a few responses. Yes, Google is fast, but it’s not doing what the Enterprise Search application is doing. It only has to search for one kind of document (a web page). While Google results’ pages have grown richer over the years—with cards, carousels, info panels and so on—they are still nowhere near as rich as the results page you can build in an Enterprise Search application. And all that richness—rich results snippets, facets, rich info panels and more—is customized for you personally, in your domain, in your role, doing your job.

The Google application is running on a vast amount of hardware (nobody knows how much, but estimates start at a million computers) on custom software.

While Google optimizes for serving the masses, Enterprise Search applications are tailored for deep, personalized searches of specific (often internal) information.

Next Steps

Whew. That was a lot to unpack, but we hope you now understand what Enterprise Search is, what makes it such a powerful tool and how it can help you better manage your data.

If you’re interested in learning a bit more about our own Shinydocs Discovery Search tool, click here for an overview.

And if you’re ready to get started with enterprise search, we recommend requesting a demo to see Shinydocs Discovery Search in action. We know you’re going to love it.

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