Getting started with Search Server 2008 Express
Searching for things is always a problem, or at least that’s what I think when I’m attempting to locate a specific item in our fridge. How much simpler life would be if there were a search engine that let you open the fridge door and say out loud “Show me the butter” (or whatever else your wife just asked for, and will come and find instantly once you’ve floundered for 10 minutes or so).
Things are slightly better in the world of data – to locate that file the CEO just requested we have search engines. Or rather desktop PCs of all flavours have search engines, but that’s not going to help if the files span a myriad network locations, and enterprise-wide search solutions tend often to be very expensive. So I was very interested when Microsoft recently brought out a free, Express version of its Search Server 2008 product.
Ten minutes after finding out about this product I was downloading it onto one of my Windows Server 2008 systems. While I waited for the download to finish, I checked out the required minimum environment specifications: 2.5GHz CPU; 2GB of RAM; Windows Server 2003 Standard/Enterprise/Datacenter/Web Edition (or newer); up-to-date Service Packs; .NET Framework 3 with ASP.NET 2 enabled; Windows SharePoint Services 3; and Windows Workflow Foundation Runtime Components.
SharePoint Services 3 doesn’t take long to set up and you’ll find useful documentation to help you online in the various SharePoint areas
I’m going to continue on the presumption that you already have SharePoint Services 3 installed, but if you haven’t it doesn’t take long to set up and you’ll find useful documentation to help you online in the various SharePoint areas. I downloaded them from new and shared a few documents in about three-quarters of an hour, and most of that time was taken up with the installation program that took a while to complete.
Once the initial installation of Search Server Express 2008 is complete, Internet Explorer will load and you’ll be prompted for a username and password. I used my admin details and was then asked to add the site to my list of trusted sites. Having done that I was presented with a blank team site. Obviously there’s a great deal to do if you’re sorting out a serious deployment of this product, but I just wanted a few files in the default document library to get things going, and that only took a few minutes to set up.
Then I fired up the install program for Search Server. One of its options is “Run the Search Server preparation Tool”, which checks and makes sure that everything you need is installed and correctly set up (including updates and patches), so I ran that straight away. I was instantly greeted with a dialog informing me that “All required prerequisites have been installed or enabled”, which made me feel very grown-up indeed. I therefore closed the dialog and launched the Search Server install.
After accepting the licence agreement (this would have been a short column if I hadn’t) I opted for a stand-alone server type installation, complete with SQL Server 2005 Express Edition, as opposed to a complete server farm install, or a web front-end installation. Don’t be in a rush to click on Install Now because this dialog has three tabs on it, and their functions aren’t immediately obvious. One of them lets you choose where you want the program and search index files to be located, while the other gives you the chance to participate in the Customer Experience Improvement Program.