Monday, 26 September 2011

SharePoint Search and Lost Socks

This week I am going to talk about something that I believe is very close to a lot of men’s hearts. I am going to talk about the phenomena of disappearing socks. The way that no matter how many pairs of socks you have you are always left with just a pile of odd socks. I have never worked out the mystery of where they go although I have often suspected the tumble dryer, but never been able to prove it.  Somewhere there must be a mountain of odd socks that exactly match the drawer full of odd sock I have by the side of my bed. So why am I using my SharePoint Blog to moan about my lack of footwear? Well, I was thinking wouldn’t it be great if in the house you had a facility like the SharePoint Search. A little box where you could just type in what you are searching for. For example just type in ‘Aston Villa Lion sock’ and the missing one would turn up. Of course, it isn’t limited to socks it could help you find your car keys or your Tax Disc Reminder. The possibilities are endless. SharePoint Search is the answer because it lets you search every individual item in the SharePoint Environment even down to words in documents. Yet amazingly, in my experience of SharePoint projects, it seems very few End Users actually use the Search.

So why do End Users not use the SharePoint Search? One reason often given is because it finds them too many results. This can be true especially when SharePoint Administrators have not spent time thinking about what needs to be included and more importantly excluded from the SharePoint Search Scope. There are two ways of doing this. Firstly, defining the Search Scope in Central Admin. The second way, is to change individual Site, Library or List settings in SharePoint. There is always an option to include in Search and by default this is selected. But always think if you really want it included. For instance if the list is for employee Holiday Requests then why would you want it to be searchable.

Another reason given is because the Search simply does not work. Unfortunately the Search part of SharePoint can cause SharePoint Administrators many sleepless nights because it is prone to error, but all these errors are recorded in the Application section of the Event Viewer on the Server. It is important that these logs are checked daily and that alerts are set up to inform the Administrator of any problems with SharePoint and especially the Search. It is common for crawls to stop or not run. A common reason like many things in SharePoint is permissions. So it is important the Administrator is alerted as soon as a problem has occurred so they can fix it before it becomes and issue for the End User. Alert monitoring software like the brilliant IPMonitor from Solarwinds are great for setting up alerts when problems happen.

The Search facility in SharePoint is one of its most powerful features so if you are a SharePoint Administrator and you are reading this blog please take time to just check your Search is working correctly. Also have a look at your Search logs to find how many people are actually using the Search. If it isn’t being used much them you have to ask yourself why. A high proportion of users would not think twice about using Google so why aren’t they using SharePoint Search. Is it a lack of training or maybe something silly like the Search Box is not really prominent on the page? Think about your End User Training sessions (these are available in UK from Office Talk if you are interested) and how much time is spent on demonstrating the Search facility.      

So now back to try and find at least two socks that look very similar. If anybody knows where these missing socks go please comment below.