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Federated Search vs. Enterprise Search Software


Internal Search Frameworks

Federated Search Software and Enterprise Search Software are two search technologies that can be used to query various data sources, such as document repositories, for actionable insights and information. Primarily leveraged internally with the intent to deliver search results to end users, they have several differences in terms of functionality, utilization, and business impact. 

Enterprise Search

Enterprise search is a search technology that is designed to search within an organization's own data sources, such as document management systems, content management systems, and databases. Enterprise search is frequently leveraged to search through and manage system logs and other high-volume data sources. However there is growing impact in various other areas of business as internal search software becomes easier to support and maintain. 

Marketing and Sales teams are able to ensure customer facing teams have the most accurate and up-to-date product and marketing collateral. Having up-to-date information ensures a smoother customer journey and a better buying experience along the way. 

Of course the impact of internal enterprise search isn't just left to customer facing teams, support teams, or engineers sifting through system logs - it ultimately helps drive a better and more refined digital experience for employees too. A great digital experience is imperative to remote and hybrid workforces that are distributed throughout countries, geographies and time zones. 

At the heart and soul of enterprise search is the need for employees to have access to timely and relevant data. Enterprise search reaches throughout an organization to deliver actionable, relevant data to employees and eliminate data silos. 


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Federated Search

Federated search, on the other hand, is a search technology that is designed to search across multiple sources of information, both within and outside an organization. Federated search can be used to search a variety of sources, including external databases, websites, and internal data sources. Federated search is often used when there is a need to search multiple sources of information that are not contained within an organization's network.

Federated Search, while useful to have access to external systems, tends to also be a heavier technical lift. Leveraging APIs, middleware, or native search solutions to a document management system the technical requirements quickly become lofty. Maintaining, supporting, and updating federated search solutions become a huge task for internal IT teams and require the maintenance of various internal and external connections.  This demand from a financial and time perspective can quickly outweigh the benefits of a federated search system and have a negative return on investment. 

The business impact can also drastically differ from a federated search platform when the infrastructure is reliant on native search functionality.  While Google, Bing, or Duck Duck Go have standardized search from an external perspective, individual data repository or document storage services all rely on different indexing, results, and algorithms. Such complexity across source systems leads to extremely variability in speed, accuracy and relevancy of results.

While both federated search and enterprise search technologies share similarities, they are fundamentally different in their functionality and usage. Enterprise search is useful for organizations to quickly access their internal data sources, while federated search is ideal for searching across multiple sources of information both internal and external. Ultimately, the choice between these two search technologies will depend on the organization's specific needs and goals.