Navigation Toggle

What is the Difference Between a Database and a Search Engine?

February 12, 2019
What is the Difference Between a Database and a Search Engine?

The lines between a database and a search engine aren’t always clear. For the average user, this may not be something they ever consider, but some clarity is beneficial for any business trying to solve any search challenges. Here’s a quick rundown on the differences between a database and a search engine.

What is a Database?

In short, a database is a collection of information that is organized and stored to be accessed for later use. As an example, a manual version of a database would be like a rolodex with specific fields of information. In this scenario, information is recorded on sheets of paper, possibly organized in folders, and stored in a single place where people with access can go and retrieve that information when necessary.

An electronic database operates largely the same way, except all this data is structured to ease of organization and information retrieval. This database is accessed and managed by specific users through a database management system (DBMS). Users with access can then add, update, find, sort, or retrieve data as needed.

What is a Search Engine?

If a database is like a rolodex, then search engines are more like the index of a book—except that it’s a collection of every index for every book you have. Databases and search engines are both capable of search for data and handling queries. Each technology relies on different paradigms to organize and retrieve information. While databases can store and retrieve a vast amount of structured data, search engines can search unstructured text.

Search engines vary greatly in scope. If you ask the average person about search engines, he or she will think of Google and Bing as examples. However, search engines also apply smaller-scale full-text search software, such as those for online publishing, interactive catalogs, classified advertising, digital asset management, intelligence and web searching.

Search engine software makes the process of retrieving relevant information much easier by allowing users to search for information with natural language text. The results will then be organized by relevance, which can include text documents, geographic information, images, video, audio, and other payload data.

Why Not Have Both?

While databases and search engines don’t “marry” easily, there is technology available that offers a true marriage of the two. Thunderstone’s search engine software and search appliances give users the benefits of both thanks to Texis, the core technology for all Thunderstone products.

Texis is the first search engine software available with the fully-integrated structure of an SQL relational database (RDBMS) that intelligently queries and manages databases. This is due to Thunderstone’s Metamorph, a concept-based natural language search engine that uses advanced lexical set logic to intelligently understand search queries and retrieve relevant responses.

Whether your business needs a solution for complex information retrieval challenges or a hosted search appliance, Thunderstone can help. Request a demo for one on Thunderstone’s search engine software today or contact us to talk to a Thunderstone expert about how Texis technology can be a solution for your search challenges.

What is Enterprise Search?

December 13, 2018
What is Enterprise Search?

Information is great until you can’t find it. Over time, businesses and organizations collect a lot of content and data necessary to run a business and drive profits. Unfortunately, all that information isn’t going to help if nobody can find what they need. That’s why organizations invest in enterprise search software and appliances to quickly and easily secure enterprise-wide information.

What Makes Enterprise Search Different from Other Types of Search?

While some types of search can only parse individual repositories, Techopedia defines enterprise search as “a system that facilitates enterprise data research through one or more sources.” Enterprise search is designed to be able to parse through the vast array of information found on multiple repositories to make it easy for different types of users within that enterprise to look for and find the information they need. These sources commonly include:

  • File systems
  • Document management systems
  • Databases
  • Intranets
  • Email

This ability to locate information from multiple repositories is key because it saves users from having to dig through multiple sources to find what they need. This is extremely helpful even if they know which repository houses the information they need. When they’re not sure where it’s stored, it becomes an incredible time saver.

How Does Enterprise Search Work?

Enterprise search software does more than simply search for information. It actively organizes the information found in multiple repositories through means such as metatagging, taxonomies, and categorization to efficiently find and produce results. The search will crawl the various repositories to create a searchable index so that it can logically find information for future queries. From there, a user will use a search interface, such as a search box, and enterprise search will pull results that match the intent of the submitted query and present them in a formatted list.

A big part of why enterprise search can index vast collections of data and provide good results is through advanced technology. For example, Thunderstone’s enterprise search solutions are powered by Texis, an innovative platform that allows organizations to incorporate their own unique knowledge and expertise into customized search solutions.

At the heart of Texis is Metamorph, a concept-based natural language search engine that utilizes advanced lexical set logic. This gives our solutions the ability to provide relevant responses based on user queries, improve autocomplete suggestions, and find other patterns that improve the overall search experience. Since Texis is a search engine that’s developed as a fully-integrated SQL RDBMS optimized for full-text search, it can store and search text documents of unlimited size within standard database tables, in addition to unstructured text, making it extremely beneficial for enterprises with lots of data.

Thunderstone originally developed Texis as the engine to power custom search solutions, with tools for combining structured and unstructured data, real-time updates, large collections, and complex business rules all in one package. Texis gives developers a chance to combine their specific skills and expertise with a powerful search engine. Through Texis, these experts can easily incorporate their knowledge into customized search solutions.

A good enterprise search solution can be the difference between being able to efficiently access important data and lost information. Request a demo today to test out Thunderstone’s enterprise search solutions for yourself or contact us to talk to a Thunderstone expert and your organization’s search needs.

What is Faceted Search?

November 13, 2018
What is Faceted Search?

Faceted search is a powerful feature in modern search engines that makes it easy for users to find exactly what they need. This technology is a great feature for e-commerce site searches and other applications where it’s important to provide outside users with a streamlined search experience that can deliver customized results.

How Does Faceted Search Work?

Faceted search is based on structured data. Through guided navigation, searchers can use facets (or filters) to refine their queries. These facets are sets of independent attributes determined by the administrator to help classify the entries found within a searchable collection. This is extremely beneficial, especially compared to a more rigid classification scheme like a taxonomy that corresponds to only a single top-level attribute.

Faceted search vs. single taxonomies

While single taxonomies force users to choose a top-level group, faceted classification gives searchers a more flexible approach to finding specific items. For example, a single taxonomy for a dog food company might choose a top-level attribute that corresponds to either the type of dog food (dry, wet, etc.) or the type of dog (small dogs, big dogs, senior dogs, etc.), but not both. That means a taxonomy based on types of dog foods will still force a user to sift through results for all types of dogs without narrowing down the selections even further.

Faceted search can mark these search attributes as first-class facets. Users are now able to use a variety of filters to refine searches, whether these queries involve the type of dog food, type of dog, size of product, price, or any other factor that could narrow down a search. These stackable filters offer results that are much more relevant to a user with a highly-specific need instead of overwhelming them with too many unrelated products.

Is faceted search the right fit?

When dealing with a significant amount of possible search results (whether from a database, on a website or across multiple data sources), adding faceted search can help a user find what they’re looking for quicker. It may not be the right choice for smaller data sets.

On e-commerce sites, faceted navigation can help a user search for a product and quickly narrow down what they’re looking for.

Implementing faceted search

When implementing faceted search, it’s important to make sure the number of facets shown to the searcher is appropriate. Too few can be limiting in how specific a user can narrow down their search results, however too many facets can present a user with too many choices and not enough results within each facet category.

Before you add faceted search to your application, you’ll want to consider how you’ll be identifying and classifying the facets themselves. Within a large data set, what are the categories, filters, or “facets” that can help narrow down search results? For enterprise applications, this may start with file type (document, image, etc.) For an e-commerce site, this might mirror the ways that product would be organized in-store (category, color, size. etc.).

Faceted Site Search for Your Business

Thunderstone’s Parametric Search Appliance provides you with a highly customizable e-commerce site search system with faceted search, autocomplete and other capabilities that help you deliver relevant results to your users.

Parametric search (also called attribute-enhanced search) helps users narrow down their field of search to increase the chances of finding relevant information. It provides context to results that are based on unstructured information, and it allows the administrator or user to sort results in the most meaningful way.

Request a free trial of today to test out Thunderstone’s enterprise search products for yourself or contact us to talk to a Thunderstone expert about your organization’s search needs.

Integrating Advanced Search on your Website

September 20, 2017
Integrating Advanced Search on your Website

Is your search solution actually doing its job? Some common problems caused by inadequate search software includes:

  • Search results aren’t showing in the right order of importance or value
  • Search results can’t show mixed content like products, blog content and page content
  • Search results don’t have the appearance you’d like them to have

So why would you like a better search solution? It helps educate you users with the right information. It directs them towards products that they want to buy. It ultimately provides a better user experience for them. With simple search solutions like Google’s soon-to-be-discontinued Google Site Search, there is very limited customization that you can make to deliver the best results to your users. The solution to this challenge is implemented a smarter, more customizable custom search appliance on your website.

Sound complicated? It’s actually easier than you think when you have an expert like Thunderstone walking you through the process. Based on our 30-plus years of experience with search solutions, the typical steps involved with integrating an advanced search appliance within your website are:

Identify What Should Be Included in Search Results

The benefit of a more advanced search box like Thunderstone’s Search Appliance is that you’re able to customize what should be indexed in search results. Thus, you can include things like

  • page content
  • blog posts
  • products
  • documentation pages
  • media like images and videos
  • FAQ’s
  • data from other database sources

Determine Search Results Appearance

Consider how you’d like the search results to appear to users. With a basic website search engine, results are pulled purely by keyword relevancy, and the results can’t be styled. With an advanced website search engine like Thunderstone’s Search Appliance, search results can be customized in terms of order and design of appearance.

Website Search Results Customization

For websites that feature multiple types of content, multiple subdomains, e-commerce and many other unique website setups, basic website search is not ideal. Some examples of customizations that you may want to make to search results include:

  • Selecting only specific pages or types of content/data that you would like to be indexed and shown to users
  • Ranking pages based on their importance to your organization, and their relevancy to the user
  • Sorting and separating different pieces of content in search rankings
  • Leveraging a thesaurus function to group similar results together

Website Search Results Design

Once again, with a basic website search engine, the appearance of the search results are going to likely include the title of the page, a short description, and potentially an image. But for more advanced websites, this can be very limiting in delivering the right results to the user. Customizing search results design can be useful when:

  • Delivering product or e-commerce results to the user, including images, pricing, and product options
  • Showing search results for media, including photos and videos
  • Showing more in-depth documentation that may include technical files, publish dates, etc.
  • Delivering autocomplete results in a search box for a better user experience

Embed a Search Box on Your Site

Embedding a search box on your website is simple for any web designer or developer to achieve. Whether you have an existing search box that needs to be replaced, or need to integrate a brand-new search box within your site, Thunderstone’s implementation is simple.

When it comes to search box design considerations, UX Planet has a few recommendations:

  • Display the search field prominently, including on mobile devices
  • Provide a button for the search box rather than an icon that may be confusing
  • Put the search box on every page
  • Put the search box where users expect to find it, typically in the top righthand corner of the page
  • Size the search box appropriately, usually allowing at least 27 characters of text input

Thunderstone for Better Site Search

The Thunderstone Search Appliance is a web indexing device that allows a web site administrator to provide a high quality search results for a number of different file types with a customized search results appearance. If your current website search engine isn’t delivering the results you want (or your users need), then check out Thunderstone’s Search Appliance, or contact us today for a demo.

What the Engineering Industry Needs to Consider When Investing in an Enterprise Search Solution?

September 6, 2017
What the Engineering Industry Needs to Consider When Investing in an Enterprise Search Solution?

As an engineering firm grows, it’s critical that it has a good internal search solution. At first, it’s easy to find information from one of a dozen or so projects. Over time, you gain more projects, which can lead to hundreds of thousands of highly technical files within a basic file storage structure. That’s why it’s critical that engineering firms find a search solution that is designed to address the issues that complicate the search process and provide the right results for their users.

Specific Search Solution Issues for Engineering Firms

Engineering firms face a few main challenges when it comes to search solutions. This includes the variety of searches engineers can make, as well as the overall technical nature of the business.

There are a variety of reasons why engineers would use the search function on their site. They could be looking for specific information from one of hundred, or even, thousands, of documents. They may just need some general background research on a certain field or application. They might also just be looking for a project example to use as a template or as guidance for putting a new document together.

Another problem is that in engineering, everything can be technical. These engineering documents can contain extremely detailed information and unique jargon that can create issues for an inadequate search solution. The files used at an engineering firm can go beyond the usual text files and PDFs, making it necessary for search solutions to parse through CAD files and other specific document types. In addition to the technical nature of the files and vocabulary, a search solution will also have to work with the engineering company’s internal conventions for file names and directories.

Search Appliance Solutions for Engineers

Fortunately for engineers, Thunderstone can engineer a search solution that addresses their specific issues. This starts with addressing a few critical details.

To start, a search solution for an engineering firm should utilize file format plugins for unique document types. This can help the search identify unique design files and other special items that other businesses may not rely on for their work. With these special document types, it’s also important that a search solution can use the firm’s directory structure to help with the overall search.

Due to the technical jargon in engineering, a good search solution should also be able to parse through the actual language that engineers use. The addition of a thesaurus feature helps an engineering firm’s search software find the right files based on terms that employees use, while a synonym system allows the search solution to display the right results based on the user’s intent, even if they don’t quite use the exact right terms found in the document.

One great solution for engineering firms is Thunderstone’s Parametric Search Appliance. This solution can address all the previously mentioned issues and help your results display the most relevant authors, projects, and documents that apply to your user’s search. Parametric search is also flexible, powerful, and easy to use, allowing us to customize the solution to optimize it for your setup.

We work with you to find the search solution you need. Contact us online or give us a call at 216-820-2200 to start our three-step head start program to get a customized search solution that truly fits your needs.