Google Offers SMBs a Ride in Its Mini

Does it ever seem like it’s easier to search the Internet to compare the migratory patterns of the African and European sparrow than it is to find last month’s sales projections on your company’s network? If you’re searching the Internet with Google, you’re probably right. But what if you could harness Google’s search technology for your business?

That’s the idea behind the Google Mini &#151 a hardware and software appliance designed to let SMBs add Google search to their company networks and Web sites.

The Google Mini reflects the company’s mission statement &#151 organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful &#151 on a somewhat smaller scale.

According to Matt Glotzbach, a Google product manager, the amount of data that companies accumulate is astounding. “We want to help companies make their information accessible. Right now, employees spend too much time looking for &#151 and not finding &#151 the right data. And all too often, they end up making bad, or poorly informed, decisions.”

The Google Mini, which launched in January, indexes and searches up to 50,000 documents and sells for $4,995. Today however, in a surprising and welcomed move, the company announced that it’s doubling the Mini’s index and document capability to 100,000 documents and cutting the price to $2,995.

Make It Search Like Google
The Mini, a 1U rack-mountable box, plugs into a standard power outlet and into a network Ethernet port. Then, it’s a matter of configuring the device &#151 directing it to the company intranet or Web site you want to index.

Once it’s up and running, you’ll be able to search across all of your company’s documents and Web sites in a way that’s familiar to anyone who’s ever used Google &#151 the interface and functionality are the same.

The Mini can index over 220 file formats including HTML, PDF and Microsoft Office. There are, of course, limits to the document size, but they’re generous: the Mini indexes the first 2.5MB of any HTML document and the first 30MB of binary files, such as Word or PDF.

If you want to see how it all works, you can sign up for a live demo.

What’s the Buzz
It’s not often that a company decides to increase a product’s functionality and cut the price, and while we heartily applaud the move, we thought we’d check the word on the street to see what customers and industry experts have to say about the Google Mini.

John Neubauer, a legal administrator for the Syracuse, N.Y.-based law firm Blitman and King, said the company’s been using the Google Mini for about two months, and it’s had a positive impact already.

The Google Mini

Mini but Mighty &#151 Plug the Google Mini into your network for enterprise-level search capability on your company’s private intranet and public Web site.

“Each employee here has his or her own directory on the network, and each person has set ways he or she likes to save data,” he said. “Lots of firms use file management software to organize the data, but that adds another layer of complexity &#151 you have to type in a lot of information about each file &#151 and our people wouldn’t use the system. The Google Mini puts their documents right at their fingertips.”

Neubauer added that he’s finding new ways to use the Mini to improve efficiency. “We have file cabinets full of hard-copy documents that relate to past cases. I’m running them through our copier/scanner, which digitizes and OCRs them, and saving them on the network. Now instead of manually searching through hundreds of paper files, we can access them instantly through a Google Mini search. We do the same thing with the faxes that come in.”

He also has employees search for documents using their Blackberries. While they can’t open Word docs, a Google Mini search offers the option of opening Word docs as a text version &#151 so his people can access company documents on the road.

“My bosses trust me not to spend money on vapor technology &#151 stuff that looks good initially but when it comes down to it, it doesn’t measure up,” he said. “I don’t see the Google Mini that way at all.”

Analyze This
Eric Peterson, a Jupiterresearch analyst for site technologies and operations, sees the Google Mini as a good option for small and medium businesses, especially in light of the reduced pricing. “The new attractive pricing combined with the good name of Google makes it a must-look opportunity,” he said. (Jupiter Research and this Web site are both owned by Jupitermedia.)

Peterson adds that other search options, such as open source or homegrown solutions are a bad idea. “Search technology is fairly specific,” he said. “It’s hard to do well, and it’s best left to a company that focuses on search &#151 like Google.”

Citing the Mini’s pricing and ease-of-use, Peterson said the Mini makes a lot of sense for small business. “People are impressed with how easy it is to install and use the product. SMBs want something that just plugs in and works.”

Over at IDC, Sue Feldman, vice-president of context technologies, said Google has a big advantage. “They have tremendous brand awareness &#151 more than anyone else &#151 and the new pricing is going to heat up the market,” she said. “The fact that Google’s offering more capability for less money is amazing.”

Feldman says positioning the Mini at the SMB market makes perfect sense. “Small businesses require affordability and plug and play capability. And it’s a big market, so the opportunity is huge.”

Google uses an online sales model, which is a fancy way of saying you can only buy a Google Mini through Google’s Web site. The $2,995 price tag includes one year of support. You can buy a second year for $995 (reduced from $2,500).

Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of

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