Your Own Personal Search Device: Google Desktop

By Buck Dossey, Associate Director, Client Strategy & Development

When you think about searching your local computer, what comes to mind? The primary challenge at hand is how many different file systems, databases, and intranets can come together to be sifted through in a fast, reliable way. There are many different options out there for indexing this data and serving up search results, but most people think of Google Desktop as the best option available. In this multi-part series, I’ll take a look at some of the more popular personal and enterprise search solutions to help you evaluate them, if you’re planning to install any time soon.

Desktop Search

The first solution I’d like to focus on is Google Desktop. It’s a very widely distributed Desktop Search client. If you’re a user of Google Desktop, then you’re quite familiar with the easy to use search function that based on a local index created by the tool. It scans your computer, your network, your email, and anything you allow it, and poof – you’ve got a searchable index.

Google also threw in some handy apps in a utility called the Sidebar, which allows you to customize the side of your desktop (right or left) with applications that could be of high use, such as a calculator, weather, or RSS feeds.

Some of the drawbacks of Google Desktop search are actually created by its features. Because it is so good at sharing data across multiple computers, it can present both security and privacy risks for users. In his 2007 paper, Yair Amit showed how hackers could maliciously take over a user’s computer. Google has since launched an updated version of Google Desktop that plugs these security holes.

Searching Across Computers Google incorporated the “Search Across Computers” function in its 3rd version of the software. This function allowed data to be searched from your home, work, and any other computer with the software installed under your Google account to use the same index, and access the same resources. In order to do this, files have to be copied to Google’s servers, so they can be indexed by all computers. According to Wikipedia, there are quite a few laws that this potentially violates, including SB 1386, HIPAA, FERPA, GLBA and Sarbanes-Oxley. Search with care, if you are thinking about using this feature.

Concluding Thoughts

Google Desktop Search is a very powerful software package. It provides users with very valuable indexing services that make finding information as easy as Google Web Search. The program also provides some useful add-ons, that have customizable modules that can be added at the user’s discretion.

Use of Google Desktop should be determined with caution. Specifically, the “Search Across Computers” function could be inadvertently selected, with unintended consequences.


Sheila, ATT Uverse Rebates said...

I just installed Google Desktop and it's really powerful. I'm a first time user and I'm already loving it.

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