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The dark side of Desktop Search Tools

There is a lot of mention on UW's study that found software to be the most well-balanced of tool among those evaluated, ranking it above 11 competitors including MSN Toolbar Suite, Google Desktop, Yahoo! Desktop Search, Wizetech Archivarius 3000, Ask Jeeves, Enfish Professional, ISYS Desktop, dtSearch Desktop, diskMETA Pro, Blinkx, and HotBot Desktop. The "Benchmark Study of Desktop Search Tools" is available to the public at no cost here. (PDF 2.4 MB) Earlier, WP described Copernic as obscure, a comment that drew widespread criticisim.

But the most important aspect of this study is when all the results were reviewed, it was determined that most of the desktop search tools were still too immature for significant business use due primarily to a lack of mature security and overall manageability.

This is definitely bad news for Desktop search companies. Even Federal agencies remain worried of free desktop search tools due to security problems. If security is breached, either by an intruder using an unattended machine or by theft of a desktop or laptop computer, prowlers can find sensitive information faster. Employees of law enforcement agencies, the FDA and other regulatory bodies can easily expose confidential investigations. The second concern is that when employees use free software, agency officials cannot control the applications as much as they control enterprisewide deployments. Until a better desktop search appliance arrives, enterprise search software might be a solution for federal agencies.

officials admit their desktop search tool is not ready for enterprise use. According to Aliya Sternstein, the product automatically records e-mail messages, saves copies of Web pages viewed through Internet Explorer and copies content accessed during Secure Sockets Layer sessions, making it available to anyone using the same computer. As Gartner had earlier warned, GDS could pose some risks for users in shared computing environments.