12,000 employees? 56 offices worldwide? Nearly 100 million documents? Yup - we'd say our enterprise search problem was pretty big... Of course, we were able to get a great discount on a couple powerful Google Search Appliances! :)

In fact, we really exploited the power of the Google Search Appliance in many unique and interesting ways so we thought this blog could be a great place to let you in on some of our Intranet search secrets and best practices...

To start with, we chose to place a checkbox underneath the search box which allows users to pass their search queries to an alternate front end where we can try neat experiments (like different ways to return the results, new and interesting OneBox implementations, etc.). Since only some percentage checks the box, it gives us a great way to test out new ideas and new technologies before releasing them to the main search results page. For instance, you might want to use this alternate front end to test out a different look-and-feel for your XSLT; you might want to filter out certain domains to see if it improves the results; you might want to try out some new OneBox modules; you might want to turn on/off Query Expansion (word stemming, synonyms, etc.); you might want to try source biasing. In future posts we'll talk about the many ways in which we've used this Next search screen.

To add an alternate experimental front end and a checkbox to get to it is not very difficult. Click here to see the simple 3-step process.

The screenshot below shows all the tremendous amount of rich information we provide when users even enter just a simple three letter query.

This is an actual live screenshot (with some data sanitization, of course) showing what users see once they query for 'gfs'. You'll see that, in addition to the highly relevant search results, the user is able to see a variety of useful OneBox implementations such as Googler information and user-created bookmarks, they can segment their search to just tech documents, they can narrow their search even further, or, they can add their own KeyMatch if they didn't find the result they wanted.

In upcoming blog posts, we'll talk about how to implement some of these other features. Some of you may choose to follow along with these posts and try out these methods and we encourage it! If you ever have any questions, please feel free to join or write to our Google Search Appliance group at http://groups.google.com/group/Google-Search-Appliance.

Stay tuned for much more!