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Plan for business data search

SharePoint 2007

Updated: February 26, 2009

Applies To: Office SharePoint Server 2007

Updated: 2009-02-26

In this article:

The integration of business data with other features of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 provides an opportunity to use the full power of enterprise search to find, view, and act on relevant business data. This integration is available only in the enterprise version of Office SharePoint Server 2007. Deployments of the standard version of Office SharePoint Server 2007 cannot register business data applications or search for business data by using enterprise search.

When planning for business data search, it is important to understand the search functionality. It is also important to consider the following:

  • Plan for inclusion of business data in content sources.

  • Select the appropriate properties of business data to map to managed properties in the search schema.

  • Create access control lists (ACLs) for business data types.

  • Use search scopes and search filters to change how search queries are grouped and which search results are found.

  • Plan to integrate business data search capability into the sites in your site collection.

About business data search

Business data results are excluded from general search results. Business data search results can be displayed in four distinct ways:

  • When a search scope that includes business data is used to search, the search results include business data results. A business data search scope is not provided by default, but administrators can create search scopes that include business data.

  • Users can refine initial search results by selecting the option to search business data sources.

  • Users can select a business data tab provided in the Search Center site, and the search will include all business data for the tab. A tab for all business data is not included by default, but administrators can add tabs for searching all business data or for searching data from specific business applications.

  • If the search term in a standard search query matches a keyword phrase selected by an administrator, the business data result appears in recommended results.

Administrators of the search service and individual site collections must configure several options before business data is available in search results. Use the following procedure to make business data available for search.

Make business data available for search

  1. For line-of-business applications, register the application in the Business Data Catalog and set the number of connections.

  2. Create a content source for the business application data.

  3. Crawl the content source for the application data to add its properties as new crawled properties in the portal site schema.

  4. Select the relevant properties in the Configure Search section of the Business Data Catalog and map them to managed properties for search.

  5. Create ACLs for business data types in the Business Data Catalog.

  6. Crawl the content source for the business data source again to update managed properties and ACLs.

  7. Create search scopes for business data.

  8. Configure keywords for business data.

Most of these tasks are performed by the administrator of the search shared service or by the administrator of the Business Data Catalog. Some tasks are performed by site collection administrators. Both shared services administrators and site collection administrators will help plan search for business data.

Plan business data search

When planning for business data search, it is important to consider your business needs and how you can use search features to improve the visibility of business data and the usability of business intelligence features.

The first thing to consider is which business processes are relevant to each site collection, and which business applications are used in evaluating and working within those processes. When you identify those applications, think about how users will search for that business data, and what the scope of the business data is. Often, users will look for business data from a particular application from several sites and site collections, but not every site will use the same business data. Based on the scope of business processes and the associated business applications and business data, several decisions will be affected.

Plan Shared Services Providers for business data

You can often rely on the security for business applications to limit access to business data, but for particularly sensitive data that is used frequently by one group of users in your organization but not by the entire organization, you might want to consider separate Shared Services Providers (SSPs). Content and data are not shared across SSPs, so users who search by using the search shared service of one SSP will not see results for another SSP. This option is usually a good idea only when the content sets, including documents and sites other than business data, are fully distinct. Otherwise, you can use application security, SharePoint groups, and search scopes and search filters to limit availability of data.

Within the Business Data Catalog for each SSP, you will register every line-of-business application that has data you want to make available through search and other Office SharePoint Server features, such as business data Web Parts, InfoPath forms templates, workflows, and so on. SSP administrators should talk with farm administrators about capacity and performance implications for business applications. For more information, see Plan for business data connections with the Business Data Catalog.

Worksheet action

Use the Information architecture worksheet (http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=73273&clcid=0x409) to record the number of SSPs and the data sources for each SSP's Business Data Catalog.

Use the Site hierarchy planning tool (http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=73143&clcid=0x409) to plan the number of SSPs and the data sources for each SSP's Business Data Catalog.

Use the Estimate data capacity requirements worksheet (http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=73274&clcid=0x409) to record the number of connections for each business data source.

Plan business data content sources

To use business data in search results, you must create business data content sources. Business data content sources are added just like other content sources, but have some additional configuration steps that you should consider during planning.

Business data start addresses include locations of databases for Microsoft SQL Server 2005 or other databases, and various line-of-business applications. These locations are often on separate servers that exist prior to the deployment of Office SharePoint Server 2007, although the applications can be hosted on the same server. For load-balancing purposes, you might want to host databases on separate servers. When you plan the server farms for your deployment, consider how they will connect to application servers. For more information about deploying application servers, see Book Excerpt: Design server farms and topologies (Office SharePoint Server).

To help preserve security and limit the performance impact on your business data applications, you do not want to use the actual location where business data is stored when crawling business data content sources. Typically, you will create a data warehouse that has a copy of the data, including all of the relevant business data types, properties, and values. That location will be used in the content source for the business application.

You might want to create additional content sources to support the following scenarios:

  • You want to crawl business data in one application more frequently than business data in other applications.

  • You want to create search scopes that are limited to a specific set of data from one or more applications, by using content sources. You can create search scopes based on properties instead of on content sources, so content sources are not necessary if properties enable you to accomplish the same result.

  • You want to create a Search Center tab that points to a specific set of business data that is defined by content source. As with search scopes, this is not the only way to define how business data is displayed in the Search Center site.

The frequency with which you crawl business data content sources depends on the impact to business data application servers. Work with the administrators of each business data application to implement a reasonable schedule.

Worksheet action

Use the Content Sources section of the Plan to crawl content worksheet (http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=73748&clcid=0x409) to record the decisions you make about business data content sources, along with the expected crawling schedule for each content source.

For more information about content sources, see Plan to crawl content (Office SharePoint Server).

Plan search properties for business data

To use business data, you must select the properties of business data that will be available to search as managed properties. Properties from SQL Server can be mapped directly after they have been crawled, but line-of-business applications must first be registered in the Business Data Catalog. Managed properties will be the subset of properties that you want to use when you search for business data.

The key business processes identified during information architecture planning will suggest the most likely managed properties. You can map multiple crawled properties to a single managed property, and select whether one takes precedence or whether the managed property is multi-valued and includes all values found for crawled properties.

When you decide which properties and which business data types for a business data application you want to make available for search, you must think about what you want users to be able to find, how that information will be presented, and what the crawling impact is on the data warehouse that contains the data. Frequently, you will not want to display all data, but only data about certain properties. For example, an organization that has several offices in several regions might only want to display results for specific offices in a few key regions, depending on business needs. You decide which business data types to include and which properties to include for each business data type. Factors to consider when deciding which properties to make available include:

  • Confidentiality policies   You might have good business reasons to keep certain records confidential. For example, records that might be relevant only to key business planners and not to most users who work with data in the application. You can decide to display the properties for business data types that are not confidential, but not to display those that are.

  • Performance impact   Some properties might not be confidential, but the impact of crawling those properties and potentially enabling users to access and change those properties by using business actions might outweigh the business gains of that decision. Carefully consider the performance of each group of business data types that you enable.

Worksheet action

Use the Plan managed properties section of the Plan the end-user search experience worksheet (http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=74967&clcid=0x409) to record the managed properties.

For more information about crawled and managed properties for search, see Plan the end-user search experience (Office SharePoint Server).

Plan access and security for business data search results

You can use the security for each business application to limit access to business data search results. You can also limit access to business data search by using SharePoint groups.

Any user who has access to a business data application, whether it is a database application, such as SQL Server 2005 or a line-of-business application, can also access the business data in that application. Business data search results use that security to ensure that only users who have the correct permissions can see the search results.

However, you can also apply permissions to business data and business data search results from within Office SharePoint Server 2007. A user without permissions to the database can still see search results if they have the correct SharePoint permissions.

It is a good practice to limit the number of users who have direct access to a business application. In many organizations, this might be a single account or a group that contains a small number of users. You can create SharePoint groups that have the correct permissions to view business data and related search results for each application, and then assign users in your organization to those groups. When granting permissions, consider your larger security needs and the users to whom the data in each business application is relevant. Match each application with the users who will need to find business data to do their jobs.

Worksheet action

Use the Custom permission levels and groups worksheet (http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=73134&clcid=0x409) to record access to applications.

Use the Site and content security worksheet (http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=73135&clcid=0x409) to record access to applications.

Plan search scopes for business data

Search scopes can be used to enable users to search for certain subsets of business data. When you plan your information architecture, you identify key business processes or groups of processes. Some of these processes will be closely linked to specific business data applications. To create a search scope for specific applications and content related to those applications, you can either apply scope rules based on properties of business data to narrow the scope of search results, or create a content source that includes only start addresses for that business process and base the search scope on that content source.

For more information about planning search scopes, see Plan the end-user search experience (Office SharePoint Server).

Plan keywords for business data

For each business application, you will also want to consider the most relevant search results, and consider the search terms that users are likely to use when they perform search queries. For example, if you have a key performance indicator (KPI) list that tracks a key business process, you might decide that it should appear at the top of search results when users search business data by using common terms for that business process. You can use special terms, also known as keywords and Best Bets, to highlight key business data. You can highlight lists, databases, specific business data types for an application in the Business Data Catalog. For example, you can highlight a customer business data profile as a Best Bet for a keyword relating to that customer, and the profile will be promoted to the top of search results.

You can prioritize the important special terms to configure during initial deployment by considering key phrases for each business process and associated application. Then, you can consider the most important content for those terms. Record those terms to create a reference you can use during deployment to test search terms and see if the key content appears high enough in the search results. If it does not, you can create special terms to promote those results.

Worksheet action

Use the Keywords section of the Plan the end-user search experience worksheet (http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=74967&clcid=0x409) to record keywords.

For more information about keywords and special terms, see Plan the end-user search experience (Office SharePoint Server).

Plan business data tabs in the Search Center site

The Search Center site provides a business data tab that can be used to search across all business data sources. You might want to identify additional business data tabs for specific applications, databases, or records within an application or database. Look at your information hierarchy and consider adding business data tabs for each of the key business processes for your organization. If it is likely that users will want to search a specific set of data, it is probably worth creating a tab for that purpose. Using business data tabs in the Search Center site also provides a way to expand search without creating long lists of search scopes in the Search Scopes menu.

You might also want to customize the appearance and functionality of each tab. For more information about customizing the Search Center site, see Searching in Office SharePoint Server 2007 (http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms497338.aspx) in the Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 Software Development Kit (http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms550992.aspx).

Example

Contoso, Ltd., is a technology company that has a customer call center to handle support calls. The call center is set up on a single site collection. Support representatives keep track of customers and customer issues by using a line-of-business application, and they have an archive of past customer issues stored on SQL Server 2005 databases that they can analyze by using SQL Server 2005 Analysis Services. Each of these applications and the related customers and product lines are recorded in the Information architecture worksheet (http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=73273&clcid=0x409).

The Business Data Catalog administrator plans to register the customer issues application in the Business Data Catalog, map business application data properties to managed properties used by search, and create business data profiles for key business data types, such as customer, region, business unit, and product line. The planned properties are recorded in the Business data worksheet (http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=73271&clcid=0x409). The managed properties used by search are recorded in the Plan managed properties section of the Plan the end-user search experience worksheet (http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=74967&clcid=0x409).

Because the content on the site collection concerns an integrated set of business processes and users who share information across teams and processes, there is no need for additional SSPs to isolate content. Only one SSP is needed. This should be recorded on the Site hierarchy planning tool (http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=73143&clcid=0x409).

The search service administrator plans to create a content source for the customer service application, so customer and customer issue data can be updated more frequently than the rest of the content on the site collection. This content source is recorded in the content sources section of the Plan to crawl content worksheet (http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=73748&clcid=0x409).

The Business Data Catalog administrator decides to use a single account that has access to the customer service application to crawl the data in the application. Additional users will be granted permissions not directly to the application, but by being added to SharePoint groups that have access to business data in the site collection. Permissions to data in the SQL Server 2005 database will be limited by cube so that each person can view only the data relevant to his or her areas of responsibility. Most users in your organization will be granted read-only access for the data directly relevant to their jobs. This information is recorded in the Site and content security worksheet (http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=73135&clcid=0x409).

The planning team plans scopes for customers and customer issues, along with other search scopes not related to business data. The planning team records this information in the Plan scopes section of the Plan the end-user search experience worksheet (http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=74967&clcid=0x409).

When considering special terms for business data, the search service administrator for Contoso, Ltd., identifies support experts for each major product line and creates Best Bets for each expert based on keywords related to their area of expertise.

The team plans a dedicated Search Center site for the team that contains information about customers and customer service reports, and important documents and sites relevant to customer service representatives. The team starts with the Search Center site provided by the portal site template and plans features based on business needs. The team plans a customer tab so that customer service representatives can search for specific customers in the database, and a separate tab for customer service reports.

Worksheets

Use the following worksheets to plan for business data search:

Download this book

This topic is included in the following downloadable book for easier reading and printing:

See the full list of available books at Downloadable content for Office SharePoint Server 2007.

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