Monday, March 24, 2008

Coveo Search vs. Ontolica Search for SharePoint

    Coveo vs. Ontolica.

    Search is very important part of a corporate Intranet portal or Internet site. Choosing the right search engine is critical, but can also be a difficult process because the most important questions like "is this search engine scalable, reliable and secure" take the longest to answer. I've worked with two of the more popular search engines for SharePoint over the past 6 months and have gathered enough data on the two to make some valuable, well-tested observations. Below I will compare Coveo and Ontolica.

  • Both Ontolica and Coveo are very good products. I have really been impressed with both. They offer fantastic, have-to-have features over out-of-the-box SharePoint. After you have used either Ontolica or Coveo, you will not want to go back to native SharePoint Search.
  • About Ontolica
    • Ontolica uses the SharePoint native search engine. Note that the native SharePoint search engine is included with the purchase of WSS 3.0 and MOSS.
    • Ontolica is installed as 4 SharePoint features and is administered through SharePoint application pages
  • About Coveo
    • Coveo has its own search index engine, and its own administrative interface.
  • Cost estimate for Ontolica:
    • Costs about $9,000 per production WFE (Web Front End) and an additional $4,500 for all development environments. So for example if you have a production farm with 2 WFE and a staging and a development environment and a VPC on your laptop, the cost would be 9k+9k + 4k = ~$20k.
    • Coveo offers two trial license options: either 1) you can have only two uses access the search index at a time and the license does not expire, or 2)you can have unlimited users use Ontolica for a limit of 30 days. Not that it is easy to add or remove a license without having to reinstall Ontolica.
  • Cost estimate for Coveo
    • Coveo licenses based on total documents indexed. They have a 100k document license, a 10k document license, 1M license etc. For example, a 100k document license is about $12k cost for the primary indexer which would run on the first WFE and the cost for a mirror is 60% of the primary indexer which would run on the 2nd WFE = $7k in our example. Development environment costs %50 of primary indexer = $6. $12k + $7k + $6k = ~$25k. This includes an annual support license.
  • Index browser
    • Coveo comes with an index browser, Ontolica does not have an index browser.
    • This is quite significant because it allows you to see what is in the index. It helps for troubleshooting and development purposes.



  • Customer Support
    • Customer support for Coveo is very responsive. They send you a livemeeting link and stay on the phone until the issue is resolved. I called support at least 15 times over the past two months, and they were very helpful each time. I actually have the direct phone number to the support rep that I use most frequently. Also, emails are acknowledged immediately and most often responded to within a few hours.
    • Ontolica support was slow to get back to me. When you call, you only get a receptionist. (granted my client had not purchased the product yet so the experience may be different after you have purchased the product and have a support license)
  • Administration interface
    • Coveo has a rich administration and configuration interface, with more options and quick, responsive navigation. It does take some getting used to, and is a lot to learn, but when you have learned it, it is very powerful and much more logical layout than MOSS native Search, in my opinion.
    • Ontolica uses the SharePoint infrastructure for its admin interface so if you are used to this interface, you will feel comfortable with the admin and configuration Ontolica interfaces. But there are fewer options available to you.
  • Search Results interface.
    • The single most important feature of both Ontolica and Coveo is results filtering. These allow the user to further filter results with a few single clicks. It also gives some great information about the result set by grouping results into categories like document Type, Author, SharePoint site, and displaying how many documents are in each group. (see screenshot)

    Screenshot of Coveo search result filtering user interface:

    • clip_image002[4]

    Screenshot of Ontolica search result filtering:


    • Coveo uses a nice Ajax interface which searches as you type. This provides a superior user experience. Instead of having to press enter to navigate to the results page, the user is able to see the results in a dropdown and click directly to the result.
    • clip_image004[4]
  • Security Trimming:

    ○ both Ontolica and Coveo do security trimming. (not showing results for documents and items you don't have permissions to view.

  • Transferring settings from one SharePoint environment to another
    • For Coveo there is a single config.txt file which holds all configuration settings. So moving settings from Dev to Stage to Prod is simply a matter of copying that file from one environment to another.
    • With Ontolica you have settings both MOSS search configuration and in Ontolica search configuration. If you backup a content database from dev to another environment, Ontolica configuration will be included, but MOSS search configuration (managed properties for example) will not be included and Microsoft does not provide a good tool that I know of to move those settings between environments, although there are some tools on that do this.
  • Index Crawler Performance:
    • Ontolica and MOSS native search have supported 64 bit platform since RTM of MOSS 2007.
    • Coveo crawler is faster than Ontolica crawler, as of version 5.1.2960 Coveo supports the 64 bit platform.

    - Results Settings

    • Coveo offers many more settings for results customization without having to write code
      • Options include turning off the advanced search panel, highlighting the title, displaying or hiding RSS feeds, etc.


  • Results presentation - Complete Customization of
    • Ontolica: XSLT results customization
      • Ontolica uses XSTL templates to control how results are displayed. If you do not have remote desktop access to the Web Front end servers, then Ontolica is probably the choice for you because all you need is a web browser to customize the display format of search results. There is one Ontolica Styles library per site collection.

    Screenshot of Ontolica Styles Library. This library contains XSLT templates which you can use to affect how search results are displayed.

    • clip_image006[4]
    • Coveo: custom ASCX files
      • Coveo uses custom ascx files ( user controls) to allow you to customize search results.
      • Ultimately this ASCX technique will be more powerful for customizing search results because you can do server side scripting as well as client side scripting.
    • If you are more comfortable with ASP.NET development than with XSLT development, Coveo may be your best choice.
    • Note that with Coveo you need to have remote desktop access to the box to add an ascx file. But once that file is uploaded, it is available to all SharePoint sites in the Farm.
    • clip_image007[4]
  • User interface for search results.
    • Both Coveo and Ontolica have an clean results page. However, the Coveo search results returns a larger set of metadata and the layout is cleaner. The coveo results also display how many of each item per result group are contained in the result set.

    Coveo results:


    Ontolica results:


  • Managed Properties
    • Setting up managed properties is easier in Coveo than in MOSS/Ontolica Search. For example, you have to scroll though many pages to get to the managed property in MOSS, which is inconvenient. MOSS does have a "search crawled properties" which is helpful, but there is no "search managed properties".
    • Also in MOSS/Ontolica, you have to set up the properties in two places: once as a managed property in MOSS, and once in Ontolica.

    Setting up properties in Coveo:


    Setting up properties in MOSS/Ontolica:


  • Troubleshooting tools
    • The Coveo console is a nice real-time peek at what the index is doing. It allows you to view the indexer as it crawls and if any errors occur, you can see in real time what is going on.
    • MOSS/Ontolica view of current progress. Very bare bones. It only tells you the status of the crawler, and does not update real time.


  • Scopes
    • Controlling and building Scopes is easier in Coveo. Moving between screens is faster,
    • MOSS prohibits two different content sources from pointing to the same URL. This is inconvenient for search engine tuning and testing when you want to index a subset of information (for example a particular document library) In MOSS because of this limitation you are forced to redraw the entire site collection each time you make a change instead of being able to crawl just the library you are working on.
  • Custom scripts
    • Both Coveo and MOSS/Ontolica offer scripts for customizing search result ranking.
    • Coveo offers the ability to write and run VB scripts which modify index content and ranking.
      • For example if you want to strip out the pound sign from a metadata value, or you want to boost the search index ranking for items that have a metadata value set to "premium=true".
    • Modifying the MOSS index involves using the SharePoint API. Using the SharePoint API is generally easy and powerful, but note that I have not yet used it to modify index content so I cannot comment on how easy or hard this would be with MOSS/Ontolica.
  • Misc
    • Coveo Webparts
    • clip_image013


Lindsey said...

Joseph! I was Hollie's roommate at BYU. I had no idea you were in Dallas - we are in Garland 3. I don't understand a word of your website, but your son is really cute! ~Lindsey Taylor Maas

prasad said...

Hi Josesph,
Thanks fior the comparison of the products.
We have a document management system would deal with thousands of documents,my client require a search + Preview tool.
it should
search and view of documents to aid retrieval from a document management system based in MOSS. This search needs to be possible both via metadata or full text or a combination of these and the documents viewed should be able to be viewed as an image and preferable also as the metadata.
Could you help me to get a such a not an expensive tool in the ECM-Sharepoint SERACH market???
any help is hihly appreciated...

Thanks & Regds

Marek said...

Hi prasad,
Just to let you know, Ontolica 2010 is going to have a graphical preview with support for hundreds of document formats. The pricing is also more competitive now, leaving Coveo in the dust cost-wise.

Brain For Less said...

Hi! Regarding the costs of these systems. Are these costs dependent of the amount of users? Or do 10 users cost the same as 100?


Shirley Schmidt said...

Is this search feature available for a free SharePoint 2013 site? I am currently using a free SharePoint site with Guide please.