Which Microsoft search product is for you?

When I first heard about all the flavors of Microsoft enterprise search, I couldn’t keep them straight so thought it might help some other folks to know what products are available and why an organization might choose one flavor over another.


Microsoft enterprise search offerings

Microsoft currently offers three distinct enterprise search solutions:

  • Microsoft Search Server 2008 Express (MSS Express)

  • Microsoft Search Server 2008 (MSS)

  • Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 (MOSS)

All three products rely on Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 (WSS) and must be installed on top of Windows Server 2003 SP 1 or Windows Server 2008.


Which one is for you?

Here’s a summary of things you might want to consider when choosing a search solution.

  • MSS Express
    Consider using the Express version if you’re looking for an entry-level departmental solution where a single index and query server will meet your needs. MSS Express is a free stand-alone server product. It provides all the search features available in Microsoft Search Server with the exception that it can only scale to a single index and query server.

  • MSS
    Consider using MSS if you need an entry-level search solution that supports multiple index and query servers. MSS is suitable for deployment in a large network.

  • MOSS
    Consider using MOSS for your enterprise search needs if you’re planning to deploy or have already deployed MOSS in your network. With the Infrastructure Update released on 7/15/08, MOSS now integrates all the search features available in MSS and provides the additional advantage of being tightly integrated with SharePoint productivity tools such as the Business Data Catalog and content management.

Details, details, details

If you’re like me and need lots of data before you make decisions, the following table might help.



Search Server 
Express 2008

Search Server 2008

Office SharePoint Server 2007



180-day trial version available


Solution type




Target deployment





Single query and index server

Multiple query and index servers

Multiple query and index servers

Connects with current business and information systems




Uses SQL Server or SQL Server Express




Central administration dashboard




Search Center for end users


Comments (4)

  1. Anonymous says:

    Which Microsoft Search product is for you?

  2. Anonymous says:

    The SharePoint IT Pro Documentation Team recently published a blog post on the various Microsoft "enterprise" search technologies. The post did a nice job of clarifying the role of each of Microsoft’s various search tools, save FAST (but more

  3. Anonymous says:

    Search Server 2008 Express is usually referred to as

    "MSSX" not "MSS Express".

    If you are going to go for short names, go for the shortest !!

  4. Maria says:

    thank you for the great article