SharePoint Search Architecture Overview

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SharePoint is a powerful platform that facilitates collaboration and information management within organizations. One of its core features is the SharePoint Search functionality, which allows users to quickly find the information they need across lists, libraries, and other content repositories. In this article, we’re delving into the architecture behind SharePoint’s search engine, shedding light on the processes that make search results swift and relevant.

Whether you’re a site owner, administrator, or simply an enthusiast looking to enhance your SharePoint skills, this article is designed to empower you with a deeper understanding of how SharePoint search works.

Foundation: The List and Library Level

SharePoint’s search journey starts at the foundational level of lists and libraries. As you set up these repositories and introduce custom metadata columns, it’s crucial to remember that other site owners or administrators might be doing the same across the tenant. This can lead to a situation where identical pieces of data are named differently, causing a potential disparity in how they are referred to. For example, a “Start Date” column on one site might correspond to an “Event Date” column on another. Although they represent the same data—event start dates—this naming discrepancy becomes significant within SharePoint’s search ecosystem.

Crawling and Indexing

When SharePoint interacts with these columns to extract data, it’s known as crawling. The crawler reads and ingests the data, storing it within the search engine. The custom columns and associated properties that are read during this process are referred to as crawled properties. This is where the first phase of data processing occurs.

The data gathered during crawling is then passed to the indexer. This engine processes the data, cleans it up, and performs a crucial task called mapping. During mapping, the data is transformed into a different set of fields known as managed properties. These managed properties are what enable efficient and uniform search experiences, even when data is labeled differently across various sites.

The Power of Managed Properties

Managed properties play a pivotal role in the SharePoint search architecture. These properties are usually created within the search schema section of SharePoint admin. Unlike crawled properties, the diversity in naming conventions among different site owners and administrators is not an issue. The mapping process connects all these varied names to a single, consistent set of managed properties. This harmonization of data allows users to search effortlessly and administrators to construct sophisticated search interfaces, thereby enhancing data discovery and retrieval.

Full Text Indexing

As data is transitioned from crawled properties to managed properties, another crucial aspect comes into play: the full text index. The indexer populates this index with the words it encounters within files and list items. While we will delve deeper into the intricacies of the full text index in a later article, it’s important to note that it’s a separate index maintained alongside the managed properties index.

From Processing to Searching

Once the mapping process is complete, the data becomes readily available for user searches. Here’s a critical point to remember: users searching SharePoint are not directly searching lists, libraries, or crawled properties. Instead, they are searching managed properties and the full text index. This is why SharePoint search is fast and powerful—the user experience is based on processed data, not raw source data.

Security Index and Permissions

Another significant aspect of SharePoint’s search architecture is the security index, often referred to as the permissions index. This index ensures that search results are aligned with an individual’s access permissions. If a user lacks permission to view a specific item, that item won’t appear in their search results. This index operates alongside the other indexes we’ve discussed, contributing to the precision and relevance of search outcomes.

Wrapping Up

In this initial article of our SharePoint Search series, we’ve unveiled the architectural foundation that underpins SharePoint’s robust search capabilities. From crawled properties to managed properties, from the full text index to security indexing, each component plays a vital role in ensuring that users can swiftly locate the information they need.

Stay tuned for the next article in the series, where we’ll delve deeper into the nuances of managed properties and how they shape the way we search within SharePoint. If you found this information valuable, don’t forget to show your support by sharing this with a friend, and subscribing to our YouTube channel. You can also watch the second video in this series right now!

Until next time, create something awesome!

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Content Types, SharePoint, SharePoint Search