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SharePoint has been fueling enterprise collaboration by bringing teams together through a multitude of features like document management, BI, search, and enterprise content management. In order to drive operational excellence, Microsoft has released a new feature as an update for SharePoint called Cloud Search Service Application.

What does the Cloud Search Service Application do? It connects on-premises content with the O365 search index, enabling users to perform searches and view results across both environments. This is particularly important in a hybrid SharePoint scenario where some content resides in the cloud while some remains on-premises. This new search capability helps reduce market resistance, especially among enterprises that are overly cautious storing sensitive content off-premises.

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The Challenge with a Non-Unified Search Index

For years, SharePoint on-premises and SharePoint Online have been maintaining their own search indexes with distinctly unique search results pages. This is often a daunting experience for end-users; they encounter two separate entities with distinct relevance and ranking models.

If your search results are not tuned and integrated, there’s no way to apply a single rank profile across all of your results. You might consider incorporating full crawls, but full crawls are not only time consuming but also not entirely accurate, which may quickly turn users off from using SharePoint. So how do you ensure an ideal user experience, where search results are evaluated, ranked, and sorted as a single set?

Finding Content Made Easy

Cloud Search Service Application makes finding content easy, no matter where the content is stored. It’s most likely that you have your content and applications spread across on-premises and cloud applications. If that’s the case, then Cloud Search Service Application can make a huge difference in your day-to-day operations.

While existing federated search continues to be supported in SharePoint Online, this new solution brings numerous improved capabilities into the hybrid environment. You no longer need a public SSL certificate for authentication requests from the Secure Store application. What you do need however, is synchronization of your on-premises Active Directory with SharePoint Online to make sure that user and group identities are recognized in both environments.

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How Does it Work?

  • The Cloud Search Service Application will support crawling of on-premises content into the cloud by building one unified search index
  • All content sources that are currently being supported in SharePoint Server 2013 will be supported for crawling
  • With the unified index, authenticated users will be able to search for content on SharePoint Online and get results from both on-premises and online content
  • By publishing the Cloud Search Service Application and consuming it from a SharePoint Server 2010 farm, users can use the unified index to able to query from SharePoint Server 2010, 2013, and 2016 on-premises.
  • Users will be able to use site search and enterprise search and see results from the unified index by configuring Hybrid Query federation.
  • Users will also have the freedom to continue using Query federation in SharePoint 2013

Configuring Cloud Search Service Application

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While the Cloud Search Service Application is being offered as an update with SharePoint Online, tenancies have to be enabled for this feature to be used. The pre-requisite of having a common user identity across on-premises and cloud content ensures security for the user identity performing the query. Through synchronization, you can ensure appropriate user properties are available in the Azure Active Directory for effective search results.

Next, by executing a PowerShell script, you can create the Cloud Search Service Application and install necessary onboarding pre-requisites. Configuring the on-premises farm will enable you to index into the SharePoint Online search by conducting a full crawl and making all your on-premises data available on the cloud.

Adding Value to Business

How does the Cloud Search Service Application add value to your business? It reduces the number of searches and lets you enjoy a single search experience using a unified index. Without implementing query federation, you can get query results in SharePoint Online for business-critical content that resides in your physical server. You can also ensure major savings in overall cost of ownership by reducing the disk space required to store your on-premises SharePoint search index. What’s more, you can also get all your on-premises content on Office Graph and Delve.

Empowering Your Decision Makers

Having unified access to content through Cloud Search Service Application brings with it numerous advantages. Most importantly, your users get quick and easy access to relevant information, that helps them overcome the challenges of information silos and network latency. Next, since you’re most likely to have an environment that consists of multiple farms across multiple geographies, migrating an entire stack of SharePoint data from on-premises servers to the cloud can be both expensive and complex.

Cloud Search Service Application eases the migration of workload from your on-premises SharePoint to SharePoint Online; by having a common unified index, no matter where the data is stored, you can facilitate easy retrieval of data. So if you have a hybrid environment or are heading for one, SharePoint’s Cloud Search Service Application can help empower your decision makers by making relevant and important information available across deployments.

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Bhavin Sankhat
About the Author – Bhavin Sankhat

Bhavin works as Sr. SharePoint Developer at Indusa and has over 5 years of strong experience, which includes enterprise portal configuration and customization, along with integration of SharePoint with MS CRM, MS AX and SAP.

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Contributing Writer: Neha Kumar