Hands on with the Google Mini

I’m a geek, I admit it. I have an Xserve in my basement that I use to test out Mac OS X Server and other enterprise-type software. Sometimes, I read server manuals for fun. I’ll toil for weeks to get something to work, just to see if I can do it and then never use it again. So, when the Google Mini Search Appliance was released a while back, I figured I was the right person to take a look at it.

Google touts the Mini—which lets you search for documents and other digital assets across file servers—as the perfect appliance for small to mid-size companies that don’t have an IT staff to install and configure software. It claims the Mini, which starts at $1,995 for the ability to search through 50,000 documents, can be set up in no time by someone who might not have much experience with servers; just follow the instructions. (As a side note, has a company ever promoted a product by saying, “This is so hard to set up it will take you hours and hours and then it probably still won’t work right?” Just wondering.)

Having been through my share nightmare situations that began with the promise of simplified ease-of-use, I set aside part of an afternoon and the whole evening to get the Google Mini set up.

The Mini comes with everything you need to get up and running—the 1U rackmount appliance, a crossover cable, an Ethernet cable and power cord. For the truly challenged among us, Google even colored the cables and the slots they go in to, so that it’s nearly impossible to make a mistake.

The hardware setup of the Mini is the easy part—plug in the power and the right colored cable into the right hole before pushing the button to turn it on. Because the Mini is headless, it gives you an audible chime when it finishes booting up—then you know it’s time to start setting up the software.

I connected the crossover cable to my MacBook and typed in the static IP address of the Google Mini. To configure the Mini, you need to assign the box an IP address, gateway, router and give it a DNS IP. This is also where you setup the admin account for logging in to control the appliance. Once this part was done, I unplugged the MacBook.

Going pretty smooth so far.

Next, I logged into the Mini over the network using the IP address I assigned it during the initial setup. This is where you configure what sites (Internet or Intranet) the Mini will index and how often it will index them. You can also create subsets of searches here and then test everything in the Google Test Center, which is included with the Mini.

Once I did that and clicked the crawl button, I was done. My Google Mini was setup and running on my network—I set up an internal and external site for it to index and it did very quickly.

It took me about 30 minutes from the time I cracked open the packing tape on the box to the time I did my first search. It was almost too simple—for a while, I wasn’t sure I actually finished the complete setup.

I am impressed with how quickly the box was setup. We all know that Google Search packs a lot of power and it’s nice to see the company is able to bring that to small business users in such an easy-to-use box.

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