Federated search refers to a type of information retrieval system that allows a user to simultaneously search multiple resources. After making a single query, a federated search gathers results from multiple engines that participate in the federation.
Unlike distributed search, federated searches require centralized coordination of searchable resources. The following will take a brief look at some of the advantages of federated searches as well as some limitations.
The Purpose of Federated Searches
Federated searches were created to allow users to search multiple content sources with a single query. As a result, rather than deal with disparate information from multiple sources, these searches provide users with a more standardized type of data.
When compared to more traditional types of search engines, federated searches do not place any more substantial a burden on individual information sources.
The Federated Search Process
There are several steps that are frequently included in the search process, which include:
- Transforming the query to every database that comprises the “federation”
- Merging the results that are collected from each database
- Presenting the results in a unified format
- Providing users with a method to sort the merged data
The Advantages of Federated Search
There are several reasons why companies and users prefer federated searches, which include:
- Increased efficiency. Users have the ability to save users a substantial amount of time. Rather than search a number of sources individually, federated searches let a user search everything at once. They also require only one search form to cover a number of sources and combine the results in a single page, which makes it easier to find and sort through the data.
- Quality of results. Federated search engines are used by a number of entities that place emphasis on quality search results including corporate research environments, libraries, and the federal government. As a result, if you need high quality search results, this is an option worth considering.
- Current content. One of the other primary advantages of federated searches is that they provide users with search content in real time, which is critical for users who want to obtain the most up-to-date information. In most cases, content is available through federated searches as soon as the content owner updates a source. This is very different from more traditional search engines where the research is only as current as the last time the search engine “crawled” the content that matches your search. While more traditional search engines often reveal information that is days or weeks old, this might not be satisfactory for users who want the most recent information.
Despite these advantages, there are a number of reasons why people decide against federated searches. For example, these searches by their nature are much less complex. This can be a problem depending on the type of information for which a user is searching.
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Posted By: Sherri Taylor – President/Managing Partner
Sherri Taylor is the Managing Partner and President of Armstrong Archives, one of the largest independent records and information management companies in the Dallas/Ft Worth area.