Everything You Need To Know About Sitecore Azure Search
May 30, 2017
Sitecore Azure Search: Overview
On any website and in many mobile applications, a robust search function can greatly enhance the user experience. A search that looks only for matching text, though, may not always find what a user wants. If you’d like to create a robust search that corrects spelling errors, allows users to refine searches and automatically suggests possible results while users type, you’ll have a very lengthy project ahead.
Microsoft Azure Search is a solution that runs as a cloud-based service. It integrates easily with any website or application. Since it runs in the cloud, it does not increase the load on your servers. Microsoft adds more resources to Azure Search as needed to keep the service’s performance high.
How Does Azure Search Work?
Azure Search is a cloud-based search service that Microsoft licenses to its customers. You can implement it by adding a bit of code to any website. You can also implement Azure Search in any application that can access the Internet. Microsoft manages Azure Search and makes it available anywhere in the world. Azure Search scales to handle any traffic load, and Microsoft guarantees an availability level of at least 99.9 percent.
How Azure Search Benefits Developers
There’s no need for the users of your website or application to know that you’re utilizing Azure Search. In fact, your users can’t access Azure Search directly — all that they’ll see is a search box. Your website or application will link with Azure Search using a RESTful interface. Alternatively, you can add Azure Search to your website or application using the.NET-based development kit.
What Are the Features of Azure Search?
Azure Search is more than a plain text search. Like search engines such as Google, Azure Search supports operators to help advanced users find information more quickly. It can correct spelling errors and find results similar to entered search terms by looking for phonetic matches.
Azure Search deeply understands 56 languages. It can analyze a search term in a supported language to determine aspects such as word gender, verb tenses, singular and plural nouns, compound words and more. In languages that do not use spaces between words, Azure Search knows where one word ends and the next one begins.
To provide fast search results, Azure Search builds an index of the content in your website or mobile application. You can use the JSON file format to build a search index manually, or you can have Azure Search crawl your Azure database or online storage to create and maintain an index automatically.
How Does Azure Search Improve the Search Experience for Users?
Suggestions: As a user types a search query, Azure Search can automatically populate a drop-down menu with suggested documents from your database.
Search Filtering: By adding a bit of code to your search queries, you can give Azure Search access to taxonomy such as article categories. Users can filter their searches by taxonomy to obtain more specific results.
Advanced Filtering: You can use the search filtering features in Azure search to add filtering directly to search queries. If a user runs a search while viewing a specific content taxonomy, you can configure Azure Search to show results only within that taxonomy.
Keyword Highlighting: If desired, you can configure Azure Search to automatically highlight the keywords in a user’s search query when displaying results.
Relevance Scoring: Since Azure Search understands language, it doesn’t only search documents for matching keywords — it attempts to understand the intent of the user’s query and display only the most relevant results.
Result Sorting: Azure Search can give users the ability to sort search results according to criteria that you define. In an online store, for example, you could allow users to sort search results by price or customer review scores.
Result Pagination: With Azure Search, you can paginate search results to prevent all of the results for a search from appearing on only one page.
What are the Primary Features of Azure Search?
- Azure Search is stable, fast and easy to use.
- Azure Search is reliable. Microsoft guarantees the availability of at least 99.9 percent.
- Azure Search is a cloud-based service. You pay only for what you use, and more performance is always available if you need it.
- Microsoft fully manages Azure Search for its customers. so there’s no need to worry about network infrastructure or database storage space. Microsoft can increase either resource for its customers on demand.
Integrating Azure Search With Sitecore
Sitecore includes a search function that helps users locate relevant information. Linking Sitecore’s search with Azure Search enables the delivery of even better search results. It also lessens the load on your servers. Azure Search can replace other out-of-the-box search solutions for Sitecore such as Lucene or Solr.
How Does Azure Search for Sitecore Differ from Lucene and Solr?
Azure Search doesn’t run on your servers. When users search for your content using Azure Search, it generates no load and doesn’t reduce performance for other users. Azure Search is also an advanced search platform that behaves like a major search engine such as Bing or Google. Advanced search filtering, real-time result suggestions, and spelling corrections are features that less advanced search platforms lack.
Solr and Lucene can scale to meet the needs of very large websites and applications, but their indexes can leave very large footprints on your servers. If you want to use Lucene in an environment consisting of multiple servers, for example, every server needs to contain an index of the files on every other server. A solution must also exist for synchronizing the indexes between servers. Because Azure Search builds an index automatically and stores it in a central location, it eliminates the need to synchronize indexes across servers.
How Does Azure Search Benefit Sitecore?
- Azure Search integrates easily with all Sitecore search interfaces.
- Azure Search supports most LINQ expressions and integrates easily with Sitecore-based applications.
- Azure Search doesn’t just understand plain text — it also understands the significance of data such as dates and numbers and allows users to search within ranges.
- Azure Search gives you fine control over the content of your search indexes.
- Azure Search works with services and websites mirrored across multiple servers.
How to Add Azure Search to Sitecore
To prepare Azure Search for use with Sitecore, you’ll begin by logging in to the Azure Portal and creating a new search service. When creating the search service, you’ll need to enter the service URL, API version, and API key. You’ll also need to add the Azure Search configuration file to your server. After adding the configuration file, you should delete any existing configuration files for the Lucene or Solr search services.
Once you’ve added Azure Search to your Sitecore instance and deleted any redundant search configurations, you’ll have a functioning link between your service and Azure Search. You should then build a search index from within the Azure Portal. When the indexing operation is complete, you’ll see the records in Azure Portal.
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