Cloud

How to get Google search capabilities for your corporate data with Google Cloud Search

Here's how to use Google Cloud Search, and why the new features might prompt some G Suite Basic customers to upgrade.

Photo of sample image search done in Google Cloud Search on a Chromebook
Image: Andy Wolber / TechRepublic

Google Cloud Search essentially gives you Google search for your G Suite account data, with smart assistant features, too. It works in any browser http://cloudsearch.google.com or in an Android app. It's a significant, new app added to G Suite.

Only G Suite Business and Enterprise customers get Google Cloud Search. In a way that makes sense, as those are likely the largest customers with the most data.

But, if your organization is a G Suite Basic customer, you won't get the features described below unless you upgrade. So, here's a look at Google Cloud Search to help you consider whether the new capabilities are worth the added cost.

Search

Google Cloud Search works like a Google search of your organization's G Suite data. Enter a keyword in the search box, and Google shows you relevant results from Mail, Drive, Sites, Groups, and Calendar in your G Suite account. Similar to standard Google searches, you can narrow the results to items from a specific app (e.g., only Mail, Drive, Sites, Groups, or Calendar items). Select the "Search tools" option to filter results further by time, content owner, or content type (e.g., spreadsheets, folders, or videos, etc.). The results include only files you have permission to see.

You can type advanced search options, as well. Put words in quotes to search for a specific phrase, add a '-' in front of a term to exclude results containing a term, or type two terms separated by the word "OR" to retrieve results that include either term. You can also narrow results by date, with 'before:mm/dd/year' or 'after:mm/dd/year', or by content owner, with 'from:' or 'to:' followed by a person's name.

As with Google Drive search, Google Cloud Search also returns items that have your keyword in images. For example, a search for the name "Alpena" returned both photos and screenshots I'd taken where the word appears. It also returned a PDF that contained the word.

Screenshot of Google Cloud Search example

Google Cloud Search returns results from your G Suite account. For example, this search shows items from Mail, Calendar, an image from Google Drive, and a Google Doc. You can narrow your search by app, search tool options, or additional search command terms.

Smart Suggestions

Google Cloud Search also provides "assist cards" that show relevant information in the app. For example, I see a "Pick up where you left off..." card that displays three files that I've worked on recently, or a "Prepare for an upcoming meeting card" that shows key information about an upcoming appointment. Since the assist cards show recent files and upcoming appointments, some people may want to make the Google Cloud Search page as their home page.

If you search for a person in your organization, you'll see a contact card containing information drawn from the G Suite company directory. However, Google Cloud Search won't display details of personal contacts you've added to your contacts list. You'll still need to look those up separately.

Worth the upgrade?

If you use G Suite Basic, you can continue to search within each of the individual G Suite apps. But think of how often people in your organization search for information: "Was that in an email, a document, or attached to a calendar item?" Google Cloud Search eliminates the need to search for information in several places.

The upgrade from G Suite Basic ($5 per user per month) to Business ($10 per user per month) not only gives you Google Cloud Search capabilities, but also adds unlimited storage along with audit, retention, and eDiscovery tools. That may make the upgrade especially worth a look for professional services firms, since attorneys, accountants, consultants, and other trusted advisors often search for internal information.

My recommendation is that, if you use G Suite Basic and you work in an information intensive business, you should consider an upgrade to G Suite Business just to get the Google Cloud Search capabilities. Run the numbers yourself, but the time savings alone may make it worth it.

If you use Google Cloud Search at your organization, what do you think of the feature? If you use G Suite Basic, is Google Cloud Search a feature worth the additional cost for your organization? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.

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About Andy Wolber

Andy Wolber helps people understand and leverage technology for social impact. He resides in Ann Arbor, MI with his wife, Liz, and daughter, Katie.

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