Somewhat of an old news, but I realize that we don't have a blog entry about this, what I believe, very important topic that a lot of people have asked about in the past. So here it is…
So the scenario is that you have deployed WSS in your company and you do not have a need for most of the MOSS features at this time (personalization, records management, My Sites, etc.). Using WSS, you have setup a separate site collection for each department in the company. The HR department wants to know why they can't search for information in the Marketing department directly from their own site without having to navigate to the Marketing site. You explain to them: "You are not in the same site collection. Remember when you guys had asked that you want your own database because of the sensitivity of your data… well, we had to give you your own site collection. WSS does not support search across site collections". That doesn't go well with the folks in the HR department and you are scrambling to find a solution.
Relax… you now have the option of rolling out Search Server Express 2008 (http://www.microsoft.com/enterprisesearch/serverproducts/searchserverexpress/default.aspx). It's a free product that provides searching across multiple site collections (among other powerful MOSS like search features). It has been out for a few months now, but it's still not a well known fact in the market. I was staffed part time at the Microsoft's Search Server Express booth at TechEd and until we took a nearby whiteboard and wrote down in big bold letters Free Search, we were not getting much traffic at the booth.
Ok, so you are probably a bit skeptic by now and asking: "What's the catch? Why would Microsoft make this a free product?" You are right. There is a catch! The Search Server Express 2008 cannot be scaled. It can only be installed on one server. Having said that, I don't think you should write it off and say that it's useless because it doesn't scale. Think about it… if you are a small to medium size business who needs MOSS like searching capabilities, you buy a beefed up server with a quad core processor and 32GB+ memory (not that expensive these days…) and you're all set! There is a lot of content you can index and search with this machine. Definitely worth taking a look if you haven't done so already!