Friday, July 10, 2009

Google Mini: a Disposable Search Engine in a Box

BACKGROUND: Google Mini is essentially an appliance, a mini version of Google that they ship preconfigured on a cheap rackmount webserver, with a light version of Google installed. You can configure it a little to look like your site, and get it to catalog just your site's pages, and then integrate a search box into your website to implement site search. Cool, useful stuff for us webmasters.

We bought a Google Mini box. It lasted a little less than a year before biting the biscuit. So, Google shipped us a new box as it was under warranty. I sort of expect that a webserver would last more like 3-5 years at least, but what the hell, they replaced it. Not real happy about all the extra time I had to put in, but at this point I was OK with the support.

Well, that replacement server lasted less than 3 months before biting the dust. Some sort of software problem that their tech support said was a known issue, but rare, and gave me some steps to go through to get it to run again. No permanent fix, but they thought it would probably not happen again. Not happy, but hey, it's working again so whatever.

That server lasted only 4 more months before failing completely (hardware). Now, they won't do anything to fix it as it's outside of the ORIGINAL Mini's warranty. They want us to buy a new box for full price of $3000. Google Mini support guy John Lowry told me on the phone that these things have a limited lifespan, and so they can't just replace it for free every few months. Huh? I'd expect the cardboard box it came in to last longer than the servers have been lasting!

So of course we're pretty pissed, as their appliances (essentially a webserver with a bit o' Google software on it) are averaging about 6 months total lifespan. Obviously this is way, way under anyone's expectations of how long a computer should last, whether it's a webserver, laptop, or a desktop PC. ESPECIALLY when it's living in a nice, cold, air-conditioned, clean & smooth powered datacenter like this one.

So what can I do? Not's not worth suing them for $3000. But I bet with a little help from some of you readers we can make the Google Mini site the #1 result in Google for searches for disposable search engine. Which is pretty accurate, from our experience.


John Santangelo said...

Its been about a year and a half since I switched my last job's internal search over from Google to something else, but I believe they only offer 3 year support on their products - the Mini and the GSA. At that time, you couldn't renew support - you had a purchase a new appliance and get 3 more additional years of support with it. $3,000 every 3 years - well thats about the cost of some service plans with other companies, but the GSA - thats $25,000 per appliance every three years. Thats a fairly large investment, considering many corporations need separate test, dev and production environments

KD said...

You're going to get some link love for that one. Nice to see Google loves taking your cash, overcharging for a $400 webserver and selling their indexing software for $2600.

"Don't be evil."

My ass.

Anonymous said...

Wow! I have been bugging our I.S. department to get a Google appliance for a while-- back when they were $2,000. Unfortunately, you took one for "the team."

I'll lay off them now. :-)

Ben said...

Sounds like you need Search Server 2008 Express :-).

Michael Cottam said...

Ben: you're the 3rd person to recommend Search Server...I will definitely look into it.

utard said...

Well that actually makes me question recommending our company spend money on other Google 'Enterprise-level' products as well.

Unknown said...

Same thing happened to us - but we had the misfortune of purchasing THREE. All were dead within 15 months.

You know what's worse? Google won't allow you to ship them back. You have to pay to dispose of the piece of crap.

Anonymous said...

Sounds quite annoying Michael but I have been working with the Google appliances since end 2005 now, I implemented more than 50 of these products and I truly have to say that I have never experienced any problems like you mention.

Anonymous said...

We're on our second intranet mini. The first failed, Google sent a second. But it was still under the two-year service term, which has since expired. And now this mini is acting up. So now I, a non-techie, am stuck trying to figure it out. Thanks, Google.

To top it off, our internet mini has failed. Totally failed. My external hosting company is trying to get in touch with Google, to no avail -- again, because we're are beyond our two years.

What a crock of sh**.

Thanks for the MS express link. We've investing that now.

Anonymous said...

Disposable is right. My company bought the Google Mini, it worked flawlessly until 7 months after the 2 year support ended. It began exhibiting problems such as not displaying search results at all or displaying zero results for pages I KNEW were there and then it totally went dead. (well not totally dead, the power is on, but you can't ping the unit) The powers that be decided to shell out another 3 grand for a new one. We are still running Windows 2000 on an old Pentium server and we don't have many options (well there go the funds for a new server this year). Personally I think that is much too much money to spend on the product. It DOES work as advertised but 3 grand every two years is a lot to spend from a small business.

Nick said...

Thanks for putting this up. We're in the same boat, and just find it obscene that they're expecting us to shell out another $3000 for a new unit, when it's one of Google's updates that's taken our existing Mini down, and probably just requires a full reset rather than a completely new box. How happy do Google imagine we're going to be to sign away another $3000 to them, to fix a problem they've caused for us? I can't tell you how much this has damaged their brand for me.

I'd actually happily pay for tech support as we're outside warranty, but that's not even an option.