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Google has updated its corporate search appliances so that they can search not only data stored behind a company's firewall but also data housed on various online services, including Mountain View's own Google Docs and Googles Sites.

The latest incarnation of the Google Search Appliance — version 6.8 — includes a tool that Google calls Cloud Connect. Hooking into the company's Google Apps suite of online business applications, its Site Search service, and, well, Twitter, it lets businesses search across both "cloud" services and internal services down here on earth. "While many organizations still have information that resides in on-premise systems, more and more important business information today is living in the cloud, in collaborative tools like Google Apps," the company said, "and services like Twitter."

Via Google Site Search, you can query public websites and blogs, and thanks to the tie-with Google Sites — part of the Google Apps suite — you can readily search websites you may be hosting with Google itself. Mountain View says Google Apps are now used by 3 million businesses across the globe.

Google has also updated its search appliances with collaboration, navigation, and mirroring tools. With the new People Search tool, you can locate coworkers related to a particular search query. A search for “field marketing," for instance, might return a list of field marketing employees alongside other results. Google offers a Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) connector for accessing internal directory services, and you can index employee information such as department, interests, expertise, and location.

With the new Dynamic Navigation tool — which Google calls a "top user request" — you can "drill down" into search results using certain modifiers, and with Active-Active Mirroring, you can improve performance by spreading search traffic across multiple appliances.

Google's search appliances are licensed for a two- or three-year stretch, and pricing varies depending on how much data gets searched. Prices, a company spokeswoman tells us, begin at $15,000 per year. New features announced today can be downloaded by existing customers from Google's support site.

We also asked Google how many businesses are now using Google Search Appliances, but it did not respond. ®

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