The large amount of data being stored on personal computers and hard drives has caused many business users to download consumer search tools, such as Google Desktop, to find the documents they need.

In a new report, Leslie Owens, a Forrester analyst, warns this consumer-driven discovery method puts company data at risk and behoves IT departments to adopt enterprise-worthy desktop search tools with administrative capabilities.

In a survey of 565 online consumers who use computers at work during the day, 32 per cent said they have downloaded desktop search software. The only two pieces of consumer technology to outpace desktop search was instant messaging software (38 per cent) and web browsers (35 per cent).

According to Owens, consumers gravitated towards these desktop search tools because the ones that came installed on their machines proved inadequate.

"People are just looking for productivity enhancers because there is just so much information to look through," she says.

The dangers of employees downloading consumer search tools? Owens offered the following examples:

- The first is difficult email discovery. People will "replicate email on their hard drive" so that their consumer search tool of choice can search it. The problem with this strategy is that it slows down eDiscovery efforts should they be required. "Imagine the logistical nightmare of trying to pull locally stored email caches from every employee's hard drive in response to litigation," Owens writes in the report.

- Because a tool like Google Desktop can "search across computers", people can gain access to their index from a work or home computer, increasing the chances that sensitive corporate data could be leaked, she says.

- Most consumer search tools hold the ability to search multiple drives, meaning the "desktop search" might not be limited to that employees desktop at all. In fact, it could troll over company networks and servers.

- Lastly, "non-techie" workers who aren't going out and finding the consumer search tools will be at a disadvantage to their colleagues in terms of productivity tools.

Owens recommends buying a enterprise desktop search tool, such as Google Desktop Enterprise Edition, Microsoft Windows Search 4.0, Copernic Desktop Search Corporate Edition, ISYS:desktop; and X1 Professional client.

Such tools, she says, offer centrally managed consoles that let enterprises control access.

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