Google has released the business version of its desktop search tool.

Coming eight months after its consumer product, Google Desktop Search for the Enterprise will be a free download form today at http://desktop.google.com/enterprise.

The Enterprise version is designed to let users find information stored in their PCs, such as e-mails, word processing documents, spreadsheet files and photos. "Information is growing at insane rates, especially in the business environment," said Matthew Glotzbach, product manager for the Google Enterprise group. "The average person in the workplace can't find what they're looking for anymore. There is so much information that they're overwhelmed."

It also shares a controversial feature of the consumer version - it takes snapshots on the fly of every Web page a user views and index the content. Some users have expressed concern this might be counterproductive if sensitive or confidential information is captured as a user surfs the Web, such as credit card numbers, passwords and online banking information. Users can configure both tools not to capture secure HTTPS webpages.

Google Desktop Search for the Enterprise however also has a series of installation, distribution, management and security features for IT departments to use when rolling out and configuring the product for their users. For example, all user data and index files can be encrypted, and an installer package is included for enterprise-wide distribution. Also, the tool can create different indexes in a machine that is used by different people, and it can ensure each index is accessible only to the user for which it was created.

Another feature found only in the enterprise version is the ability to index e-mails from IBM's Lotus Notes platform. The plan is to extend this support in future upgrades to other Lotus Notes data such as calendar entries and applications built on top of this IBM system, Glotzbach said.

It is also integrated with the company's enterprise search tools, called Google Search Appliance and Google Mini, which companies use to index information residing on their servers. For example, when a user runs a query against the Google Search Appliance or Google Mini, the enterprise desktop search tool automatically launches that query on the user's PC, Glotzbach said.

Google will now compete directly with established players X1 Technologies and Autonomy. It will also come up against Microsoft, who this week announced its intention to develop an enterprise desktop search tool, which should be available in beta by the end of the year.