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The Apache Solr Search Integration module project page states:

Solr search can be used as a replacement for core content search and boasts both extra features and better performance.

What exactly are these extra features? (Or if there are too many, in what kind of use cases would I want to use Apache Solr?)

My site is hosted on Pantheon and they provide Apache Solr at no additional charge. Would this be something I definitely want to set up? Only set up in certain cases?

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I started writing an answer but I was going to end up quoting the whole of Introduction to Apache Lucene/Solr...it's a very good article, might be worth a read :) As far as the Drupal aspect is concerned, I would say Solr is most powerful for sites with a lot of content. It's also great when used with the Apache Solr module and the Facet API module. – Clive May 1 '12 at 17:04
up vote 8 down vote accepted

This article gives a thorough and straight-forward answer to your question.

Performance improvements with Apache Solr

High traffic sites running search queries against the database can start to degrade the site’s overall performance if the database becomes the bottleneck. This is also true for lower traffic sites with lots of content. Complex search queries can be slow to run.

Requirements for features such as faceted search (see below) are becoming increasingly common. This can be delivered in conjunction with Drupal core search using the Faceted Search module but the inherent scalability and performance implications are well documented by the module’s maintainers.

 Other useful Apache Solr features

Apache Solr also supports indexing and searching multiple sites (imagine internal intranet site and external corporate site), indexing attachments (eg PDFs, Excel documents) and recommended content blocks driven by a node’s taxonomy. The module page and the Acquia Search overview both have a good overview of the Apache Solr features that Drupal supports.

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