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Intranet – Definition, What is it & Do you need it in Your Business?

intranet

Marc Wilson

Many organizations have an Intranet setup to communicate internally. An intranet is a computer network for sharing information, collaboration tools, operational systems, and other computing services within an organization, usually to the exclusion of access by outsiders.

In a nutshell, Intranets are private networks that live within an enterprise that is used to securely share company information and computing resources among employees.

Intranets can also be used to facilitate working in groups or via teleconferences. Intranet is not to be confused with Internet as there are several key differences.

Internet VS Intranet

The main difference between the Internet and the Intranet is that the Internet can be accessed by anyone from anywhere, it is a “public” network.

In contrast, the Intranet can only be accessed by those that have an authenticated login and are connected to the required LAN or VPN.

Other ways that the two are different include:

  • The Internet is a public network while the Intranet is a private network.
  • The Intranet is more safe and secure because it is private.
  • The Internet can have unlimited users because it is public while the Intranet is limited to only those that have access.
  • Information on the Intranet is limited and only accessible by those with authorized access while the Internet has unlimited information available to anyone.

How the Intranet Works

In order to have a secure and stable Intranet, a web server is required for managing all requests for files hosted on the server. The web server is responsible for finding the requested file and delivering it to the appropriate computer.

Ideally, a content management systems (CMS) needs to also be set up to control the creation, publication, and management of the content on the Intranet.

Often times an Intranet will consist of several interlinked local area networks (LANs) as well as leased lines in the wide area network (WAN).

Intranet uses TCP/IP, HTTP, and other Internet protocols (IP) and an Intranet includes connections to the outside Internet through one or more gateway computers.

For an employee to have access to the Intranet, they must have a special network password and be connected to the LAN.

If you have remote employees, they can connect remotely to the Intranet via a virtual private network (VPN).

The VPN enables remote employees to connect to the LAN so that they can sign in and connect to the Intranet.

In order to keep your Intranet secure, a Firewall software is essential because it stands between the outside Internet and your private Intranet.

The firewall is like a security guard that monitors all incoming and outgoing data packets to make sure there are no unauthorized users or suspicious requests.

This protects your network from malware and other malicious attacks.

Some organizations want to make parts of the Intranet accessible to customers, partners, suppliers, or other outside companies and this can be done by creating an extranet.

The extranet is an extension to the intranet and these additional people or organizations can have access to only a portion of the Intranet that is made available to them via the extranet.

Yet another reason to have a firewall setup to detect any suspicious activity.

Intranet

Intranet Benefits

There are many benefits to having an Intranet setup within your organization including:

  • Improved collaboration, information sharing, teamwork, and virtual capabilities within an organization.
  • Low implementation and operating costs.
  • Intranet can be used as a testing environment for new ideas before being published to the companies main Internet webpage.
  • Gives Human Resources the ability to manage employee records and helps customer service representatives track customer requests.
  • Intranet gives organizations the ability to use it as a social intranet for enabling participation and interaction, even for employees in different locations (virtual collaboration).

Some Challenges with Intranet

With anything, there may be challenges and here are a few:

  • The intranet is only beneficial if there is content, communications, and documents available. A lack of intranet users makes it essentially useless.
  • If the intranet is not used by management and if content is not updated, users will lose interest.
  • Many organizations have limited support for when software bugs or other issues arise because it costs money to hire support staff.
  • Intranets need to be updated and maintained with regular maintenance checks or else they become outdated and irrelevant.
  • A lack of ownership for parts of the intranet content makes it hard to manage and keep updated.

As you can see, the benefits of having an Intranet system far outweigh the cons.

As long as the content on the Intranet is updated and relevant and useful, it will be a key tool for success in your organization.