What is an Intranet Site
An intranet site is a private website to allow employees to share resources and information relating to products and services offered by the business. The main goal of an intranet site is to enable an organisation to work more efficiently and ultimately cut down on costs.
Off-the-Shelf and Bespoke Solutions
Some of the more common uses of intranet sites include: discussion forums, staff directories, project management & collaboration, document & content management, workflow & task management, databases, event listings, company policies & training guidelines and company news [Source:2].
A number of off-the shelf solutions are available which provide some or all of these features ‘out of the box’ with little or no customisation needed. If however, you need something specific to your industry or business, it maybe necessary to build the website from scratch. A bespoke solution will be more costly but does have the advantage of the software being built to fit your processes rather than you having to fit your processes around the software.
Roles and Responsibilities
A system where lots of people are involved in updating the content requires some rules to ensure that information is added in a consistent format and kept up-to-date. Best results are seen where specific responsibilities are assigned to people for technical maintenance, management of content and a high level overview of the strategy. Without this structure in place, employees will be more likely to take shortcuts or deviate to follow their own preferred methods [Source:1].
Cloud and Internal Servers
Servers are costly, need to be upgraded every couple of years and require IT expertise in order to run the operating systems and software. With cloud servers, this headache is often removed as all you are doing is renting some space on a server setup and maintained by a third party provider.
For a company that have not already invested in their own servers, running intranet sites from the cloud is an obvious choice because there is no initial outlay of costs and less IT expertise is required to keep the systems running. For companies that already have their own servers, migration to the cloud can still be the best solution longer term but not until the existing infrastructure has reached its ‘end of life’ and can be written off.
Another considerations when looking at the cloud is the disaster recovery plan, which often involves holding backups on an external site, something which is made all the more simple when running your intranet site from the cloud.
Intranets and Extranets
An intranet is a network restricted for internal use within an organisation. An extranet on the other hand is also made available to selected individuals from outside of the organisation such as customers and suppliers. In some cases an intranet will run partly as an extranet by opening sections of the website up to third parties.
Access from Mobile Phones and Tablets
Accessing an intranet site from your mobile phone or tablet raises similar issues to accessing a public website on these devices, namely is the design optimised for viewing on these devices. There are two approaches to making the website ‘mobile ready’. The first and easiest approach is called ‘responsive design’ whereby it shoehorns your normal full width site to fit in the smaller screens associated with mobile devices.
The second more tailored approach is to offer a separate mobile site, which is dedicated for viewing just on mobile devices. The requirements of mobile users are often different to the requirements of desktop users and this is even more apparent in the case of intranet sites. Having a dedicated mobile site is more costly but offers a definite benefit of tailoring content specifically for mobile users [Source:1].
With the rise in cloud computing, running an intranet site has never been easier since it removes some of the technical hurdles associated with having your own server. At the same time however, the rise in popularity of web usage via mobile devices presents a new set challenges for businesses to consider.