What Is An Intranet? (& Why You Should Be Using One)on 18 October 2019
As far as corporate technology goes, intranets are a simple yet great go-to solution for connecting your workforce and keeping them up to date on important news and information. There’s many more benefits to using intranets, which we explore below—along with a much-needed clarification on how an intranet differs from the internet.
What is an Intranet?
Since intranets are used in a variety of ways, their exact definition can vary from organisation to organisation. Here’s how several professionals define the term intranet, from simple to metaphorical:
“A company intranet is a connection hub between the people in your business; this is a central area where employees can remain updated on the latest business developments, as well as access training, collaborate, and find important documents.”
—Megan Meade, marketing specialist at Software Path
“An intranet is an internal online community that is used for work, and is only accessible to the company and its staff. The purpose of an intranet is to support the employee experience, connecting them and keeping them up to date on work happenings, important information, and even social events.”
—Will Hatton, CEO of Hotel Jules
“Think of an intranet as the courtyard of a medieval castle, while the internet is the village outside of the castle. Both knights (employees) and commoners (customers, vendors, etc.) have free access to the village. But only knights are granted access inside the castle, where the most precious assets of the kingdom are securely housed (documents, private company emails and communications, meeting briefings, copyrights, trademarks, etc.).”
—Chelsea Brown, CEO of Digital Mom Talk
In considering these different perspectives, it seems the short answer for the “What is an intranet?” question is this:
An intranet is a technology solution organisations can use to enable its employees to securely connect, communicate, and collaborate with one another.
What are the benefits of an intranet?
It helps centralise and secure company information.
One of the many uses of an intranet is to make finding information easier internally by providing a single, centralised source to search. (Tweet this!) Meade says this can improve communication across departments that may not interact on a day-to-day basis, as they share and discuss documents with one another. It can also improve company culture by fostering a positive team environment where people can focus more on discussing information than tracking it down.
“Intranets are also walled off from the outside world, meaning they have an access-controlled network—this is great for securing a company’s sensitive or confidential data,” says Meade. The right intranet solution should offer additional security protections, such as SSL encryption for data in transit and at rest.
It provides the foundation for a knowledge base.
Information sharing is a key component of an intranet. Vernon Riley, director at Smart Marketing Reports, says an organisation can execute its information and knowledge management strategy by building a knowledge base within the intranet. If that knowledge base includes insights from key employees, the organisation won’t be as impacted if those employees leave. “This also applies to a workforce that includes freelancers and part-time staff. These people may move on with even shorter notice than full-time employees, making it important to capture their knowledge quickly. An intranet helps you do that.”
It encourages collaboration.
Nathan Maxwell, information security and network administration expert at Communication Concepts, says many organisations struggle with silos or barriers built between working groups that block information flow. “The intranet can be a wrecking ball to these walls—but only if used correctly.”
He advises each department to shift their mindset: Instead of seeing their information as something to be protected, view it as something to be shared. “They should ask themselves, ‘What insights do we have that others in the organisation can benefit from?’ Then incorporate the intranet as a tool to deliver and share those insights.”
It makes communication seamless.
“An intranet is all about making communication within an organisation easier to manage,” says Sushant Bhalerao, founder of EC Infosolutions. Employees working across time zones and geographies can effectively use intranets to stay updated about their organisation, and their team's progress on various projects. Bhalerao notes that intranet services can be used for all sorts of corporate communication needs:
- Project-based discussions
- Team-building activities
- New employee orientation
- Birthday & event reminders
- Company branding
- Recruitment activities
- Company policies & procedures
What is an intranet example?
One intranet example is a fast-food chain that uses the solution to keep its corporate-owned and franchised locations up to date. Through an intranet, corporate managers can share food and marketing information to keep all stores on brand and consistent in their advertising and messaging. If the intranet solution is robust, managers can also segment their intranet into smaller, focused work areas, creating and customising numerous workspaces for each individual restaurant. Employees have access to their location’s workspace, while regional and senior managers have access to multiple and all workspaces, respectively.
Intranet Vs. Internet
The terms intranet and internet are often confused because they look and sound nearly identical—yet they are not the same thing.
In contrast to an intranet, the internet is a global network of countless computing resources and networks—including hardware and software—that use standardised protocols to transmit data. The internet enables a wide variety of online services such as email, file transfers, financial services, video streaming, and social networking.
The two concepts are distinct in these ways:
- How they operate. The internet uses a public network, while an intranet uses a company’s private network.
- Who can access them. While the internet is available to anyone with an appropriate device and an internet connection, an intranet is limited to a selection of groups and individuals—typically a company’s employees and sometimes contractors.
- How they are used. You can do practically anything on the internet, from personal to professional and beyond. However, an intranet is typically focused on company-specific use cases, such as discussions around client documents, file sharing, and department updates.
Intranet Vs. Internet Security
Maxwell says that the security requirements of an intranet are easier to manage than data exposed on the internet, however, threats still exist.
He recommends that if your intranet contains confidential data—which is the case for any company that uses an intranet extensively—standard security steps such as firewalls and monitoring should be in place. “The number and rigor of your intranet security practices should be proportional to the sensitivity of data you are housing. For example, the source code of a proprietary software should be handled with much more care than a vacation calendar.”
Bhaleroa adds that limiting access is an important security measure for intranets. One basic way is to set up user logins so that anyone accessing the company intranet must have a unique username and password to authenticate themselves. “You can go a step further with additional security measures such as multi-factor authentication (MFA) and IP-based restrictions. MFA requires multiple forms of identity to authenticate onto the network. You can also restrict intranet access to only certain IP addresses deemed safe.”
All clear on intranets? Get even clearer with Glasscubes.
Glasscubes is your go-to intranet solution for fully secure collaboration, file sharing, communication, project management, and more. Have clients you want to loop into your projects? Use Glasscubes to create an extranet in addition to your internal-focused intranet. In fact, create as many unique workspaces as you want, where members can share resources and communicate with one another, and you can access them all for easy oversight. Grant access to employees, contractors, vendors, clients, and whomever else you want!
With Glasscubes, you can:
- Store and share files in a secure location, complete with automatic version control. You can even create approval workflows and view clear audit trails of user actions.
- Assign and manage tasks for different members of the team, and track them to completion.
- Communicate practically anywhere through threaded discussions on the general message board, on specific files, on assigned tasks, or through instant messenger.
Become an intranet pro quickly and easily with Glasscubes. Start your free trial today.