An intranet is a computer network that’s only accessible to an organization and its employees. It is a dedicated and exclusive hub where staff can safely communicate and share data. You can compare it to a private club with special services and privileges that are not open to the public. 

An intranet uses a local area network (LAN), a computer network that interconnects the computers of the different members of the intranet, where they hold office. In contrast, a company may also set up an extranet, a private network for exchanging information securely through the Internet with a select group of clients, suppliers, and customers.

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Read More about an “Intranet”

Now that we’ve answered the question, “What is an intranet?,” note that while an intranet uses the same protocol as the Internet, it is not publicly accessible. It’s used to share information, collaboration tools, operational systems, and other computing services. Apart from a LAN, the devices on an intranet can also stay connected to one another through a wide area network (WAN). The two differ in terms of size. A WAN is bigger than a LAN.

How an Intranet Works

An intranet works like the Internet. It allows connected devices to communicate with one another. Without that connection, you can’t send files you wish to create hard copies of to your printer, for example. The only difference is that anyone can access the Internet, but only authorized users or members of an organization that operates an intranet can access it.

Here’s a diagram showing how an intranet is generally structured.

Intranet structure

Intranet structure

This video can tell you more.

What Are the Uses of an Intranet?

Intranets allow users to deliver tools for collaboration to facilitate group work and communication, access corporate directories, and use sales and customer relationship management (CRM), project management, and other tools. They can also serve as corporate culture-change platforms, as they let employees discuss issues via a forum to generate ideas and improve productivity and quality.

While not all intranets allow Internet access, those that do do so through firewall servers, making them more secure than letting employees access the Web directly. An intranet gives administrators the ability to screen incoming and outgoing messages, ensuring better security.

Finally, intranets give an organization’s departments the ability to create internal web pages for information sharing and collaboration.

What Benefits Does an Intranet Provide?

Intranet usage can benefit organizations in several ways, including:

Increased Productivity

Making internal information available on an intranet makes it easier and faster for anyone in an organization to find and use what they need for work. Instead of physically going to a department for information, employees just need to access the intranet and search, much as they would on the Internet using an engine like Google.

Saves Time

Intranets let organizations distribute information to all or specific employees depending on the messages’ nature. And recipients have the option to open the messages at their convenience.

Enhanced Communication Security

Intranets can serve as hosts for internal communication tools, such as instant messengers and bulletin boards. Better yet, because access to these tools is limited to employees, the risk of leaked internal data is significantly lower.

Reduced Costs

Because intranets can host all kinds of files, including databases, documents, and even apps, organizations can save on printing and other information dissemination costs. Also, since the companies have fewer physical copies, they can also save on office storage space and related costs.

Enhanced Employee Engagement

While we can’t deny that social media and other channels can keep employees engaged, not everyone is comfortable going public with their thoughts and ideas. Note that not everything that goes on within an organization is fit for public consumption. An intranet can take the place of more public platforms to enhance employee engagement. They can even take part in making crucial business decisions by sharing their insights on forums.

How Do Intranets, the Internet, and Extranets Differ?

The main difference between intranets, the Internet, and extranets lies in their accessibility and user base.

An intranet is a private network accessible only to authorized users within an organization. The Internet, on the other hand, is a public network accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. Lastly, an extranet is a private network that allows authorized external users, such as suppliers, partners, and customers, to access certain features of an organization’s network.

What Are Examples of Intranets?

Examples of intranets include corporate intranets used for internal communication, collaboration, and operations management; school intranets that students, teachers, and school staff use for educational purposes; hospital intranets that doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals use for patient care and communication; and government intranets that employees use for communication and government services.

These intranets may contain employee directories, company news and announcements, project management tools, HR systems, knowledge base and training resources, policies and procedures, employee surveys, and discussion forums.

What Are Some Best Practices When Using Intranets?

The following tactics can help organizations implement intranets more effectively.

  • Make it modern and user-friendly: Your intranet should be easy to navigate and use, with a modern design and features that employees are familiar with.
  • Use the right platform: Choose a scalable, secure intranet platform that meets your organization’s specific needs.
  • Develop an intranet usage strategy: Define your goals for the intranet and what you want it to achieve. That will help you make informed decisions about its design, content, and features.
  • Get employee feedback: Involve employees in designing and developing the intranet to ensure that it meets their needs.
  • Keep it updated: Add new content and update existing information regularly to keep employees engaged.
  • Make it mobile-friendly: More employees use their mobile devices to access the Internet, so making sure your intranet is optimized for mobile devices is essential.

While some would argue that intranets are no longer necessary, many believe they’re still critical. But as we move further into the digital age, today’s intranets need to be modernized to play a part in every organization’s digital transformation. That said, they need to be mobile-friendly, engaging, and user-friendly.

Key Takeaways

  • An intranet differs from the Internet because the former is only accessible to people within the same organization.
  • An intranet uses LAN connectivity to enable employees from different departments to communicate and share data.
  • The benefits of using an intranet are increased productivity, enhanced communication security, time savings, cost reduction, and increased employee engagement.
  • To be effective, today’s intranets must be mobile-friendly.

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