Internet and intranet. Non-technical people might think the two technologies are the same and someone is just misspelling. And while in broad sense internet and intranet have the same purpose, there is a difference between the two.

Intranet And Internet Defined

The internet is the global or worldwide system of interconnected computer networks that uses the standard internet protocol site (TCP/IP) in linking devices around the world. The internet is what we use to get connected at home, at the mall, at the computer shop, through our mobile devices, desktops, laptops and at work.

Image courtesy of technet.microsoft.com

Image courtesy of technet.microsoft.com

The intranet on the other hand is a collection of computer networks within an enterprise. Intranets use network technologies as a tool in facilitating communication between personnel within the organization to improve and enhance data sharing capabilities and overall knowledge base of the enterprise workforce. Just like the internet, the intranet uses different standard network hardware and software technologies like TCP/IP, WI-Fi, web browsers, web servers and the Ethernet. A typical business intranet includes internet access but is protected by a firewall so that the network will not be accessed from the outside by unauthorized persons.

Extranets are common intranet extensions with limited access from outsiders with limited firewall protection. Extranets require the outside users to use digital certificates and other types of authentication to send out encrypted messages and use the virtual private networks.

Uses Of Intranets

Private networks within an organization have made it possible to centralise information sharing, document management and communication. Using an effective intranet will surely increase the organization’s efficiency, make it a more recognized workforce, generate brand recognition and ensure ROI. An intranet can enhance communication among teams, save capital and keep everyone up to date. All information can be shared in real time.

Intranet Features

Although different organizations will have different requirements and needs for their private network, almost all intranets in operation today will have roughly the same features and tools. Common intranet tools can include:

  • Email
  • Virtual chats
  • Instant messaging
  • Bulletin boards
  • Document management
  • Schedule management

There are also different types of content that are found within the corporate private network such as:

  • Administration  – emergency procedures, calendars, manuals, memberships, groups or meeting room schedules
  • Corporate – staff newsletters, document templates, mission statements, list of clients
  • Financial –  yearly reports and the performance of the organization
  • Human Resources – expenses forms, leave requests, vacancies, appraisal procedures and schedules, employee policies
  • Marketing – presentations, press releases, company brochures, latest marketing plans and initiatives, business intelligence with links to a competitor’s website
  • External information resources – search engines, mapping sites, industry organisation and route planning
  • Individual projects – expense reports, time reports, project documents, current project details and team contact information

Intranet Advantages For An Organization

Software giant Microsoft has stated that for a company or an organization to succeed, everyone should have a concrete understanding of its goals. Long-term and short-term goals should not be confined within the walls of upper management. Everyone needs to be working towards a common goal. Intranets have developed through the years as content management systems (CMS) and social sites were added. The introduction of cloud computing also helped because field agents now have access to the intranet wherever they are. This set up is very ideal for today’s bring-your-own-device (BYOD) and telecommuting because it makes the workforce more flexible which results in higher productivity.

Major intranet advantages include:

1. Reduces Cost

Because everything in the network is electronic, the organization will be able to shift to a paperless environment which obviously reduces expenses unless a hardcopy is required. With a corporate network, the company can upload and publish most of the company documents through the CMS of company web pages. It saves on money on printed documents, information distribution and duplication and maintenance of documents. The system also has the ability to reduce meetings, travel and telephone conversations since connections can be through email and real time chat. The intranet’s “per seat” cost is lower. The applications and other information can be stored on web servers or in the cloud which can be accessed by a desktop. Once the information and all the tools are accessed by the user, new pages, applications and new information can be added without any additional cost. Intranets will also have a common dashboard within the organization which provide links to the required tools. This will further reduce training costs and at the same time, provide the workforce the opportunity to utilize different computer platforms.

Image courtesy of www.omnitracs.com

Image courtesy of www.omnitracs.com

2. It’s A Time Saver

Communication is faster through email, chat and newsgroups. These intranet tools provide real time communication all over the workforce. Long phone conferences and face-to-face meetings are no longer required. Forms on the corporate website or blog can help obtain employee data by way of surveys. Once the data is collected and organized, it can be displayed, distributed to relevant parties or departments within the company in just a few clicks. And since all information is stored in a central server, document storage and retrieval will be quicker. It can also provide authorized personnel access to the intranet as long as there is a good internet connection and the necessary apps are installed on their laptops or mobile devices.

Image courtesy of internetmarketingmag.net

Image courtesy of internetmarketingmag.net

3. It Increases Employee Collaboration

The intranet directly increases and enhances employee collaboration through KB articles and other types of publishing, editing and managing documents, project management, online feedback, FAQs, company information and  announcement sections, employee handbook and help desk. This will help in motivating employees to gain and share knowledge and will enable new employees to be integrated into the company faster.

Image courtesy of www.elcomcms.com

Image courtesy of www.elcomcms.com

4. Enhances Productivity And Employee Effectiveness

Intranets can enhance productivity and employee effectiveness through a suite of easy to use, powerful and rapid transmission tools. Enhanced productivity is also a result of effective learning and managing knowledge facilities within the intranet. The intranet is also effective in  producing better results. For example, it will be faster to market the brand, product or service by enhanced communication between different parties involve. It also improves the coordination and agreements to information access. Effectiveness can also go up by way of better adoption, faster feedback, correction and increased participation of all personnel.

Image courtesy of http://tweakyourbiz.com/

Image courtesy of http://tweakyourbiz.com/

5. Wide Media Type Availability

Intranets provide and accept a wide variety of media types such as video, audio and other interactive applications as compared to traditional paper-based documents. These features allow all collaborators to communicate in a more dynamic way which also improves the speed and accuracy of sharing information.

Image courtesy of http://www.claromentis.com/

Image courtesy of http://www.claromentis.com/

Intranet has the ability to support a distributed computing system by way of the internet architecture that it uses. With this, the intranet can support different operating systems and computer types which allows collaborators to easily gain access to the needed information. It also gives the company the ability to send or deliver data on the least expensive and most readily available platforms. This will also give them the ability to either scale up or scale down the computing resources as economic conditions shift. Corporate networks also allow tremendous strategic advantages through business intelligence and conducting of better business processes.

Image courtesy of search.dilbert.com

Image courtesy of search.dilbert.com

There are many benefits of implementing an effective intranet. The size of the enterprise does not matter, it will certainly help in boosting the company’s ROI. The complexity of the system that you choose will depend on your type of business and how it works. But it is safe to say that on any platform you choose, it will be very beneficial to the whole organization.

About Author

Jon specialises in research and content creation for content marketing campaigns. He’s worked on campaigns for some of Australia's largest brands including across Technology, Cloud Computing, Renewable energy and Corporate event management. He’s an avid scooterist and musician.