In workplaces across the globe, businesses are using intranets to improve communication, manage documents and boost efficiency, but a lot of people are still confused about what an intranet really is and how it differs from the Internet. I’m not going to bore you with a technical comparison of the two – we all know what the Internet is and what it does – instead, I’m going to focus on differences that will help you understand what an intranet is and what makes it a useful tool.
Intranets Are Closed Networks
When we talk about the big daddy, the mother ship, the all-powerful Internet, we are talking about a vast and complex network of computers connecting to each other, and the door is always wide open to anyone who wants to explore.
An intranet has many of the same features as the Internet – you can use search features to find information, socialize with users, and even browse news categories – but the major difference between the two is access. Intranets are closed networks. They are limited to a specific group of users who share a common purpose, and the rest of the world cannot stroll in to see what’s happening. Despite this limitation, users that have login rights can access their intranet from any place and on any device. Office 365 and SharePoint are cloud-based apps that allow people to work remotely, collaborating with peers just as easily as if you were sitting next to them.
Intranet Implementations Solve Specific Challenges
Unlike the Internet, where utility runs in a billion directions, intranet implementations are used to solve a specific problem (or set of problems) facing an organization, and they are often predictable. These challenges include communicating with staff, particularly in companies that have more than one office location. Your intranet helps overcome this by channeling company news directly to the user’s dashboard, where people can see company announcements, employee recognition shout-outs and other items of interest.
Document management is another common goal for enterprise. Businesses that rely on shared drives get along okay for a while, but as the company grows it gets increasingly difficult to keep documents organized and easily found. On an intranet, documents are managed in one place. For example, instead of emailing timesheets every week, people edit one document that only their managers can see, creating a simple, easy process for exchanging information.
Lastly, a company might want to increase employee collaboration and streamline processes. You can create virtual workspaces for separate teams on your intranet where employees can share the same information and work together on a project.
A Safer, Smaller Internet
An intranet is a privatized version of the Internet used solely for the purpose of company information sharing and collaboration, and hybrid-cloud solutions promised by SharePoint 2016 will make it even easier to create secure environments for sensitive data.
If your company is considering an intranet implementation, it pays to keep an eye on industry-led best practices regarding planning, governance and design. The goal should be to take some of the best attributes of the Internet – like easy navigation, search and social media – and combine them into one solution that will breathe and grow with your business. When done right, it can completely transform your company.