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What is an intranet?

What is an intranet?
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Hi there! Are you one of those IT newbies who is wondering “what is an intranet?” Whether it is a website, a platform, or a tool? In this article, you will get all the answers to these questions. We will explain how Intranet has evolved and its application in modern-day organizations. 

Definition of the Intranet?

In simple terms, the intranet definition is that it is a private network used within organizations. It is used for multiple purposes depending on the structure and objectives. It mainly enables an organization to share information at an internal level. This information is inaccessible to outsiders. 

History of the intranets

To understand company intranets, we must have a brief look at its history:

We saw its first appearance in the 1990s when it was used in the form of a webpage. It was a single welcome page that contained general information about the company. It was flat and was filled with hyperlinks and text. 

In the 2000s, Intranets saw developments as the technology was advancing at a rapid pace. A help desk was introduced that helped in human resource functions. It included features like employee directories and other applications that helped them in day-to-day activities. By the 2010s, platform integration began as social media advanced. Intranet then became a platform that supported two-way communication or “conversations”. 

In recent years, the role of social media in intranets has grown significantly. Many social features have been added. These include mentions, comments, and hashtags. The websites can monitor real-time activities and can gain timely insights as user experience is the central focus.

What are intranets used for?

After exploring the history, we are going to move towards the functionality and features of intranets. Broadly, the use of intranets can be grouped as follows: Communication, collaboration, information, and business processes. These four purposes will then be tailored for the organization according to its objectives and goals. 

The list below shows the most common uses: 

  • Source of connection: Companies are going global and require a smooth flow of information. An intranet will ensure this by connecting all the employees; hence it helps in building a virtual culture. 

  • Access to information:  Intranets can be used to access documents, centrally host, and provide information that the employees need urgently and timely.

  • Employee engagement: Intranets are used for onboarding and allocation of tasks. They can also be used to gain insights into employee sentiments. In turn, organizations can respond to their concerns. 

  • Business objectives: Intranets play a leading role in supporting the strategic objectives of an organization. They help in building a virtual culture, employee engagement, staff retention rates and ensure smooth flow of communication. 


Popular features of Intranet

A company’s intranet is considered the base of employee communication. So, you will have to gather the right features to be well-integrated and improve collaboration. Some of the most popular Intranet features are: 

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Social built-in tools

As discussed earlier, social media has transformed communication, and its role in intranets has increased significantly. Intranets are being integrated with built-in social tools that improve two-way communication.

The standard features include:  

  • User profiles in company directories 

  • Content areas and blogs

  • Discussion forums 

  • Communities 

  • Messaging and microblogging 

  • Social interaction features such as comments, likes and hashtags 


Difference between an intranet and an extranet?

You must wonder what an extranet is. Well, extranets not limited to an organization like intranets. Third parties can easily access it. They may include customers, partners, and vendors. However, this access is limited and is controlled by the organization.  

Advantages of an Intranet

The benefits of a company having an intranet are extensive. A few significant ones are highlighted below:

  • Internal communication: As communication barriers are reduced, company-wide collaboration becomes easy. It means having a better content management system (CMS) to share knowledge and innovative ideas across the organization. Inter-department communication and open-team discussions are encouraged. 

  • Convenient storage: Despite having thousands of files in different formats from all possible mediums present, an intranet connection makes storing and accessing files easier and convenient by having it all in one central location. 

  • A higher level of employee engagement: With employees getting a chance to participate actively and being heard, this results in enhanced satisfaction. 

  • Business efficiency: Increased input in less time means improved productivity as well as efficiency. Intranets help in lowering the overall operational as wastage is discouraged. Also, the chances of errors are minimized.

Christopher Baggott
Chief Executive Officer of Medlinks Cost Containment, Inc. and Medlinks Staffing, LLC.

“Our staff has praised the increased communications level Workmates delivers. We use it to communicate important project matters and give staff specific ‘kudos’ or even recognize their birthdays. More importantly, we use Workmates to clarify important project details that needed rapid dissemination among the entire team.”

Negative aspects of Intranet

There are two sides to the same coin. The disadvantages of an intranet connection cannot be ignored. These include:

  • Costly setup: Even though an intranet connection can save time and cost in the long term, but its installation and maintenance can be a bit steep.

  • Risk of privacy: One major setback is the threat of breach of privacy. This technology is still fragile and exposed to unauthorized alterations. Hence, making the inside information vulnerable.

  • Lack of face-to-face interaction: With the increasing indulgence in this technology, workers tend to communicate less in person. It can lead to lack of personalization in messages. Essential details like body language get missed.

  • Finding information can be time-consuming: Traditionally, intranets are structured in a way that has an outdated format. The needed information is found after going through pages and pages of data. It is because publishing to intranets tends to be very time-consuming. As a result, it does not remain timely and relevant.

  • Mobile is not supported: The chances are that an intranet connection does not support mobile or needs continuous updating with new phone releases. It makes it less convenient for users who do not have access to a desktop. 


Intranets: the heart of the digital workplace

Intranets are here to stay! They have evolved and proved to adapt according to the demands of an organization. Their capability to turn a workplace into a virtual culture makes them the heart of the digital workplace. It is crucial to consider the potential that it holds and the role it plays in helping the organization in reaching its objectives. 

Traditional intranets with outdated features are of no use to an organization and are becoming obsolete. Modern intranets act as gateways to modern organizations with virtual cultures. So, it is vital to keep them updated and upgraded. Modern features should be added to enhance employee experience, workplace collaboration, and ROI. 

About Author: Christopher Mansfield is a content writer at Perfect Essay. He creates, edits and manages the production of digital and print content that is consistent with the organization’s brand, style and tone. Christopher works closely with the internal marketing team to ensure timely delivery of content via various marketing channels and mediums. He also develops and maintains an editorial calendar. He contributes to the webinar program to further thought leadership campaigns for different market segments.

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