Intranet - An Introduction
An intranet is a private computer network that uses internet protocol technologies to securely share any part of an organization's information or network operating system within that organization.
An intranet may be a part of the organization's information technology infrastructure and can host multiple applications. It constitutes an important component of internal communication and collaboration.
An intranet is built from the same concepts and technologies used for the Internet, such as client–server computing and the Internet Protocol Suite (TCP/IP). Any of the well known Internet protocols may be found in an intranet, such as HTTP (web services), SMTP (e-mail), and FTP (file transfer). Internet technologies are often deployed to provide modern interfaces to legacy information systems hosting corporate data.
Intranets may provide a gateway to the Internet by means of a network gateway with a firewall, shielding the intranet from unauthorized external access. The gateway often also implements user authentication, encryption of messages, and often virtual private network (VPN) connectivity for off-site employees to access company information, computing resources and internal communications.
Increasingly, intranets are being used to deliver tools and applications, e.g., collaboration (to facilitate working in groups and teleconferencing) or sophisticated corporate directories, sales and customer relationship management tools, project management etc., to advance productivity. Intranets are also being used as corporate culture-change platforms. For example, large numbers of employees discussing key issues in an intranet forum application could lead to new ideas in management, productivity, quality, and other corporate issues.
Intranet user-experience, editorial, and technology teams can work together to produce in-house sites. Most commonly, intranets are managed by the communications, HR or CIO departments of large organizations, or some combination of these.
Because of the scope and variety of content and the number of system interfaces, intranets of many organizations are much more complex than their respective public websites.
Benefits of an Intranet for your organization
Increasing Productivity - Intranets can help users to locate and view information faster and use applications relevant to their roles and responsibilities. With the help of a web browser interface, users can access data held in any database the organization wants to make available, anytime and from anywhere within the company workstations, increasing employees' ability to perform their jobs faster, more accurately, and with confidence that they have the right information. It also helps to improve the services provided to the users.
Improving Efficiency - Intranets allow organizations to distribute information to employees on an as-needed basis; Employees may link to relevant information at their convenience, rather than being distracted indiscriminately by electronic mail. With information easily accessible by all authorized users, teamwork can greatly improved as well. The intranet can also be linked to a company’s management information system, for example a time keeping system.
Enhancing Communication - Intranets can serve as powerful tools for communication within an organization, vertically and horizontally. From a communications standpoint, intranets are useful to communicate strategic initiatives that have a complete reach throughout the organization. The type of information that can easily be conveyed is the purpose of the initiative and what the initiative is aiming to achieve, who is driving the initiative, results achieved to date, and who to speak to for more information. By providing this information on the intranet, staff has the opportunity to keep up-to-date with the strategic focus of the organization. Some examples of communication would be chat, email, and or blogs.
Intranet publishing allows cumbersome corporate knowledge to be maintained and easily accessed throughout the company using hypermedia and Web technologies. Examples include: employee manuals, benefits documents, company policies, business standards, newsfeeds, and even training, can be accessed using common Internet standards (Acrobat files, Flash files, CGI applications). Because each business unit can update the online copy of a document, the most recent version is always available to employees using the intranet.
Cost-effectiveness - Users can view information and data via web-browser rather than maintaining physical documents such as procedure manuals, internal phone list and requisition forms. This can potentially save the business money on printing, duplicating documents, and the environment as well as document maintenance overhead. While a cross-platform capability of an intranet guarantees that standards-compliant web browsers for Windows, Mac, and UNIX can access all applications running on an intranet without problems.
Promoting Corporate Culture - Every user is viewing the same information within the Intranet. Being able to specifically address your "viewer" is a great advantage. Since Intranets are user specific (requiring database/network authentication prior to access), you know exactly who you are interfacing with. So, you can personalize your Intranet based on role (job title, department) or individual!
Some examples of useful components of an intranet
Staff Login Portal
The Staff Login Portal is the welcoming and first page of an intranet, where employees can log in. Through the connected database, the system is capable of identifying the access level for each user. Each user can be given different access levels to the system, in example administrator (able to change system settings and content), editor (able to change content) or user (not able to change anything) rights.
An Intranet Helpdesk is built specifically for Intranet IT management. It is able to meet the demands of staff members seeking assistance through the internal, intranet-based help desk software. It lets users send e-mail and instant messages to the helpdesk staff and can contact them automatically in case of meeting a pre-defined alert (i.e. a scheduled maintenance alert). It has furthermore the option of setting up a FAQ section (Frequently Asked Questions), to serve as central database to receive help on most common technical issues. The helpdesk functionality can track user requests with a unique ticket number. Service requests can be sorted according to user, due date and other fields.
An intranet can manage all resource booking problems like giving an overview of available resources depending on user level, giving an overview of the available times and if a booking is possible, updating the system in real-time. It includes the functionality to create repeat copies of bookings and to create repetitive reminders by e-mail.
Links for multiple users to store and send files online
Each registered user of an intranet has his/her own virtual storage place, which is only accessible by the user. From within this virtual store, a user can send files to any individual or group of users of the intranet.
In this section intranet users can download application forms, documentation material, publications, presentations, laws and other downloadable material. Staff can store or remove the documents through a Content Management System.
The Picture gallery is the store of pictorial galleries with images of the projects of an organization. Each day/category/subject/project can have its gallery and can be customized independently. Images can be added or removed through a Content Management System. Each gallery can be interlinked with the project it belongs to. All content can be sorted by date, subject or keywords. All pictures can be as well placed inline in the pages of the intranet.
The phonebook serves as directory with all kind of staff member contact information, in example: Office phone number, mobile phone number, e-mail address, department, designation and photograph. It has the integrated option to contact a staff member directly by clicking on the contact details.
The events section is the place to publish all upcoming events and also archive past events. Members of staff will know which event, is happening when and where by configuring individual or group alerting schemes. This section can be used to maintain company events, public holidays, pay days and other organization wide relevant dates and integrate them with individual personal schedules. Additional information like date ranges, event types, files or URL’s can be included in each event. Optional event schedules can be downloaded in personal organizers like MS Outlook.
Policies and regulations
At the policies and regulations section, employees can access the rules, policies, regulations and more information about an organization.
This section ofan intranet can be the library and database to retrieve all policies and procedures to ensure a safe and organized work place. A public comment and discussion area can be included if desired.
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