An intranet is an access-restricted, private computer network within the organisation, which is used to securely share all or part of the organisation's information or operational systems with its employees and/or other trusted partners. Extranets are an extension to the intranet and are often used for access by suppliers, customers etc. who access the system via the internet.
An intranet shares information using internet protocol – much the same as your website does and for this reason an intranet can be described as a private website or internal website. An organisations intranet is set-up, administered and maintained internally and is accessible only to authorized users. Individuals with authorized access are able to contribute to files and information sharing through the many customisable applications that are available through an intranet.
Common uses for an intranet include:-
• A repository for Company Policies, Procedures, Forms and Logos
• A Shared Calendar e.g. for Annual Leave
• A Source of News about the Organisation
• A Shared Contact list e.g. Names and Contact details of staff, customers, suppliers etc.
• Discussion Forums that deal with pertinent issues
• A Links Database
• Audio and visual conferencing
• Virtual team meetings and project collaboration
What are the Benefits of an intranet to an organisation?
• Increased Productivity: Employees can quickly find and view information, as well as use applications relevant to their roles.
• Time Savings: Employees can delve into relevant information when it suits them rather than being deluged by emails or having to ask other employees for information.
• Flexibility: The Intranet can serve as a powerful tool for disseminating key information and applications to users that are geographically remote.
• Knowledge Transfer: Intranets allow dispersed ‘corporate knowledge’ such as company handbooks, induction manuals etc. to be consistently maintained and easily accessed throughout the organisation.
• Internal Cohesion: Intranets can play a vital role in creating a sense of teamwork and common purpose amongst a diverse workforce.
• Reduction of Costs: Because documents can be easily distributed over the intranet (a local area connection thus minimal bandwidth) and easily accessed from a central location, fewer documents need to be printed or sent via email over the internet.
The Intranet Solution for Windows Server Users
Windows SharePoint Services
Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) is an existing component of Windows Server. Organisations are therefore provided with the ability to create a basic intranet without purchasing additional software.
Windows SharePoint Services provides the majority of the functionality that you need to successfully create and manage an intranet website with the benefits and functionality listed above.
A SharePoint generated intranet is usually accessed by visiting "http://companyweb" or "http://servername.domainname.local". When users access the intranet page, SharePoint will recognise the authorized user (employee for example), as well as page viewing authorisations, editing rights, etc.
You may – for example – be allowed to contribute to discussions, add announcements or upload documents to your intranet, as well as access news, links and articles about your organisation.
SharePoint can also act as a gateway to other services like remote email access or ‘dial-in’ functions.
Notably, like with many applications, if you do not log on with the correct credentials, (user name and password) you will not be able to gain access to the intranet.
Once you have SharePoint up and running and are logged in with the relevant permissions, you can start configuring and adding functionalities:
1. Document Management
SharePoint allows you to create folders known as Document Libraries. These can contain any document you wish to upload. SharePoint will even keep a note of who uploaded the document and when it was uploaded. The most recent copy is presented to the user, but users can also access the previous versions if you set the Library to keep a ‘Version History’.
2. Announcements and Discussions
Most of the features in SharePoint are known as ‘Lists’. SharePoint by default has an ‘Announcements’ List on the home page. This is a useful method of posting new information to all intranet users.
Discussions are similar to announcements in that they allow Administrators and Contributors to post topics. Discussions however allow users to respond too.
3. Other Types of Lists
SharePoint contains many other types of Lists. Most have the same set of features as Announcements and Discussions. In other words, one would expect to be able to change the view, configure an Alert, apply formatting, set start & expiry dates and change permissions.
The most useful Lists include: Calendars, Image Libraries, Links and Contact Lists.
4. Users, Permissions, Alerts
SharePoint is governed by a system of users based on an Active Directory. Each list and library has default permissions. Administrators can override these either by ‘group type’ or individual ‘username’.
‘Document workspaces’ are areas of the intranet with a private list of users as well as their own tasks, calendars and contacts. They can be created from within Office applications like Word and Excel and are automatically assigned space on the intranet.
6. Remote Access Features
SharePoint allows links to applications such as Remote Desktop and Outlook Web Access from any intranet page. This provides users with a single point of entry to these applications.
Supercharge your Business Information System with MMC!
Should your organisation be using Windows Server already, why not maximize your return on your IT investment by creating and using your own intranet?
MMC is standing by to assist you with this process and we invite you to contact Anthony Simons, our Business Intelligence Consultant telephonically on 021 530 1600, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about how to tailor this exceptional software to your individual needs.