Businesses around the world are using Intranets to manage documents, increase efficiency, and improve communication. But many people are still confused about exactly what an Intranet is and how it differs from the Internet. In this article, I won’t bore you with a detailed comparison of both. We all already understand what the Internet is and what it does. Instead, I will concentrate on the differences that will clarify what an Intranet is and why it is useful in workplaces.
Internet versus Intranet – Basic Difference
In very basic terms, the Internet is large number of networked computers that link to each other with content that is open to anyone to access.
An Intranet has lots of the same attributes as the Internet. For example, Intranets allow you to find information by using search tools, connect with other people within the same Intranet, and even browse localized news. But the significant difference between the two is access. Intranets are closed networks while the Internet is open.
Intranets are restricted to a specific set of people (for example employees of the same company) who share a common goal. Other people outside the Intranet cannot see what is happening. Regardless of this restriction, if you have login rights to an Intranet, you can access it from any place and on any device.
SharePoint and Office 365 are famous tools for building Intranets and enterprise content management systems. Even though these tools can also be used for building public facing (or Internet) sites, they are more well known for their ability to build Intranet sites for enterprises that enable people to operate remotely and collaborate with colleagues regardless of where each person may be physically/geographically located.
For building public facing (Internet) sites, the most popular and most widely used tool by a huge margin is WordPress.
Specific Challenges Solved By Intranets
The Internet is used for tons of different things. On the other hand, Intranet implementations are generally designed to address a particular problem (or group of problems) in a company. For example, the problem of effective communication with and between employees – especially in businesses which have more than one office location. An Intranet can help solve this problem in many ways:
- Publishing company news in one central location that is customized and displayed on each user’s dashboard. This way, people can quickly see company statements, employee recognition messages, and other things of interest.
- Providing an intra-company chat facility that allows employees to quickly chat with each other without having to resort to more formal emails.
Document management is another common use of Intranets in enterprises. You will notice that a good number of my SharePoint articles are somehow related to document management within SharePoint. Shared drives may work okay for businesses for some time. But as a company grows, it gets tougher to just use shared drives – it becomes difficult to manage file ownership, keep them organized, and allow for them to be easily found.
Example: Using SharePoint Intranet for document management. Notice the extra document meta data (columns) which are not possible in regular shared drive systems.
On an Intranet, files are managed in one central place. So for example, instead of emailing weekly reports on a project, a centralized document can be used to track that project on the company’s Intranet. This document can be made only visible to the developer(s) working on the project, their manager(s), and any other project stakeholders. Other unaffected teams would not be able to view the document. SharePoint is great at dealing with such scenarios.
Finally, a business may want to increase employee collaboration and streamline procedures. With an Intranet, you can create virtual work spaces for different teams that allows team members to work together on projects and share the exact same information.
An Intranet may be thought of as a safer and smaller Internet
An Intranet is a privatized version of the Internet used within a company for the purpose of collaboration and business information sharing.
With Intranets, companies can share sensitive information in a protected environment without the privacy concerns generally associated with the Internet.
Usually, the goal of Intranets is to take some the of the greatest attributes of the Internet (like search, social connection features, simple navigation, etc.) and then unite them within a carefully controlled and safe company environment. When done right, your company can be completely transformed by it.