An internal computer network, with Internet-like capabilities, designed to be used within the confines of a company, university, or organization.
What distinguishes an intranet from the freely accessible Internet is that an intranet is private. Intranets may be physically bound, meaning shared documents are housed on site and only accessible to locally-connected computer systems. This is particularly common in small offices or university settings, where access is easily limited to a specific geographic location. For companies that span multiple sites, or even multiple states or countries, an intranet can utilize the Internet to expand access to individuals at multiple locations. In these situations, the actual hosting server may be located at one of the user sites, or it may be hosted via a cloud-based solution, completely managed over the Internet, but only accessible to a private group.
Regardless of how an intranet is set up, there will likely be times when users need access to internal resources while they are away from their work site, university, etc. In these situations, many intranets offer solutions for registered users to connect to them remotely. This is easiest to accomplish using a cloud-based solution; however, even locally housed solutions can manage it using special software or a VPN server.
Frequently Asked Questions
What do I need to set up an intranet?
Until recently most corporations relied on proprietary hardware and software systems to network their computers, a costly and time-consuming process made more difficult when offices are scattered around the world. Thankfully, there are plenty of off-the-shelf intranet solutions and online Software-as-a-Service intranet providers, which make internal communication and collaboration much simpler. For a locally-housed intranet, you simply need a server and the appropriate hosting software. There are a number of solutions available, each with their own unique capabilities. Some center around Web-like content pages, while others specialize in wiki-based document collections, and still others aim to replicate the social networking experience at work. Before selecting an intranet for your organization, it is best to assess your goals and test a variety of solutions.
Can I host my own Internet-based intranet?
Yes. If you prefer not to host your company intranet on-site, but don’t want to pay for a cloud-based Software-as-a-Service provider, there are a number of server-based intranet solutions that can be housed on your company’s web-hosting server. This solution provides the flexible access of a SaaS solution, but frees up your internal resources. However, before implementing a server-based intranet, it’s important to review your company’s information security policy to ensure this method meets your security requirements. And, as with any networking solution, always make sure to keep your server software up-to-date to avoid any security risks.