In essence, an intranet is a business' own private website. It is a confidential business network that uses the same underlying structure and network protocols as the internet, and is protected from unauthorised users by a firewall.
Intranet vs extranet
The main characteristic of an intranet is that it is closed to the public. Extranets, in contrast, are open to the public and typically offer features external users (such as customers, partners and contractors) can access. See what is an extranet.
Intranets are secure and easily accessible via a web browser. As such, they enable businesses to be flexible and control office overheads by allowing employees to work from almost any location, including their home and customer sites.
Examples of intranet
Intranets typically look like a private version of the internet. They use HTTP or other internet protocols to allow sharing of the organisational information and computing resources among employees. You can also use an intranet to facilitate teleconferencing and working in groups.
Certain types of intranets, known as online offices or web offices, merge regular features of intranets with those often found in software such as Microsoft Office. Creating a web office allows you to organise and manage information and share documents and calendars using a familiar web browser function, accessible from anywhere in the world.
Intranet content and features
Intranets can host far more than just company information and policies. Types of content and features commonly found on intranets include:
- administrative - calendars, emergency procedures, meeting room bookings, procedure manuals and membership of internal committees and groups
- corporate - business plans, client/customer lists, document templates, branding guidelines, mission statements, press coverage and staff newsletters
- financial - annual reports and organisational performance
- IT - virus alerts, tips on dealing with problems with hardware, software and networks, policies on corporate use of email and internet access and a list of online training courses and support
- marketing - competitive intelligence with links to competitor websites, corporate brochures, latest marketing initiatives, press releases, presentations
- human resources - appraisal procedures and schedules, employee policies, expenses forms and annual leave requests, staff discount schemes, new vacancies
- individual projects - current project details, team contact information, project management information, project documents, time and expense reporting
- external information resources - route planning and mapping sites, industry organisations, research sites and search engines
Read also about the benefits of intranets.