How to design corporate intranet
Every biological being that falls into the ‘human’ category knows what the ‘internet’ is – since he/she has met ‘this internet’ at work, home and school. This internet, has in essence, penetrated into society in such ways that many members of society cannot function without it (inclusive of the one spinning this tale!). But, there is another type of computer network (the internet is a huge computer network) that forms an important part of the corporate world. The intranet.
Although, it lacks an e and has an a, it is similar to the internet – and different in many ways. It is basically an information network established for a specific group of users (the employees of that organization/corporation) that is used in communication, data sharing/management (files, reports) and resource sharing (printers, faxes). Think of it as a website cum portal that only people within your organization have access to.
This article will therefore deal with the initial design procedure – joining the hardware and software and establishing the framework necessary for setting up and managing the intranet.
WHY SHOULD YOU HAVE AN INTRANET?
Intranets enable communication and information sharing – and by doing so they allow collaboration amongst employees who may never have done so. In essence, ideas float around and each person gets to ‘chip in’ and donate his/her knowledge in a way that allows for a more productive environment. It also provides employees of an organization with secure, reliable and complete access to an organization’s private information. An intranet improves a company’s ability to manage its information and it can also streamline document distribution. By doing so, costs are reduced, productivity increases and the organization plummets – upwards – something that is hard to achieve using traditional methods. Intranets, are therefore an essential part of every organization.
THE INITIAL STEPS
Designing a corporate intranet is not a trivial task; it is detailed, technical and time consuming – but for a purpose. If the steps laid out are followed and prior research is carried out then everything is simple. But if too many cooks are involved, too many recipes are used then the broth will be spoiled. Therefore it is essential that you follow each step carefully and ensure that you have done prior research where it is essential. The steps are as follows:
- What purpose do you want your intranet to achieve? What functions must it have? It is essential that a certain key element of your corporation – such as collaboration – be a purpose behind your intranet. Write these down on a piece of paper (or a piece of MS Word Document!)
- Involve everyone. From the upper echelons to the lower echelon. The upper echelon will assist you in funding whereas the lower echelon will contribute ideas and assist with manual configuration. Ensure that someone from the IT department is actively involved, preferable a person with prior experience in networks or the internet and how websites work. Create a team that will be responsible for overlooking all details of the initialization and management of the intranet. After all, two (or more) heads are better than one!
- Who is going to use the intranet? Every employee in your corporation? A specific department? Or employees involved in a specific project? Jot this down and then come up with reasons why the intranet is useful and essential for those who are going to use it. This will be essential when acquiring permission, funding and access to information. After all, united we stand, divided we fall!
- Do you have a Local Area Network in place? Are the computers in your organization connected to each other? Is there a central file server present? Or an administration server? In case the answer to all of the above is ‘Yes’ then all you need is a ‘web’ server.
- What type of computer/server do you require – depending on the number of employees on the organization – since more employees require powerful computers. Enlist the help of IT personnel in your organization in this manner. Install the server software.
- The team that was established will now be responsible for managing the ‘intranet’. Involve the IT department in all technical manners and, as mentioned above, enlist an IT personnel. Allocate tasks such as content writing, uploading, editing, updating to a specific person. Act as the ‘manager’ and co-ordinate each and every aspect
HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE FOR THE INTRANET
- Hardware – Servers are basically computers with large hard disks and a lot of memory. It is recommended that you have an Intel Quad Core Processor (2.0GHz), 4.0 GB RAM and 1 TB Hard Disk. This is the computer in which your ‘intranet’ will be stored and managed from. Ensure that all computers in your LAN are connected to this server.
- Software – you will require web server software. Examples are Apache (Open Source), IIS (Microsoft), XAMPP – simple apache version (Open Source). It depends on your intranet as well as with who will be managing your intranet – IT personnel generally have experience with both.
WHAT DO I DO NOW?
Set up your ‘server’. Connecting it to your LAN (assuming a LAN already exists). Install the server software that suits you best. Upload your ‘intranet’ to this server and manage it through this server.
After the above steps, managing an intranet is simple. Just as internet websites are managed, so are intranets. Principles followed to ensure user friendly pages, usability, streamlined navigation. However, intranets can be ‘heavier’ and ‘richer in multimedia’ than internet websites since bandwidth isn’t an issue. And there is no SEO involved – unless Google is a member of your intranet!