Are you persuaded by the case for an office intranet but frustrated by the lack of support from your IT department?
Are you bamboozled by talk of LANs and WANs when you Google ‘create an intranet’?
In this post, we look at how to set up an intranet from a completely non-technical perspective.
But first, what are the benefits?
increased workforce productivity
seamless knowledge transfer
streamlined business processes
enhanced team integration and collaboration
ease of communication
24/7 access enabling more flexible working arrangements
improved rates of employee engagement across the business
Planning Your New Intranet
When planning your intranet the first thing to consider is that much like your company’s internet website, the intranet will need a server.
There are three main options available:
Use a server connected to your company network. You’ll need to install intranet software onto your server.
Use a cloud-based hosting service. You pay a hosting company to host the intranet for you.
Custom-build your own intranet. You write the code and manage the entire process.
Let’s examine each option in detail.
1. Network Server Intranet Option
The decision to opt for a company network server may well be influenced by the size of the organization and the available IT resources. Larger companies often already have a server whereas for smaller organizations it may be necessary to purchase one. Cost will need to be factored into your budget.
To set up the intranet you first need to install intranet software onto your server that will enable you to generate the pages.
There is a whole range of options out there and which one you choose will be influenced by its ease of use, functionality and adaptability. Some of the off-the-shelf type packages, however, can still require a certain amount of technical knowledge.
Another important point is the software available on the market may not have been specifically developed with an intranet in mind. For example, some companies have used WordPress to develop an intranet; however, although capable of creating a perfectly acceptable intranet, WordPress was actually developed as a blogging or website creation tool. It doesn’t necessarily, therefore, have all the functionality and ease of use that a dedicated cloud intranet software has.
Another popular software choice is SharePoint. Developed by Microsoft, SharePoint can seem like a good choice for an intranet particularly if your company already uses Office 365. SharePoint is, however quite complex to set up and is often used purely as a document management or storage solution. Although it can also be used to set up an intranet, it won’t tick all the boxes the same way as a business user-focused intranet software will.
Some companies use a consultant or get their existing web developer to create the company intranet. These are both good options for those that lack technical savvy, but will increase your costs.
The main disadvantage of the network server option is that you are responsible for everything. From managing the intranet server, installing updates and backing up data to issues of security and virus protection – you will have to handle all the management and maintenance. In addition, intranet servers take up a lot of valuable physical space and so they are not always a feasible or desirable option. Office space is, after all, an expensive commodity.
“The Network Server Intranet option requires a certain amount of tecnhnical knowledge – at implementation and for ongoing maintenance.
It used to be a popular choice for medium-sized businesses, before cloud-hosted intranet solutions entered the market.”
2. Cloud-Hosted Intranet Option
Under this option, you pay an online hosting service to host your intranet site. Once again there are a number of providers out there including MyHub. With a cloud-based hosting option you simply log on and create the pages and content. Most providers utilize pre-built intranet templates that you can easily follow and adapt to meet your organization’s requirements. In addition, the intranet can be customized to suit the structure of your business and your company logo, style and colors.
The biggest advantage with online hosting is that there is no software to install or server to maintain. In fact, hosted intranet solutions are usually super easy and quick to set up and require little, if any, technical know-how. What’s more, the hosting service is also responsible for all technical issues, maintenance, updates, backups and security. Most hosted solutions will also provide ongoing help and support to intranet administrators.
Intranet hosting services are usually charged on a monthly basis and so the costs are fixed. In the case of MyHub, for a fixed monthly fee, companies can enjoy unlimited numbers of users and unlimited data storage. This makes the cloud option very cost-effective and it also provides that all important cost certainty that is critical to businesses, particularly small enterprises and start-ups.
Another great advantage of cloud-based intranets is that they can be accessed by staff anytime and anywhere on a tablet, smartphone or computer with internet access. Many businesses no longer operate the traditional desk-bound, 9 to 5 model of working. Increasingly we are seeing companies offering more flexibility as well as remote working. In this context, online intranets are a great advantage and help to facilitate more flexible working. So, when developing your intranet, it’s important to ensure the site is mobile friendly and optimized for the smaller screens of smartphones and tablets.
“Cloud-hosted intranets mean no software to install, zero hardware to maintain, and are super-simple to set up – even for the most non-technical user.”
3. Custom-Build Intranet Option
Some larger companies, particularly those with a strong internal IT resource, have opted for an entirely bespoke intranet built from scratch. The driving force is usually the desire to create an intranet focused on addressing the specific needs of the business. Another attractive factor for many companies is that they retain complete control over functionality, updates and revisions rather than delegating this to an external provider.
There are, however, a number of disadvantages not least of which are the time and resources involved in developing a custom-built intranet. In fact, the whole process from start to finish can easily take several months and many thousands of dollars.
There is also a risk of those staff responsible for creating the bespoke intranet, being on leave or off sick, or worse, leaving your employment, and taking their IP with them.
“Large enterprises are the last to still operate their own custom-built intranets. While this option gives the business 100% responsibility over its intranet, it does require advanced IT skills and extensive resourcing to maintain.”
Get Started Now
Watch our short video below on how to set-up an intranet:
shared project spaces to facilitate joint working and collaboration across teams
task and project management
communication tools such as blogs, discussion forums and webinars
automated business processes such as booking annual
leave or ordering supplies.
Draw up a map of the sequence of pages on your intranet. This will give you a good feel for the overall flow and sequencing of information and will also help you develop a site menu.
Be mindful though of information overload. It is tempting to put every piece of company information on the intranet. But if it’s not relevant or staff can’t find it easily then they will simply stop using the intranet altogether. It’s a tricky but very important balancing act.
In addition, when developing content try to make it as engaging as possible. Company safety and health information for example, although very important, can be a pretty dry topic. Try to enliven it by including lots of visual interest with diagrams and photos, online quizzes or surveys or even by injecting some humor.
Be mindful of the different learning styles apparent in the modern workplace and incorporate a range of media that will satisfy all needs including video, podcasts, wikis and webinars. Be inventive. Using a few of these tricks will make staff more likely to engage with the intranet thereby increasing your staff adoption rates.
Finally, make sure that you refresh the content on a regular basis. Static images, unchanging text and worse still outdated information is quite simply dull and boring for users. So, on a regular basis make sure that you update the images, revise the content and get rid of anything that’s no longer relevant or up to date.
“When planning your content, create a project team with representatives from different parts of your organization. They’ll add a different perspective on the intranet’s purpose, and be able to contribute ideas.”
When it comes to design, the simpler the better. Clean, uncluttered pages with plenty of white space will always have strong appeal.
That purple color that looks so vibrant and eye-catching in your company logo can soon become annoying and overbearing when used as the backdrop for every page on your intranet!
The most successful intranets have opted for a minimalist look and present information in bite-sized, easily digested chunks with the option to click for more detail.
An often overlooked but significant consideration when planning your intranet is security. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that because your intranet is a private communications network it’s somehow immune from external security threats. Cybercrime continues to be a major issue. Whether it’s phishing, hacking, viruses or ransomware, the ever-changing methods deployed by hackers make it a full-time job keeping on top of it all. And yet you need to ensure that all your sensitive company data and the personal details of staff and customers are as secure as possible.
However, with a company network server intranet and the custom-build option, the responsibility for security rests firmly with you. So you will need to develop knowledge and expertise in firewalls, encryption technology, virus protection and so on. What’s more, the threat from cybercrime is constantly evolving, which means that you will need to keep your knowledge updated.
If that sounds like a daunting task, then the cloud-hosted intranet option may be a better fit. Under this option, the cloud provider retains responsibility for intranet security. It’s down to the provider to make sure that the very latest security features are in place to safeguard your intranet. It’s in the interests of the cloud provider to be up to date on the latest techniques – after all, their livelihoods depend on it.
“With cloud-hosted intranets, the software provider is responsible for security. That means you don’t need to worry about implementing firewalls, virus protection and other safety features – it’s all taken care of.”
Before you go live with your intranet, it’s a good idea to pilot the most easily published material as a trial run. Any online intranet provider will be happy to give you a demonstration or free trial so that you can fine-tune the product. A webinar or shared-screen guided tour is a great way to assess whether the software is a good match for your office intranet requirements. There is, however, no substitute to actually playing around with the software yourself.
If you have gone down the route of a company intranet server option then testing the intranet site for functionality and user-friendliness is worthwhile. You can then use the feedback to tweak the design and content as necessary before it goes live to all staff.
Other issues that piloting can help you address include site permissions and access rights. Not all staff will need to access all parts of the intranet. It will be necessary to maintain the confidentiality of some information by limiting access to those staff that really need it.
However, with a cloud option, all of this pre-testing and piloting will have already been completed by the provider. In fact, the offering from a cloud provider will be constantly tweaked and refined in response to the real experiences of a whole host of businesses that are using the intranet website day in and day out.
Ask For Help!
Hopefully, we’ve now shown you that setting up an intranet may not be the technical minefield you first thought it was.
In fact, with a cloud-hosted intranet, it’s possible to have a professional-looking and fully functioning site up and running in a very short space of time.
Contact us at MyHub for a free demo or 14-day trial and see your business start to enjoy the great benefits an intranet has to offer.
* $85 USD per month, based on a 12 month subscription.