Before You Start Designing
Before you get started designing your intranet, there
are some important things to consider. First, let’s
look at the different types that are available.
Before You Start Designing
Planning and preparation are essential to any successful project, including implementing an intranet.
Before you get started on designing your intranet, there are several important things to consider. Here are some of the questions to address:
- What type of intranet is the best solution for your business?
- What hosting option works for you?
- How much will my intranet cost?
- What training and support will staff need to get started on the platform?
- How will you handle backups and maintenance of your intranet software?
- And finally, how can you be confident your intranet is as safe and secure as possible?
It’s a lot to take in, right? This section will support you as you navigate your way through these important considerations. We provide an overview of what you need to know to guide your research and decision-making.
Different Types Of Intranet
Which is the best platform for my business: a portal, extranet, or intranet?
These terms are often used interchangeably, and so can be confusing to those new to intranets.
In this section, we provide clear definitions of what the terms mean. We will clear up some of that confusion and help guide your choice of the best intranet option.
In short, an intranet is a private, online internal communications network, which is accessible only to staff members.
However, this definition doesn’t do justice to the full extent of the intranet’s capabilities.
Modern intranets are powerful business tools. And so all companies, regardless of size or industry, have much to gain from an intranet.
In one integrated platform, intranets contain a variety of exciting features and services. You can select from employee directories, team chat, collaboration spaces, newsfeeds, file sharing, and much more. These tools are designed to help employees get the job done more efficiently and effectively.
Similarly, an extranet is also a closed private network. However, the fundamental difference is that it is accessible to selected external parties such as customers, clients, or suppliers.
An extranet enables external parties to communicate, collaborate, and share information directly with your staff in a secure, online setup.
Examples of businesses that use extranets include schools, universities and colleges. Extranets are often used for the secure payment of fees. And they also support the sharing of information with students and parents.
Franchise operations are another example. They use extranets to improve multi-directional communication and information flows with their franchisees.
Furthermore, extranets are popular with companies involved in the two-way sharing of information and data. Graphic designers, accountants, and law firms are good examples here. An extranet allows for faster and more efficient data transfer than traditional options like emails or shared folders.
For more real-life examples of how businesses are using extranets and intranets in practice, check out our case studies library.
A portal is a gateway that allows your intranet or extranet to connect with external enterprise systems or apps. Most often, these include customer relationship management software – Salesforce, for example – or human resources applications.
A portal means that staff no longer have to juggle multiple apps and systems. Instead, the portal brings together all these tools in one platform and requires just a single sign-on.
Examples of businesses using portals include banks, accountants, healthcare providers, and childcare centers.
Often the driving force behind their decision is the challenges these businesses face in information management. The portal’s single-sign-on and integrated access appeal to many companies, especially those using multiple systems and apps.
Many portals offer a customized, personalized user experience. Rather than every employee accessing the portal’s full range of tools and apps, the user customizes the interface with their preferences. This streamlined, coherent platform is an excellent time-saver for staff and boosts all-round productivity.
Options For Hosting Your Intranet
There are three main options for developing and hosting your intranet. You can select from one of the following:
Off-The-Shelf Or On-Premise Intranets
With this option, you create your intranet by downloading software (such as Sharepoint or WordPress), which is then hosted on the company server.
Often free to download, these intranet options are easy to access. If you already have a company server, then hosting the intranet is a straightforward proposition.
However, there are some disadvantages to consider.
The most important is that a reasonable amount of technical know-how is required to navigate your way through the software. So, if you find all things technical a challenge and you don’t have IT backup, then this probably isn’t the best option.
Furthermore, often the software has not been developed for the purpose of creating an intranet. For example, WordPress was initially created as a blogging or website creation platform.
Many businesses have discovered that the core free offering is limited in its functionality. To get the functionality needed for the digital workplace, you have to buy add-ons or plug-ins. What started as ‘free’ software quickly becomes something entirely different. In turn, the platform itself becomes far more complicated than perhaps you bargained for.
Hosting the intranet on the company server also has some disadvantages. A company server takes up a lot of valuable physical space. And there’s also the ongoing maintenance and associated costs to consider as well.
This type of intranet uses pre-built intranet templates. All you have to do is customize the templates using the intuitive 5-step builder process to create your unique intranet. Upload your company logo and corporate colors for a bespoke solution. And staff will immediately recognize it as part of your familiar brand.
Another great advantage of intranet templates is they are already tried and tested. Many companies find a pilot isn’t necessary because the intranet provider has already extensively tested the software. You can be confident your intranet does exactly what it says on the box. And it means the intranet can be up and running much quicker as there’s no need for a long pilot stage.
Once your design templates are complete, the intranet is then hosted in the cloud by a specialist intranet provider.
The all-in-one, easy to set up and manage cloud intranet, doesn’t require any previous technical knowledge. Therefore, cloud intranets are an excellent choice for small businesses without an internal IT resource.
And when it comes to the cloud, the benefits are many. Cloud technology can be accessed 24/7 via a smartphone, tablet, or desktop computer. A cloud intranet offers businesses great flexibility, particularly those with employees that work remotely, in non-desk roles, or who spend time out on the road.
Another major advantage is that the cloud intranet provider remains responsible for ongoing security, backups, and updates.
However, one disadvantage of a cloud intranet is that the solution has already been created. And so, it may not be a perfect match for your business requirements. Furthermore, companies are not in complete control of the software.
Some larger companies, especially those with IT departments, have chosen to develop a bespoke intranet from scratch.
The main advantage is the intranet is developed in response to specific needs or pain points. And the company retains complete control over the functionality, updates, and revisions.
However, building an intranet from scratch is quite an undertaking. Do not underestimate the time and resources involved in developing a custom-build intranet. From the initial brief to development, piloting, and finally launch, you are easily looking at several months and many thousands of dollars.
How Much Help Will I Need To Get Started?
The short answer is much depends on which intranet option you select.
As we have seen, some types of intranet require more technical know-how than others. A lot also depends on the time and resources you have available and the priorities you have identified for your intranet.
Perhaps a bespoke intranet is a high priority for you. If you have IT support and a company server, then a custom-built or do-it-yourself option may be your preference.
But if time and resources are limited and you want your intranet in a hurry, then a cloud option is the way to go.
Most cloud providers include ongoing support within the set monthly fees. This means help is at hand should you need it.
MyHub also offers a design service to help you get your intranet off the ground. Aimed at small business owners who lack time and resources, the MyHub Intranet Designer works in partnership with you. The result is a customized, fully-functioning intranet designed to meet your company’s specific needs.
The Real Cost Of Launching An Intranet
So, how much will my intranet cost?
We can’t tell you exactly how much it will cost to implement an intranet in your business. After all, the decisions you make around the type of intranet and hosting options will impact the cost.
However, we can highlight some of the costs you need to factor into the budget.
Be sure to include a staff training program within your budget calculations.
Now that you have invested in your intranet, you will want to reap the rewards as quickly as possible. An essential part of this will be a staff development program. Training will help employees get up to speed with the intranet and all its tools.
However, the training doesn’t have to be the traditional classroom-style. Webinars, demos, explainer videos, or podcasts are also effective.
Some companies have developed team-based super-users who then go on to train and mentor their departmental colleagues.
Whatever option you choose, the easy-to-use intranet and engaging user experiences mean that employees quickly pick it up.
If you opt for a do-it-yourself intranet, then assuring data security on the intranet will be a big cost.
Purchasing and installing anti-virus software, malware, firewalls, and network layer security quickly adds up to a significant investment.
What’s more, you’ll also be responsible for updating all these security measures. And you will need to keep on top of the latest security developments.
With a cloud option, however, the provider retains responsibility for maintaining a secure hosting environment.
Maintenance is another factor to consider with the do-it-yourself options.
Maintaining the company server and updating the intranet software is entirely your responsibility. Downtime, backups, and updates are additional costs to be included in budgets.
By contrast, cloud intranet providers offer high availability and uptime, plus automatic updates and backups. Maintenance is included in the provider’s monthly fee.
Cloud Subscription Model
Most cloud intranet providers offer a subscription model. For a fixed monthly fee, you get unlimited numbers of users and unlimited data storage. With no hidden fees or extras, there’s greater cost certainty with a cloud provider.
Costs Associated With Other Intranet Options
There is not the same degree of cost certainty with the do-it-yourself options. Much depends on the scope of your chosen intranet.
Be sure, though, to include sufficient provision in the budget for piloting and testing your intranet. Companies sometimes overlook this vital stage of the process only for the platform to fail at the final hurdle.
What’s Included In This Intranet Design Guide
Ready To Get Started?