Things To Consider Before You Start Designing Your Intranet
Before we can get into the detail of how to design a successful intranet, let’s first look at the different types that are available. This will help you in deciding the right option for your business.
Different Types Of Intranet
Portal, extranet, intranet? The terminology is often used interchangeably and can be confusing to the uninitiated. Here we provide some clear definitions of what the terms mean to help guide your choice of the best option for your business.
The pure definition of an intranet is that it is an online internal communications network that is accessible to staff members. It contains a variety of tools and services that are designed to help employees complete their jobs more efficiently and effectively.
In a similar vein, an extranet is a closed private network, but the fundamental difference is that it is also accessible to selected external parties such as customers, clients or suppliers. It enables these external parties to communicate, collaborate and share information directly with your staff in a secure, online setup.
A portal is in effect a gateway that allows your intranet or extranet to connect with a range of external enterprise systems or apps. These commonly include customer relationship management software or human resources applications. The portal will, therefore, bring together all these tools in one platform and requires just a single sign-on.
And so an extranet or portal are really variations of the standard intranet. When it comes to developing and hosting your intranet, there are three options that are open to you. The options are as follows:
On-Premise Intranets Or Off-The-Shelf
With this option, you download software such as Sharepoint, WordPress or Drupal and create your own intranet which is then hosted on the company server.
An advantage of this type of intranet is that the software is often free to download and if you already have a company server then it’s an easy enough task to host the intranet.
Among the disadvantages is that a reasonable amount of technical know-how is required to navigate your way through the software. In addition, often the software has not been developed with the specific purpose of creating an intranet – WordPress for instance is more of a blogging or website creation platform. Some companies have quickly discovered that the core free offering is limited in its functionality and requires the purchase of add-ons or plug-ins so that the ‘free’ software quickly becomes an entirely different beast. What’s more, a company server requires a great deal of valuable physical space as well as ongoing maintenance.
With this type of intranet you customize pre-built intranet templates to create your own unique intranet which is then hosted in the cloud by a dedicated intranet provider.
The great advantage of this type of intranet is that it is very easy to set up and manage and doesn’t require any technical knowledge. And the advantages of the cloud are many including that it can be accessed 24/7 through an internet connection, providing great flexibility for businesses, particularly those with staff members that work remotely or who are out in the field a great deal. Another significant advantage is that the cloud intranet provider retains responsibility for ongoing security, backups and updates.
The disadvantage of a cloud intranet is that the solution has already been created and so it may not be a perfect match to your business requirements. In addition, companies are not in complete control of the software.
Some larger companies, especially those with dedicated internal IT resources have gone down the route of developing an entirely bespoke intranet from scratch. The main advantage is that the intranet has been developed in response to the specific needs of the business and the company retains complete control over functionality, updates and revisions. The disadvantage is the time and resources involved in developing a custom-built intranet – from drawing up the initial brief to development, piloting and finally the launch, you are easily looking at several months and many thousands of dollars.
Will I Need Help?
The simple answer is that it depends on which intranet option you select. As we’ve already seen, some types of intranet require more technical know-how than others. In addition, a lot depends on the time and resources you have available and the priorities you have set for your intranet. If having an entirely bespoke intranet is a high priority for you and you have the support of an IT department and a company server, then a custom-built or do-it-yourself option may well be your preference. If, however, time and resources are finite and you want your intranet to be up and running sooner rather than later, then a cloud option is probably the way to go.
And if time really is a big factor then here at MyHub we also offer a design service to support you in getting your intranet off the ground.
The Real Cost Of Launching An Intranet
We can’t tell you exactly how much it will cost to implement an intranet in your business, but what we can do is highlight the costs you need to factor into your budget – some of which you may not have even thought of:
Make sure you include a training budget within your calculations as all employees will need training to get up to speed with the intranet and all the tools that it offers.The training doesn’t have to be the traditional classroom-style either, webinars, demonstrations, how-to videos or podcasts are other media that you could utilize.
If you are going down the do-it-yourself route then assuring the security of the information on the intranet will be a big cost to factor in. Purchasing and installing anti-virus software, malware and firewalls, as well as network layer security, can quickly add up to a significant investment. What’s more, you’ll also be responsible for updating all these security measures and for keeping on top of the latest security developments. With a cloud option, however, the provider retains responsibility for maintaining a secure hosting environment.
Again this is a factor in the do-it-yourself options. Maintaining the company server and updating the software is entirely your responsibility. Downtime, backups and updates are additional costs that you will need to factor into the budget. Cloud intranets, on the other hand, offer high availability and uptime as well as automatic updates and backups.
Cloud Subscription Model
Most cloud intranet providers offer a subscription model and so for a fixed monthly fee you get unlimited numbers of users and unlimited amounts of data storage. With a cloud provider, therefore, there is cost certainty.
Costs Associated With Other Intranet Options
There is not the same degree of cost certainty with the do-it-yourself options and much depends on the scope and extent of your intranet offering. Be sure though to include sufficient provision in the budget for piloting and testing your intranet. Companies often overlook this important final stage of the process.