An intranet is an internal, secured business environment, which uses HTML and TCIP protocols like the Internet, but operates on a LAN (local area network). If the LAN provides access to the Internet, the intranet resides behind a firewall, with no gateway to, or from the Internet. Note that if a gateway exists, it is not an intranet, but an extranet.
An intranet incorporates a working, interactive, custom environment to serve the business model, with familiar Internet-like functionality and navigation. It can be as basic or comprehensive as need dictates. Some general examples of intranet information or processes include:
Human Resources: From employee training materials to the employee handbook, an intranet can offer quick, easy access to key publications and processes for employees. It can help employees track and manage their benefits, including their 401(k) for example. Job application status and processing as well as employee directories may also be accessible via an a company's intranet. General company communications like newsletters and employee newsgroups or chat boards may also be provided internally.
Sales Department: One of the most productive uses of an intranet is interactive multimedia training. Sales reports, forecasts and goals, marketing strategies and geographic saturation are all tools that can be kept available at the click of a mouse. Profiles of potential new markets or clients, and information on potential competing markets can also be helpful to sales staff in designing better sales models.
Accounting Department: Requisition requests on an intranet will save time, resources and money. Pages within it can be password protected to limit employee access, or administratively controlled. Payroll, receivables/payables, and budget reports are all processes that can reside on there.
Information Systems: Data warehousing access, departmental software development applications, and network support can be invaluable uses of an intranet. Support, in the form of FAQs and interactive tutorials for virtually any purpose or department, can be stored there, allowing employees to teach themselves, minimizing training investment. Security information and technical resources are also common uses of an intranet.
Executive Branch: Bottom line information like quarterly profit/loss reports, stock market analysis, tax and legal information, and merger or partnership information can all be neatly provided in this environment. Meeting minutes, appointment calendars and key profiles (employees, companies or clients) can also reside here.
An intranet provides access to information quickly and easily in a familiar environment, while keeping this information securely off the public Internet. It also facilitates interdepartmental cooperation and saves hard and soft resources.
If you're considering an intranet, consultants specializing in site development can help you take the next step and advise you of the potential benefits and costs involved for your specific business.