by December 2, 2003 0 comments



An intranet can be defined as a private network inside an organization, which uses technology and software like that used on the Internet, but for internal use only (not accessible to the public). Also, the organization has control over the content provided on the Intranet as against the Internet, where there is no centralized control. Companies use intranets to manage projects, provide employee information, collaborate, distribute data and information, etc. At its most basic, the intranet works as a digital bulletin board that archives all public documents such as telephone lists, employee manuals and regular announcements. 

Very complex and transaction-oriented intranets can be built using state-of-the-art software tools. But what are the things that an organization that is yet to take the plunge do, to get a feel of what it is like? 

To get started, all you need is any old PC that can be plugged in as the intranet server. Or, you can host the intranet on your existing mail server or the like. You need a Web server to be installed to start off. IIS comes with Windows and is good enough. Other alternatives include Apache.

Simple pages can be made even in your word processor. From MS Word, you can select File>Save As and in the dialog box in “save as type” select Web page. And the page can be uploaded to your Web server.

What is the point in having such a simple setup? For starters, you can save a lot of paper. You do not, for example, have to print employee manuals for every employee. Second, the information is always available, and every one knows where it is. No more hunting through a dozen administration records to figure out what exactly the latest circular on travel expenses said.

But, like we said this is just scratching the surface. The next step is to build in interactivity. A simple first step: create an employee list and put it up on the intranet. Only, make each name a clickable link that opens up a mail to the particular employee. Starting from here, you can do things such as leave sanctions, purchase requisition and sanctions on the Intranet.

All this does not require complex coding, and will help you avoid the physical movement of a lot of paper, and also make the process a whole lot faster.

The next step could be to add discussion forums. At any given point of time, you would have any number of projects going on in the organization: new product launch, packaging change, rule and process changes…. The list is virtually endless. Instead of having physical meetings every time, or having every one send out huge chains of mail, you can easily move the whole discussion on to the intranet. You can set up public and private discussion groups on the intranet using easily available software. That way, everyone need not be available all the time for the discussions to proceed. Also, the complete discussion trail is available at one place, without having to hunt through mail and attachments and paper files.

The next step is collaboration. We have a separate article on how to enable basic collaboration on the Intranet in this issue (Basic
Groupware).

Once the utility of a basic intranet is established, you may want to consider adding more functionality to the intranet. At that point, you need to consider the hardware resources required, the specific software you will need and, of course, the manpower you will need to create and manage the site. 

Krishna Kumar

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