April 13, 2009 | last updated March 24, 2012 11:43 am

Intranet Advantage | How an internal network can help your business

Intranets come by many names: portals, dealer sites, employee hubs, private webs and extranets. But no matter what name you give them, intranets have become an integral part of many corporate web presences.

Simply defined, an intranet is a secure web site containing private information intended for a specific audience. This secure web site is housed within an organization on its own infrastructure but does not need to be limited only to internal users. External constituents — sales reps, board members and, in some cases, even customers — can be granted access to intranet content. An intranet that is hosted outside of your organization is considered an "extranet," even though it serves the same function as an intranet.

Improved Communication

When your company builds an intranet, it's common to use it to publish policies, procedures, forms, corporate directories, pricing information, sales support materials, collateral, newsletters, corporate calendars, announcements and more. And just as you can post many pieces of information, an intranet can offer many benefits.

For starters, an intranet can immediately improve internal communication throughout your organization. Because an intranet allows you to store information in a central location, you can rest assured that everyone within your organization has access to the most up-to-date information. Also, by storing documents, such as business practice guidelines, in one place, you're creating a more collaborative working environment both within your organization and among those with whom you do business.

An intranet can also improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your business. With all pertinent information available in a single location, employees can easily access what they need, when they need it. Taking that idea one step further, an intranet can also improve customer service. If your employees have easy access to the same information, they can answer customer questions quickly and more accurately, thanks to a centralized knowledge base.

An intranet can provide resources and outlets to organization members that the corporate office alone cannot provide, like an anonymous comment box. It can also help foster and create an online community within an organization. And with a password-protected location, an intranet makes for a much better way to send out sensitive and private information.

And, of course, an intranet can help you reduce your company's carbon footprint. With all your forms in one central location, and by providing employees the ability to fill them out online, you can eliminate unnecessary printing and copying.

Though it may seem like a daunting task, creating an intranet can be a manageable responsibility. To build one successfully, ask yourself these three questions: Who will be using it? What will be posted to it? What level of protection will be necessary?

With an understanding of an intranet's benefits and the specific areas on which you will need to focus, you can now decide if launching a corporate intranet is the right decision for your company in 2009.

Michael J. Villa is the CEO and founder of Dovetail Internet Technologies LLC in Shrewsbury. He can be reached at mvilla@dovetailinternet.com.

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