Intranet vs. Internet: Dispelling The Common Misconceptions
Information technology has rapidly advanced in recent years and continues to. With data being accessible as an on-demand commodity, most businesses or corporations use intranets to improve internal communication, boost employee engagement and facilitate knowledge sharing.
Have you ever wondered why many organizations use an intranet when the internet is readily available? The terms intranet and the internet may sound similar but vary hugely in terms of purpose and usefulness. If your organization has internal communication or collaboration challenges, it may be time to adopt a powerful modern intranet solution.
Let’s discuss both terms in detail.
Internet vs. Intranet: What is the Difference?
The “internet” is a worldwide network of interconnected computer systems where anyone can share information or communicate with each other. In contrast, an “intranet” is a closed network of computer systems & servers within an entity. An entity, such as an educational institute, a business organization, a government department, or a large hospital, designs the intranet explicitly for the benefit of the members. Its purpose is to enable the storage and exchange of information within a group of select users who are members of the entity. An intranet can also have custom-built tools that allow members to manage and utilize data per the entity’s specific operational needs.
What is the Internet and How Does it Work?
The internet is a network of billions of computer systems interconnected via a standard Internet Protocol (or IP).
In this network, a computer system can be a personal desktop, smartphone, tablet, laptop, or server. Each computer system is assigned a unique Internet Protocol Address (IP Address). The IP address is a combination of numbers (e.g., 184.108.40.2061) that identifies the location of a computer system within the global network.
However, as we cannot remember multiple IP Addresses to access information from the computer system, each IP Address is assigned a unique name called a domain name. A Domain Name Server (DNS) maintains a record of each IP address and corresponding domain name. Suppose you want to access data hosted on a particular system, you visit the domain name, and the DNS server finds the IP address in the background and retrieves the data.
For example, consider a system with an IP Address 220.127.116.111 and the corresponding domain name “examplename.”
Users worldwide can access this machine by using its web address www.examplename.com. This web address is also called a Uniform Resource Locator (URL).
Thus, internet users worldwide access information shared or stored on a system with their unique IP addresses and domain names to transfer or store data of various forms in real-time.
In other words, users across the real world are interconnected in the virtual world via computers.
But this is an open network with no boundaries. Although you can restrict access to certain information and make it accessible only to the site administrators, it is still a freeway for the worldwide community. It enables global business transactions, widespread knowledge-sharing, communication, large-scale entertainment, and sometimes even national or international governance. Since the internet is open to everyone, it is, in a way, “transparent.”
Additionally, the speed of sharing information or performing transactions can vary drastically and sometimes slow due to the “traffic” of millions of users worldwide.
Also, the freely available information storage and tools are generic and only rarely customized to meet the needs of a group of users. Due to these challenges, organizations seek a mini-internet for use within themselves. In colloquial terms, they require exclusive access to a special club within the internet, and that’s why they use an intranet.
What is an Intranet and How Does it Work?
An intranet functions like the internet; it is also an interconnected network of computers. It enables data storage and information exchange.
The computers within an intranet also have individual IP addresses for identifying their locations and tracking their activities.
But unlike the internet, systems in an Intranet are not freely accessible by the public. These systems are instead part of a closed and secure network, made available only to members of the company’s intranet.
While the members can also access the open internet from these systems, the access is usually regulated through a “firewall” or a security layer.
Benefits of Intranet
There are many advantages of establishing an Intranet within an organization. Let’s take a look at some of them.
1. In-house Websites or Portals
You can build an in-house website or portal for your employees. This in-house website can be a centralized repository for your organization. An intranet portal can host training materials and resources for business-specific operations such as travel bookings, publishing company policies, data libraries, leave management, payroll information, and transactions. Our modern Microsoft SharePoint-based intranet solution PeopleOne is ideal for businesses that need a centralized knowledge management system.
2. Achieve Collaboration
An Intranet is an effective collaboration tool that brings employees together when they work on the same project. Your employees can use the intranet to:
- Share data
- Create multi-user applications
- Make revisions to a shared file
- Communicate with each other
- Discuss ideas
- Store their work in the central repository
Employees can use the discussion board feature on PeopleOne to brainstorm project ideas or have non-work-related conversations. Although this is achievable with the internet, the speed, security, and productivity are much better with an Intranet.
3. Integrate Custom Tools & Applications
A modern intranet like PeopleOne can be the single access point to enterprise data and applications.
Let’s take the healthcare industry as an example. A hospital may use a custom patient management tool, and the administrative staff may use the application to record patient history. Similarly, the hospital may use other online tools for administrative purposes such as managing financial transactions and bookkeeping, insurance claims, inventory, supply of medicines, etc. You can configure the intranet to show only the relevant data and applications to employees based on their roles.
Likewise, in a business environment, you can use the intranet to integrate tools created for customer relationship management, sales activity tracking, after-sales service management, project management, financial management, etc. You can integrate custom applications and business tools per an entity’s needs into PeopleOne to create a holistic experience for your employees. With PeopleOne, your employees no longer have to switch between multiple applications.
4. Implementation of Software Updates
Earlier, organizations struggled with implementing software updates on employee systems. With an intranet, it is possible to simultaneously install software updates in all employee systems (laptops or desktops), significantly saving time, effort, and cost.
This may be done for all employees or a particular group of employees who are the intended users of a software or tool. In addition, in some organizations, employees can update the software themselves using the intranet and available software updates, further easing the workload of the information technology management department.
5. Internal Communications
Communicating with remote workforce or frontline workers can take time and effort. An intranet enables the management of an entity to communicate with the members (usually employees) and make important announcements regarding operations, policies, events, management changes, achievements, advisories, or any other formal communications. While you can send emails or use a chat platform to broadcast company information, an intranet is more effective. When you broadcast information on an email or a chat group, there’s no way to determine if the recipients have viewed the information. Also, employees may miss critical updates if they have multiple open chats.
With PeopleOne, you can communicate critical information promptly to the entire workforce, see how many employees have read the information, and maintain a historical repository of company updates for later reference.
6. Internal Social Networking
While not the same as social networking websites on the internet, these internal websites promote social togetherness in an organization. Employees can use the intranet to convey festive greetings to each other, send birthday/anniversary wishes, and appreciate specific efforts. In addition, employees can create groups based on common interests and goals, share pictures of team outings, etc.
How to Choose an Intranet for Your Business?
With tons of intranet solutions on the market, choosing the right one may be overwhelming. That is why it is crucial to identify the outcomes you want to achieve and how the different stakeholders will use the intranet. Identifying a technology partner with vast experience in creating digital workplaces is crucial. Our expert team is here to listen to your business objectives and narrow down the customization you need.
As we progress into the modern era, the case of establishing an Intranet within an organization is more vital than ever. The intranet is more efficient, secure, manageable, and customizable than the internet, and leadership teams and HR professionals can leverage it to build teams and grow the organization. Try PeopleOne to communicate effectively with your workforce and increase employee engagement.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on March 26, 2019 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.