An intranet is a private network within a company that shares information and computing resources among employees. It’s often used for communication and collaboration, such as a virtual meeting or a group project. An intranet can also be used to store a database of company records or other documents. Modern intranets are being rethought as companies focus more on employee experience applications. These newer platforms, also called social intranets or employee portals, combine many of the functions of traditional intranets with tools that make it easier for employees to work from home or remotely.
Instant messaging channels like Slack are great for real-time communication but they’re not ideal for making announcements or engaging in longer discussions. A centralized intranet allows everyone to access important information, find the latest updates and communicate with coworkers on a regular basis. Modern intranets offer a number of social elements, such as commenting and tagging, and can include features for document management and project planning.
Intranets can use a range of networking technologies, including local area networks (LANs), virtual private networks and leased lines to wide area networks. They have security systems that ensure only authorized users can access intranet content, such as a web server with a firewall that tracks data packets and confirms they’re not from unauthorized or malicious sources.
Companies that want to use their intranet for collaborative projects can add extranets, which allow third parties, such as suppliers and customers, to connect to the private network. An intranet can also connect to a MAN, which is a metropolitan area network that combines a number of LANs into a single unified communications system.
To gain access to an intranet, users need a network password and must be connected to the LAN through a desktop or laptop computer that has been configured to use the right network protocols. Remote workers can sign in to the intranet using a virtual private network (VPN) or another connection that gives them full functionality without connecting directly to the LAN. Some older intranets weren’t optimized for remote work, which made it difficult for some employees to access the software and services they needed.