What is an intranet portal?

Graphic representing an intranet portal

An intranet portal is a private network, built using internet technologies. It's only available to people authorised to use it - usually, employees of your company

The first intranet portals were simple. They offered little more than the ability to publish and view company information and policies.

But these days, intranet portals tend to be more powerful. Shared file storage, virtual workspaces, collaboration areas, instant messaging and IT support systems are common components.

An intranet portal is often called an intranet, company intranet or staff intranet.

Intranet portal benefits

If implemented successfully, an intranet portal can bring many benefits to your business. For instance:

  • Improved communication. A good intranet portal is a communications hub. It should be the place your people go for information or help (although it shouldn’t replace face-to-face communication entirely).
  • Increased efficiency. An intranet portal can boost efficiency in all kinds of ways. For instance, you'll have less paperwork to handle.
  • Consolidated resources. A company intranet portal can provide a gateway to resources like your customer database.
  • Boosted security. An intranet portal provides a safer place to share documents. It can eliminate the risks of sharing data via email.

An intranet portal can be particularly useful if your business has several offices or employees who work from home. It provides a clear channel to keep staff in touch, even when they're out of the office.

Intranet portal functions

You can build a vast range of functions into your intranet portal. Here are some of the most common:

  • Distributing company information. You can publish memos, news, and announcements on your intranet portal.
  • Managing documents. Some intranet portals allow employees to share documents, so everyone can work on the latest version.
  • Delivering training. An intranet portal can incorporate online training content to help your staff develop skills and stay up to date.
  • Automating admin. Streamline holiday requests, appraisals and more. Processes can take place on your intranet portal instead of on paper.
  • Connecting to other systems. Your intranet can provide a front-end for your accounts, customer database and other business systems.
  • Communicating and discussing. An intranet portal gives staff a place to debate policies, direction and strategy — opening up your business.

With so many possibilities, it's important to assess your requirements carefully. You may wish to involve an IT supplier or consultant with knowledge of what's possible and how much it might cost.

Creating your intranet portal

You must answer three important questions when creating your intranet portal:

  1. What do we want to use it for? Answer this in detail before you start investigating specific packages. Make sure your staff are involved in mapping out the functions you want your intranet portal to offer.
  2. Where should we host it? You can host your intranet on a server in your business, or you can use a third-party service. Keeping it in-house gives you more control, but also means you have to handle all maintenance.
  3. How should we build it? Although you can build an intranet portal from scratch, most companies customise software to meet their requirements.

Ultimately, your intranet portal will only succeed if your employees value and use it. It's important to keep them involved at every stage of your intranet's design and development.

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