Intranet Characteristics, Architecture, Advantages, Disadvantages

Table of Contents:-

  • What is Intranet?
  • Characteristics of Intranet
  • Architecture of Intranet
  • Advantages of Intranet
  • Disadvantages of Intranet

What is Intranet?

An intranet is a private computer network that uses network connectivity and Internet protocols to securely share any part of an organization’s information or operational systems with its employees.

Sometimes, the term intranet refers only to the organization’s internal website. Still, often, it is a more extensive part of the organization’s computer infrastructure, and private websites are an essential component and focal point of internal collaboration and communication.

Intranets are becoming popular, especially in the commercial field, because:

1). The growth of the Internet has spawned sophisticated Web clients and authoring tools:

2) Web browsers provide a familiar and consistent interface for different types of information,

3) The client-server model enables effective integration of different systems and information across a wide range of platforms;

4) It is very easy to publish information generated for Intranets on the Internet (as the same technology and file formats are being used).

The organization’s intranet does not necessarily need to provide access to the Internet. When such access is provided, it is usually through a network gateway with a firewall, protecting the intranet from unauthorized external access.

The gateway often also implements user authentication, and encryption of message connectivity for off-site employees to access company information, computing resources, and internal communications.

Increasingly, intranets are being used to deliver applications and tools e.g., collaboration (to facilitate working in teleconferencing and groups) or sophisticated corporate directories, project management, sales and customer relationship management tools, etc., to advance productivity.

Characteristics of Intranet

1) Controlled Access: The intranet should be password protected. It should allow different levels of access Controlled access makes the intranet more flexible and greatly widens the range of uses.

2) Shared Access to Documents: If the intranet does not provide shared access to documents to the users, it is not the intranet.

3) Centralized Scheduling System: A centralized scheduling system ensures everyone stays on the same page. It allows meetings and events to be scheduled from a department, company, and team level.

4) Individualization: Intranets should ideally be tailored to each user. The idea is that intranets should be convenient and comfortable for a variety of employees with a varying range of responsibilities.

5) Scalable: Web-based intranets are fully scalable. From 10 documents to 10 million, an intranet can truly serve its constituents, as long as network bandwidth suffices to meet user demands.

6) Open: The web is platform-neutral and global, and web browsers function as universal clients. Web technology is based on open standards is available for almost all leading hardware platforms and operating systems and can leverage legacy database systems.

7) Standard-Based: Internet and web technologies are based on Open Systems technology standards and have two basic promises to ensure the Internet network’s viability and scalability globally.

Architecture of Intranet

Competitive pressures lead to an intense challenge for companies to improve their business while inducing the strain on corporate information systems. Intranets take on increasing importance as well as a new role in the development, deployment, and management of applications and resources.

Intranet applications rest on several layers of infrastructure. The layered architecture allows companies to combine applications, tools, and databases in a coordinated approach. The layered approach also allows companies to offer application enhancements at each layer.

Information systems developers and managers today often have to manage incompatible systems, brought in at various times to do very different tasks. Data formats usually differ, and the connectivity issues involved are inherently complex.

Achieving a high level of integration requires the capabilities of multiple software products to communicate and cooperate in data exchange and process hand-offs. These demands require Intranets to go beyond their traditional “lowest common denominator” role of electronic mail to more complex functions.

These functions are such as:

1) Simplify access to the multiple databases, applications, platforms, and objects common in today’s organizations.

2) Integrate existing systems with new technology easily as they emerge.

3) Improve the scalability, performance, and reliability of today’s client/server applications.

4) Provide the flexibility to partition applications between different computers and platforms.

5) Simplify administration of the distributed environment by supporting proprietary and industry-standard management solutions.

The intranet interface adds value to the customer interchange by automating qualifying leads from an external Web home page. Used in conjunction with other applications, the Intranet enables the integration of the Web as an interactive marketing forum to become an input to the sales and marketing processes within the company.

Intranets enable access to the central database, thereby providing salespeople and direct marketers with information to improve the quality of the contact, whether it is by mail, by telephone, or in person. Many financial services firms use the Web to handle account inquiries. While responding to a customer’s request or query, the system updates the customer’s profile information and attempts to cross-sell other financial products.

Below are the requirements being met with Intranet-based applications:

  1. Provide individualized lead and contact management through automatically updated to-do lists, reminders, and follow-up lists.
  2. Drive leads to closure while tracking all decision-makers, even if they are distributed across multiple sites.
  3. Automatically escalate action requests and notify appropriate personnel when deal status changes.
  4. Generate forecasts, including product, territory, regional, national, and worldwide reports.
  5. Generate lost business reports to support analysis of product/market needs.

Advantages of Intranet

1) Workforce Productivity

 Intranets can assist users in locating and accessing information faster and utilizing applications pertinent to their roles and responsibilities. Through a web browser interface, users can retrieve data stored in any database the organization opts to make accessible, at any time and subject to security provisions, from any location within the company’s workstations. This enhances employees’ capacity to execute their tasks more expediently, accurately, and confidently, knowing they can access the correct information. Additionally, it contributes to enhancing the services provided to users.

2) Time

 With intranets, organizations can make more information available to employees on a “pull” basis (i.e., employees can link to relevant information at a time which suits them) rather than being deluged indiscriminately by e-mails.

3) Communication

Intranets can be powerful communication tools within an organisation, facilitating vertical and horizontal communication. From a communications standpoint, intranets are beneficial for disseminating strategic initiatives that have a global impact across the organisation. The type of information easily conveyed includes the purpose of the initiative, its objectives, the responsible parties, progress achieved thus far, and contact details for further inquiries. By providing this information on the intranet, staff members can stay updated on the organisation’s strategic focus.

4) Document Handling

Web publishing allows cumbersome corporate knowledge to be maintained and easily accessed throughout the company using web technologies and hypermedia.

5) Business Operations and Management

Intranets are also being used as a platform for deploying and developing applications to support business decisions and operations across the internetworked enterprise.

6) Cost-Effective

Users can view information and data via a web browser rather than maintaining physical documents such as procedure manuals, internal phone lists and requisition forms.

7) Promote Common Corporate Culture

Every user views the same information on the intranet.

8) Enhance Collaboration

With information easily accessible to all authorized users, teamwork is facilitated.

9) Cross-Platform Capability

Standards-compliant web browsers are available for Windows, Mac and UNIX.

Disadvantages of Intranet

1) Performance Limitations

Some applications that have been well optimized for conventional and proprietary systems create a heavy system workload when migrating them to an Internet platform or merging them with Intranet presentation; this problem will be reduced with enhanced Internet technologies and continuing improvements in hardware price performance.

2) Presentational Issues

Some people whose experience is rooted in paper presentation want web pages to look like printed equivalents, and burden the systems and their users with unnecessary and sometimes tedious “graphics”, which often get in the way of the information rather than making it more accessible and attractive. This is a learning curve matter, at some stage, the users’ real needs tend to come to the fore.

3) The “me too” Syndrome

The Internet world spawns innovations on a daily or even hourly basis. It is very difficult when a novelty first appears to know whether it is a genuine advance or a fad, but in some systems, people cannot resist the urge to use the newest capabilities. There is also a tendency for suppliers to promote new application functions that will only optimize with next-generation technologies, and that can cripple the two, three or four-year-old systems that most people use at any particular time.

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