How to create an intranet

An intranet can help your employees communicate with one another, and foster team spirit within your company. Here's a quick guide on creating one

Essentially, an intranet is an internal website, reserved for a particular group or enterprise. Whereas a conventional website is designed for general public consumption, an intranet is meant for insiders only, and cannot be viewed by anyone outside the organisation it covers.

The basics

To build an intranet, you need a local area network (LAN), a web server, and a web browser.

 

The LAN provides a way of connecting several computers within a confined space, so they can communicate with each other and access the server. The simplest way to set up a company-wide LAN is using Ethernet cables; cables are plugged into the back of each computer in the company, and then linked together.

The web server hosts the intranet data, and allows you to run it. There are two popular types of web server, Apache and IIS, and both are widely available at an affordable price.

The web browser translates complex internet code into the pages you read and watch on your computer. Almost all computers come with a built-in web browser, such as Safari or Internet Explorer, and you can download additional browsers such as Mozilla Firefox if you wish.

Key issues

Here are the key steps which go into building an intranet:

Plan the content. What sort of stuff do you want your intranet to house? Many companies use it to tell employees more about the organisation they work for; if this is your intention, it may be prudent to include a page on each division of your company, key information about the people who work for you, and a brief company history.

Store and remember. When you install your web server, your computer will create a folder to house all your web files. Make sure you store this file in a safe place on your machine, and remember where it is.

Build the pages. You can create web pages using software such as Basekit or Dreamweaver, which you can buy online. These packages allow you to build a site using pre-design templates, which have the complicated html coding already in place – so you can design your intranet visually, without having to turn your words into web code. That said, it’s a good idea to have a basic knowledge of html as this way you can spot any obvious errors.

Test it out. It’s best to test out your new site early on, so you know whether or not you’re on the right track. Once you’ve built three pages, and a navigation bar to link them together, try publishing the site – there should be a ‘publish’ button, or something similar, in your web  writing software.

Tweak and hone. Don’t be afraid to keep going back over your pages, to make sure they’re exactly right. Ask your staff for feedback during the design stage; if they’re involved in the building of the site, they’re more likely to enjoy and utilise it once it goes live.

Once it’s complete

Once the site is up and running, it’s important to keep refreshing the content, adding new pages and adjusting information – if the pages lapse and become outdated, staff aren’t likely to spend their time on the intranet.

It’s best to delegate the task of managing the intranet to a particular member of staff. Make sure they’ve had all the training they need to understand the software, and give them a series of targets to work towards – as you would with any other project.

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