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If you're reading this, then you're already familiar with the internet—it's the ubiquitous system of interconnected computer networks that lets your computer speak to any number of other computers anywhere around the world. Mostly so that you can look at cute pictures of cats.
An intranet, on the other hand, may have fewer cat photos, but is no less important to a large number of businesses. It's sort of a private and personalized internet that's only available to members of a particular organization.
Most large and enterprise-level businesses have an intranet for internal usage by their employees, so as to make available a wide array of information and resources that are important for both running the business and maintaining human resources (HR).
This buyer's guide will help you determine if your own small-to-midsize business (SMB) could benefit from its own intranet, and how to pick the right intranet software should you need it.
Here's what we'll cover:
What Is Intranet Software?
The general definition of intranet is “a local or restricted communications network, especially a private network created using World Wide Web software." In practice, this means that an intranet is a system used by an organization to keep its resources private, yet still allow its members to access those resources from their own computer.
Think of your business' intranet as the digital version of a company library, wherein you can provide your employees with access to all of the information, files, documents and other important resources that they may need to access as a part of their job or to take advantage of their benefits.
Intranet software, then, is the system that you'll use to create and access this localized, private network. Employees will be able to log into the system either by accessing your office's wi-fi or through a password-protected encryption that they can utilize while at home or on the road; in either case, the security of the network is a key part of the entire system.
However, there's more to intranet software than just a protected, cloud-based storage locker for documents. We'll discuss those other features in the following section.
Common Features of Intranet Software
Below is a table listing some of the most common features of intranet software. Not all vendors will provide the same functions, but these are the most important ones of which you should be aware:
|Encrypted intranet access||Makes sure that only verified employees and others granted access will be able to utilize your intranet system, whether that is through using your localized wifi or through signing in outside of the office via encrypted password.|
|Document management||Provides a repository of documents, files and other content. These can include sales and marketing tools/assets, process documents, content templates, HR guidelines, legal policies and more. By housing these documents on your intranet, you can avoid the hassle of keeping them stored on a third-party server like Google or Box.|
|Dynamic forms||Provides employees with HR forms that allow them to monitor their compensation, check on their benefits and make any necessary changes. Forms that need to be submitted to the HR manager can be routed there through easy one-click submission that makes for a quicker, smoother process for both employee and manager. Some of the most popular HR forms include employee health benefits, expense claims and leave requests.|
|Team workspaces & discussion forums||Allows employees to communicate with one another about shared projects as well as outside/social interests. They not only make collaboration both within and across teams much easier, but can also foster a more positive work environment, particularly if many employees work outside of the office.|
|Search tools||Provides an intuitive, powerful search engine built into your intranet software that will allow your employees to easily find and access the various tools and documents housed therein.|
|Homepages||Offers your employees a set of clear links to the most-used portions of your company intranet, but also serves as a place to showcase important business news, highlight employee performance and further foster company culture.|
The most visually engaging portion of your intranet will typically be the homepage, and intranet software will provide you with the ability to design and launch a page that will be useful and interesting for your employees, such as the one below:
What Size Buyer Are You?
Your intranet needs (and thus your intranet software needs) will vary drastically depending upon the size of your business. We recommend you look for the following features based on the size of your business:
- Micro/small business (1-10 employees): If your business only has a handful of employees, you may not need intranet software at all. At most you will want document management and dynamic forms to create an easily-accessible content repository for all employees.
- Mid-sized business (11-100 employees): At this size you will almost certainly want a company intranet to help you manage documents and forms, and potentially to create team workspaces.
- Large/enterprise-level business (more than 100 employees): At larger organizational levels intranet software is a must-have in order to make it possible to keep your company organized, and for your employees to access documents, forms, and workspaces.
Other factors to take into consideration when picking the best intranet software for your business include:
- Mobile capability. These days it's vital that employees are able to access important information and documents on their phones. Most intranet software vendors account for this and will provide for mobile access, but you will want to make certain of this before you make a purchase.
- Integration with other software systems. Different stakeholders across your company may require that intranet software integrates with other important systems they use—such as your HR software or your customer relationship management (CRM) software—so also be sure to check that these integrations are possible when choosing the right vendor for you.