Even the smallest companies can find it difficult to share information and locate documents.
Setting up a business intranet – a private website which can only be seen by people in your company – is a good way to improve access to information, share resources and reduce costs.
There are lots of ways your company can benefit from setting up an intranet site:
A well-designed intranet is more than a simple knowledge library. It can allow your employees to book holidays, log absence and take interactive training, as well as providing a shared file space where people can comment on each others’ work and mark edits in documents.
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You generally need a network server to build an intranet. It’s where all the files sit so people in your company can access them.
If you don’t have a server, you can use a hosted intranet service instead. This involves paying another company to host your intranet on their servers and can cost from £10 a month.
Hosted intranet services are a form of cloud computing. They’re often easier to set up than server-based packages. Try Basecamp or TeamLab or ask your IT supplier about other options. Many web hosting companies also offer hosted intranet services.
Design your intranet carefully. You need to decide what you want it to do and what information you’re going to include.
For instance, if your employees require quick access to your customer database, you might build this into the intranet, offering a log in option on the home page. Involve your staff from an early stage – after all, they’ll have to use it!
Once you’ve designed your intranet, you can decide how to build it. The technologies that power intranets are the same as those underlying the world wide web, so you can build a business intranet from scratch with the right expertise.
However, this takes significant time and effort, so it’s often better to use an intranet package. These can be installed onto your company’s network server and offer the common functions you might want from your business intranet.
The price of off-the-shelf packages varies. Some cost several hundred pounds – others are available free.
Hosted intranet services will include everything you need to get started.
Managing your intranet can be a challenge. Information overload is a common problem. Because the cost of publishing material is close to zero, it’s tempting to publish everything. This makes it hard for your staff to find the things they actually need.
To combat this problem and ensure information stays up-to-date, give your staff a sense of ownership over your intranet. Make sure someone is responsible for maintaining each area – and has time in their schedule to do so.
Some business intranets are under-used. This tends to happen when employees don’t know what they can do with the intranet, or find it hard to navigate.
Involving staff in the intranet right from the start will help ensure your business intranet is truly useful. You can also run training sessions to explain what your intranet offers.
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