What is an intranet? They matter now more than ever

By Darian Mavandad
July 14, 2022
5 min read
Computer screen showing "What Is An Intranet"

Outside of internal comms, HR, and IT, the word “intranet” may be totally foreign. But in 2022, having a robust intranet software is more important than ever, for a number of reasons. Your intranet solution is the one place employees can rely on to get accurate and up-to-date information—whether it be regarding calendars, policies, marketing assets, or tech support. Let’s answer the question of “what is an intranet”, dive into a bit of its history, and take a peak into its future!

What is an intranet?

An intranet is an internal tool, usually a website—but it can also be an internal comms platform, or even a page within a social network—that houses important employee documents. It is accessible only to members of an organization and is not accessible or searchable by the general public (i.e., it won’t appear in Google). The goal of the intranet is to aid employees in finding important resources, while also enhancing collaboration and communication in the workplace. It can also help with maintaining and enhancing compliance management. In its truest state, it is part shared drive, part social network.

At IC, we like to refer to intranets as being the “single source of truth” for an organization. It contains the most “true” information, meaning, if you wish to find the most accurate and up-to-date information, there is only one place where you need to look—your intranet!

Of course, your intranet will live alongside other internal communication tools, like Teams and Slack, and ideally, it will integrate well with those channels, allowing you to push communications to employees and draw people back onto your intranet. The integration of two or more of these tools with your intranet makes up an organization’s digital workplace, creating a balance of push and pull communications.

The “a” vs. the “e”

Choosing cloud-based vs. on premise intranets are an important decision to make

You’d be excused if you mishear “intranet” for “internet”. After all, the latter is more widely known and recognized, and plays a part in almost everyone’s lives. Both an intranet and an internet can serve as a resource hub, where people can find reliable information (or not, but that’s an issue for a different blog); however, their key difference lies in who can access that information.

The intranet can only be accessed with organization-based credentials (your work email and a password, for example), and can even be tied to a specific location—if you’re not at work you may not even be able to access your intranet at all, especially if your intranet provider offers an on-premise solution. The first part of the word “intranet” comes from the Latin word “intra”, meaning “inside”, which can work as a reminder of the differences between intranets and internets.

The intranet has not remained the same

The intranet has a long and rich history, and is largely in its 3rd iteration currently, referred to as “Intranet 3.0”. The first intranets arose in the 90s, and were essentially servers containing an organized list of internal links in order to bring some sense of structure to the inner workings of an organization and increase worker productivity.

In 1999, Intranet Connections launched one of the first web-based, purpose-built intranets. The adoption of the world wide web moved intranets from client-server solutions to web-based software. These early intranets were largely static, and were not seen as an interactive hub for communication or collaboration, until about 2005, when websites across the web became more interactive, and thus “Web 2.0” was born.

Shortly after, “Intranet 2.0” was born, with greater emphasis on user experience, interaction, and employee communications. 15 years later, the intranet has entered a new stage in its life, “Intranet 3.0”, which places greater importance on features such as mobile-friendliness, personalization, and push communications.

Why are intranets so important today?

A remote work setup highlighting the importance of an intranet

Intranets have been around for decades, so why is the question of “what is an intranet” more relevant than ever today? Well, in the past decade, the workplace has slowly turned more and more digital, and the events of 2020 only hastened that process, forcing organizations around the globe to adopt a completely digital workplace, some permanently.

How easily your employees can access important information remotely is directly correlated with how productive your employees are remotely. In 2022, it is important not only to have a central and reliable single source of truth, but to also ensure the software used to create one plays nicely with Teams, Slack, email, or SMS. And that’s where IC comes in!

The intranet of tomorrow, today

Are you ready to find your own answer to “what is an intranet”? Intranet Connection has been in the intranet space for over 2 decades, and with features that integrate with other employee collaboration tools, we know we will be the natural fit for your organization.

Book a no-obligation demo today and see our software in action! And be sure to check out more of our free resources, such as our Measurable Improvements with IC’s Intranet free eBook!

By Darian Mavandad

Darian has a degree from McGill University, and joined IC to empower internal communicators by creating content that inspires. In his free time, he loves traveling, reading, and skiing.