An intranet is a software platform for linking people
and information over computer networks that:
- is based on open Internet standards;
- is interoperable across platforms, databases, and legacy systems;
- offers security, reliability, and scalability;
- is easy to implement, use, and manage.
An intranet is a TCP/IP network inside a company that links people
and information in a way that makes information more accessible, people
more productive, and access to all computing resources more seamless.
An intranet takes advantage of the open standards and protocols
that have recently emerged from the Internet. These open standards make
possible applications and services like email, groupware, information management
and secure database access, that are as powerful, and in some cases more
powerful, than traditional proprietary systems.
Intranets uses standard Internet technologies to create an environment
for information sharing and applications, implemented on an "Open"
network-based platform. Applications can be authored once and adapted to
other operating environments and hardware platforms as required;
Because an intranet is built on these open standards, users gain the
benefits of cross-platform and cross-database support, flexibility, and
vendor independence. Companies also gain the ability to access the innovations
and products created by an entire industry, not just a single vendor.
Corporations and Application Developers can leverage the services and
functions of the Internet as part of their overall Application Framework.
Intranets are built from the open systems and protocols of the Internet.
All services built on open Internet standards, operate equally well over
an intranet and the internet, with no gateways, data conversion, or application
An intranet based application framework typically offers equivalent
or better functionality than proprietary alternatives like Lotus Notes
and Microsoft BackOffice, while costing much less. Hybred approaches are
common and can integrate the "Best of Both Worlds" into a seamless
Intranets adapt perfectly to highly heterogeneous environments populated
by many client and server operating environments, databases, and legacy
systems. Client and Server side Intranet software is available on Windows
3.1, 95, and NT, as well as OS/2, Unix and Macintosh platforms, so you
can run your intranet on virtually any combination of hardware and operating
systems you choose.
Internet based products can be used as an interface to a wide variety
of applications and may take advantage of any relational database system,
including SQL based systems like Informix, Microsoft, Oracle, Interbase
and Sybase, as well as ODBC Databases such as Dbase, Paradox, FoxPro and
Access. Additionally, third-party solutions provide excellent backward
compatibility and migration tools.
An Intranet as a Development Platform
The Internet has created an open, standards-based network development
platform which can now play a key role in any application framework. Thousands
of third-party commercial software developers are creating software products
that are targeted to run on the Internet ~ Intranet platform.
Companies worldwide are moving forward with intranet systems as applications
can typically be developed and deployed more easily in the intranet environment.
Unlike monolithic proprietary systems such as Lotus Notes and Microsoft
Back Office or Exchange, Intranet Browsers and Servers can form a flexible
set of components and can be deployed in any way you want throughout your
network. You can run different services from different machines and scale
any service without incurring incremental management burdens.
Training costs are slashed through use of an industry-standard user
interface. Industry standard APIs (Application Programming Interface) along
with common scripting and programming languages reduce development time.
You may develop an application once and it's available to everyone.
Cross-Platform Database connectivity allows developers to create SQL
and ODBC connections to databases from CA/Ingres, Informix, Microsoft,
Oracle and Sybase, along with dozens of other databases, from desktop to
Additionally, administrators can manage the server environment along
with the distribution and maintenance of software using a simple HTML-based
interface from any remote site.
An intranet model can be described in terms of services. These services
are provided by the intranet's software environment - which, since intranet
software runs across all client and server operating systems and hardware
platforms, results in a common environment that spans even the most heterogeneous
An intranet's services provide users with capabilities like looking
up information, sending and receiving email, and searching directories.
These services also allow custom and third-party applications, such as
sales automation systems, to take advantage of the Intranet's capabilities
for linking remote offices. An intranet's services can also make life easier
for IT managers, since everything can be centrally managed, and fully integrated.
Two basic types of services make up an intranet:
User Services, which provide basic resources and applications
for end users including: Information Publishing, Navigation, Communications
and Application access.
Network Services, which help tie together and run the overall
network including: Directory, Security, Management and Replication.
An intranet can provide simple, network-wide content publishing and
management, ensuring that everyone has the latest information from anywhere
on the network. You can publish your latest product information locally,
and the information is instantly available globally, to anyone with access
HTML (HyperText Markup Language) documents can be created using intuitive
"what you see is what you get" (WYSIWYG) and drag-and-drop interfaces.
Legacy document formats such as word processing documents and spreadsheets
can also be published. Commercial formats supported include Adobe PDF,
Microsoft RTF, Microsoft Word, and will also support indexing and cataloging
of other document formats.
With hyperlinks, multimedia, and embedded objects, rich and interactive
online content can be integrated and personalized. Documents can be indexed
and organized as they are published, and can be managed from the desktop,
centrally in one location. The result is a seamless environment for access
to all information throughout your company.
An intranet makes it easy to find any piece of information or resource
located on the network. Users can execute a single query that results in
an organized list of all matching information across all servers. This
allows a manager to type in a simple request that returns all internal
and external information related to a particular question.
Browsing Hierarchies are easily created and agent services can watch
for new information or monitor existing resources for changes. Consequently,
all users have comprehensive and personalized access to all important information
across both their internal network and the Internet.
Communication and Groupware
Internet standards now allow open email and groupware capabilities to
be as powerful and functional as traditional proprietary alternatives,
and fully integrated across an intranet.
Richly formatted email and discussion groups incorporating audio and
video plus network calendaring and scheduling together provide for a seamless
environment that spans all modes of electronic communication.
Users can look up email addresses and phone numbers by using a simple
address book interface tied into an open directory service across the Internet.
For example, a salesperson can look up a customer's current status in
an internal customer-tracking discussion group, then look up the customer's
email address over the Internet and send the customer an email message.
Database and legacy application access.
An intranet excels at tying people into databases and legacy applications
with a consistent, easy-to-use interface, providing one-stop application
Existing databases and legacy applications can be accessed from a single
interface, providing seamless access to databases and applications. Application
access can be built on top of existing databases and business processes,
enabling easy-to-use workflow applications to be quickly implemented.
This means an inventory application could receive orders from any employee
on the network, tie into both internal and supplier databases, and place
orders and report delivery dates automatically.
Network Related Services
Directory Services - Information About People and Resources
on the Network.
Directory Services allow centralized, replicated, secure management
of User and Resource Information across the entire enterprise.
Directory servers track and manage information about people, access
control, server configuration, and application-specific resources. Administrators
can centrally manage user access control and server configuration parameters
across the entire enterprise. Applications can manage application-specific
information, including legacy directories such as those from proprietary
mainframe email systems. Directory information can be replicated across
the entire enterprise, enabling features such as universal single login.
Security groups, and databases are all subject to access control. This
is managed centrally, with information about specific resources and about
user privileges linked to those resources managed and distributed through
the intranet's directory service.
This means when a new employee joins a company, the administrator is
able to enter the access privileges and personal information once, with
the information available for any user or server on the network, across
all applications and platforms.
Email and real-time Communications
Corporations can issue and manage a security key infrastructure to give
their employees the ability to conduct company business securely across
For example, a product development team on a highly confidential project
can grant different access rights to core team members, other internal
associates, and external partners, enabling information access on a need
to know basis.
Replication - Transparently spreading data across the network.
Replication maximizes the efficiency of the network by allowing data
such as Web content, discussion group messages, directories, and database
tables to be distributed across an intranet. This allows a nationwide corporation
to replicate summary reports and typical database query results to local
branch offices, reducing network traffic and improving speed for end users.
Replication also makes it easy to work with applications, and discussion
groups offline in a way that allows the user to continue to make changes
and updates; when the user goes back online, all the changes are properly
Some relational databases provide replication services at the database
level for particular database applications.
An intranet can provide centralized administration and management, through
a common, integrated, HTML-based management interface that allows all servers
and resources to be managed securely from anywhere on the intranet.
Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) provides integration
with common network management environments such as those from CA, Hewlett-Packard,
IBM and Sun.
For example, an administrator at headquarters can administer all the
servers and install new applications for branch offices, through a single
interface, with changes instantly updated across the Net.
Researchers can use an intranet to access product development information,
debate topics in dedicated discussion areas and share experiences and project
results with colleagues around the world.
Intranet Based Applications
The old desktop-centric model, dominated by proprietary static non-networked
applications is changing. Companies are discovering that basing their business
computing environments on the network, and building an application framework
that includes Intranet based access, provide solutions that are typically
easier and more powerful for users, administrators, and application developers,
while costing less.
As a result, the network-based Intranet Application Framework :
- Provides cross-platform interoperablity at the network level, directly
addressing the cost and problems associated with managing multiple incompatible
- Is relatively inexpensive and easy to implement, unlike most "paradigm
shifts," which require you to replace all your existing systems, databases,
- Means you can continue to use your existing infrastructure including
desktop computers, servers, mainframes, databases, applications, operating
systems and networks.
- Allows developers to author once and run anywhere, even across both
client and server platforms, rather than repeatedly porting and customizing
applications for different proprietary platforms.
- Means user applications and updates can be deployed and managed centrally,
from the server, rather than requiring costly updates to static, individual
laptop and desktop systems.
- Has a low overall cost of implementation and ownership, including software,
custom applications, hardware, training, and support.
- Is based on open standards, providing flexibility, so companies can
select individual components from multiple vendors, today and in the future.
- Is already here and is changing the way companies do business.
Intranet Application Examples
A wide range of applications run in an intranet environment. Some applications
flow out of an intranet's services, others are custom developed by each
enterprise, and still others are provided by commercial software vendors.
Native Intranet Applications
The user and network services provided by an intranet, as described
above, directly translate into native applications that are provided in
the intranet environment. These native applications include the following:
Custom Intranet Applications
A primary benefit of an intranet is that enterprises can now easily
build custom applications that can be immediately accessed by users anywhere
on the intranet, on any platform. Because both development and deployment
are much faster, the cost savings over the old desktop-centric models are
significant. Further, users do not need extensive training. The applications
run in the familiar Navigator interface, and users already know the rules
- "point and click!"
Each company typically has hundreds of other application needs, large
and small, many of which have never been addressable because previously
there was no universal way for individual employees to instantly access
any information resource or application from the desktop, and there was
no way to develop and deploy new applications rapidly and universally.
Companies running intranets are finding that a combination of native,
custom, and commercial applications built on an intranet environment address
these needs head on. These applications address pressing business needs,
such as the following examples:
- The sales force needs up-to-date information about your products and
services, and it needs a system that allows orders to be taken and tracked
from the road.
- Members of a project team may be distributed across territories and
time zones. There needs to be a universal way for each project team
to provide information and documentation on its efforts and results so
they can work together more efficiently..
- The technical support staff needs a way to track customers and their
problems, ensuring successful resolution of each reported problem and providing
a way for customers to "help themselves" resolve basic problems.
- A company needs one email system that spans every desktop and every
person. Many large companies are running five or more, proprietary legacy
email systems, and have huge compatibility and interoperability problems.
For example, each email system has its own proprietary directory, and attachments
don't transmit seamlessly across email systems, creating islands of users
instead of seamless connectivity.
- New employees need a way to find information on company procedures,
organization, and benefits as soon as they come onboard.
- The marketing staff needs a way to access, through a consistent interface
from any desktop, all the customer and market research databases the company
The above are just a few of the applications most companies need that a
intranet can provide.
Research and Product Development - Modern product development
demands tight coordination between team members in widely separated regions
and time zones. An intranet allows product teams to be pulled together
seamlessly across the enterprise network.
Your company may also develop Intranet-based applications to streamline
internal processes such as project management and procurement, or newsgroups
so that teams can discuss projects and collaborate via the Web.
These services may help you cut down on project management overhead
and let project leaders focus more on technical problems than on administrative
As a result, you can quickly assemble virtual workgroups to tackle a
project regardless of the location of employees. Over time you should able
to do a lot more with internal web than with any dedicated groupware product
because of its open architecture.
Sales and marketing applications. Sales and marketing teams need
instant access to the latest product, pricing, and competitive information.
The intranet breaks down the barriers between people and the information
Multimedia Access. By publishing multimedia files on the intranet,
you could be saving thousands of dollars previously incurred for printing,
duplication and distribution of your marketing campaign materials among
all sales representatives, etc.
Worldwide sales material distribution - you can use an intranet
to distribute sales information; in the past, headquarters would have presentations
or other documents duplicated and sent via a courier to up to salespeople
worldwide. Also of interest is developing applications that allow salespeople
to use a browser via a local Hard Disk or CD-ROM when they are offline.
You can measure the cost savings of not having to duplicate material
every month, but that's not as important as having all the information
centralized in one place. People can search for what they need and get
Entire sales cycle support - build a dynamic sales and marketing
intranet. the system can map out each step of the sales cycle with links
to sales, support and other resources.
Human Resources Applications - Because virtually every employee
of a company has access to an intranet from his or her desktop or laptop,
it's easy to provide everyone with instant access to information and applications
across a wide range of human resources-related needs.
Company Information - An intranet can provide your clients and
employees access to information on seminars, company announcements, building
facilities, the employee directory, commuting options, benefits, child
care options, how to place purchase orders, how to get business cards,
safety equipment, and more. A user interface that gives people access to
information without having to worry whether it runs on their workstation
is a tremendous benefit.
Financial Applications - The ability to link disparate databases
and information sources across the enterprise and to run custom dynamic
applications makes an intranet an ideal environment for a broad range of
both universally accessible and access-controlled financial applications.
Order Procurement - Intranet Applications can let company employees
order office supplies right from their desktops by using a Web interface
to an internal database. From your desktop you can see whether the stockroom
has what you need, order a fully configured personal computer, and have
it delivered to your office, or pick up supplies from a drag-and-drop based
interface in an office supply catalog.
Once a company is running an intranet internally, it's easy to extend
services and applications out onto the Internet, using access control to
grant privileges to selected outside users or to the entire world, and
not requiring any content or application components to be modified.
Save time and money by providing timely data, to Customers, Suppliers
and distributors. It gives an opportunity to provide a valuable service
to your partners, and it's relatively inexpensive.
Customer Support - You can now provide your customers with proprietary
technical bulletins via an extended intranet solution. If you have customers
and suppliers all over the world, or just want to eliminate processing
paper, asked yourself, what is the best platform for deploying information
to your customers and suppliers worldwide? Do you want to lock your customers
into a proprietary system, or would you rather have something that takes
advantage of off-the-shelf software and industry standards?
Open messaging supports industry standard Internet email standards and
protocols. Interoperability with proprietary email systems is automatic,
since all proprietary email systems either have or are providing gateways
for open Internet standards such as SMTP. There are also
third-party products that help with interoperability, for example, (cc:Mail),
Retix (Notes), and Innosoft (DEC, IBM, HP). ]
An intranet's security services provide ways for resources to be protected
against unauthorized users, for communication to be encrypted and authenticated,
and for the integrity of information to be verified. Firewalls are one
primary method of keeping users where they should be.
Commercial Intranet Applications
Virtually every commercial software developer is creating new applications,
or retrofitting existing applications, to run in the Internet and Intranet
environments. Examples include sales force automation, financial systems,
personal productivity applications, financial trading floor systems, procurement
and business-to-business commerce applications, document management systems
as well as customer support and help desk applications.
©Micromax Information Services Ltd. 1999