Frequently, at Stanford Web Services we receive requests to build an intranet as part of a website. What exactly do people mean by "intranet?" Each department, lab, and institute might have different requirements an "intranet." Let's look at some different ways you might want to use an intranet and the tools available at Stanford that can help make your intranet possible.
What is an intranet?
According to our old friend Wikipedia, an intranet is:
“...a private network, accessible only to an organization's staff....[and] can constitute an important focal point of internal communication and collaboration, and provide a single starting point to access internal and external resources.”
From our experience we've met with a range of intranet requirements. An organization may simply need a section of private pages that are protected under a login to keep more sensitive information limited to specific audiences. In other cases we see requirements for collaboration, interaction, and notifications. – a much more complex set of requirements. With such a diversity of needs for an "intranet," we are fortunate that Stanford offers several solutions addressing these intranet needs. Let's look at some intranet requirements and point out some tools that meet those requirements.
Support for communication and collaboration
If your organization needs support for communication and collaboration, Stanford provides a variety of productivity and collaboration tools including Google Talk, Adium, and Pidgin for instant messaging, and Confluence as a collaborative wiki and for update notifications. Here’s a list of productivity and collaboration tools available at Stanford, which include tools such as Wikis, Google Apps, Video Conferencing, and so forth.
Access to resources
If your organization needs a portal or a “one stop shop” for links and resources, you could be acheive this by using either a wiki such as Confluence, Google Docs, or, yes, by creating a section of private pages on your organization’s website.
If your organization needs document management such as providing research papers or resumes for download, Stanford gives you several options including Box for Stanford, Google Drive for Stanford, and AFS. Here’s a handy comparison of Stanford’s document management solutions.
The typical target audience for an intranet is not the general population. Instead the audience consists of people that are known to the organization and need to login before accessing resources. For a department this may include faculty, students, and staff; for a conference, this may include the organizers, speakers, and attendees.
If your organization needs to use authentication to manage access to internal resources, Stanford supports this with tools such as WebAuth and Workgroups. These authentication tools integrate with most of the tools listed above.
WebAuth provides a login to access many Stanford web sites with a single sign-on. If your organization needs to limit access to tools and services, you will be able to use WebAuth to provide authentication for accessing Stanford resources such as pages on your website, Box, AFS, and Google Drive,
Workgroups allow you to define groups of Stanford people and grant access privileges based on these groups. If your organization needs to povide access to resources based on groups such as faculty or students, you may find that using workgroups will make it easier for you to manage that access.
So, if you feel that your organization needs an intranet, think through the specific requirements you might need – collaboration? privacy? ... etc. – and before investing your time and resources into building something custom, try out the existing tools. Who knows, maybe you'll find a great fit!
If you have a favorite intranet tool that you use at Stanford, please share. We'd love to hear more about what you use and love!