An intranet is a private network that can only be accessed by authorized users. The prefix "intra" means "internal" and therefore implies an intranet is designed for internal communications. "Inter" (as in Internet) means "between" or "among." Since there is only one Internet, the word "Internet" is capitalized. Because many intranets exist around the world, the word "intranet" is lowercase.
Some intranets are limited to a specific local area network (LAN), while others can be accessed from remote locations over the Internet. Local intranets are generally the most secure since they can only be accessed from within the network. In order to access an intranet over a wide area network (WAN), you typically need to enter login credentials.
Intranets serve many different purposes, but their primary objective is to facilitate internal communication. For example, a business may create an intranet to allow employees to securely share messages and files with each other. It also provides a simple way for system administrators to broadcast messages and roll out updates to all workstations connected to the intranet.
Most intranet solutions provide a web-based interface for users to access. This interface provides information and tools for employees and team members. It may include calendars, project timelines, task lists, confidential files, and a messaging tool for communicating with other users. The intranet website is commonly called a portal and can be accessed using a custom intranet URL. If the intranet is limited to a local network, it will not respond to external requests.
Examples of intranet services include Microsoft SharePoint, Huddle, Igloo, and Jostle. While some services are open source and free of charge, most intranet solutions require a monthly fee. The cost is usually related to the number of users within the intranet.
Updated: September 23, 2015