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Commonly used in different types of organizations, an intranet is very similar to an Internet, but the difference is that an intranet is local, while the Internet is global. In other words, an intranet (a secure information-sharing system) uses data stored on an internal corporate network, while the Internet uses data stored on the servers all around the world. The purpose of an intranet differs according to the type of organization where it is implemented.
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An intranet implements many technologies known from the Internet, such as file transfer protocols, chat rooms, browser interfaces, and many others. Furthermore, not all users have access to all the data stored on a central server; this depends on the privileges and rank of each employee within the organization. It's also relevant that many organizations have a number of computers and routers already implemented. Therefore, an intranet can be considered as an extension to a network infrastructure that already exists within the organization.
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An intranet is based on open standards and protocols. Therefore, it allows the use of the applications that are both portable and cross-platform capable. In other words, these applications can work on most popular operating systems (Windows, different Linux distributions, Mac OS, etc), while these applications can also work on both personal computers and different portable devices (such as the iPad and similar products).
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Advantages of an Intranet
There are numerous benefits of an intranet. One of the most important benefits concerns the security of the information. If maintained and administered well, an intranet can provide encrypted access to highly sensitive information. This information is not transferred through the open networks but is available only to people inside the organization that have the required privileges. An intranet also provides a quality and secure communication between employees, it uses well known e-mail clients and Internet browsers, and it can be implemented easily on an existing infrastructure.
Some other advantages are its flexibility and scalability as well as the access it provides to accurate information. It also provides new business opportunities, since a company can create an extranet (a network of intranets of different organizations) and share sensitive information easily with its clients.
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Disadvantages of an Intranet
Every network concept has disadvantages. Naturally, the security risks come first. This does not concern only the software security issues, but also the way employees handle their user names and passwords. Sometimes, these passwords are left on a place where anyone can see them, while users also tend to choose simple passwords that are easy to guess (for example, date of birth, initials, children's names, etc). Some companies are not comfortable with this method of file and information sharing, and this technology brings additional costs as well. Although one purpose of an intranet is to ease the process of communication and file sharing within the organization, some employees who are not comfortable with computer technology might be frustrated and confused with this method.
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An intranet is a very useful private network, but naturally it is not required in all types of organizations. Therefore, a company's management should decide whether to implement an intranet or not, although it is clear that most companies can benefit greatly from this technology.
Image Credit: FreeDigitalPhotos, Renjith Krishnan