How to Set Up an Intranet: Design & Using SharePoint

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Planning and Design

The act of building an Intranet is simple compared to the amount of time needed to get the design, requirements and planning figured out.

Identify the project Sponsor and Stakeholders – Before you can start off on your Intranet project, you need to make sure you’ve got proper management support. Who will back you up when you propose to introduce an Intranet to your organization? Who is ultimately responsible for setting the vision and direction? Every project needs a sponsor and stakeholders. Setting up an Intranet is no different.

Design Requirements – Be sure to write down any specific requirements.

  • Does the stakeholder expect to be able to find a procedure using a simple search interface?
  • How many documents will you be hosting?
  • What design will you use (centralized, hub and spoke, etc.)
  • Who will be involved in evaluating projects?
  • What is the time frame for testing and implementing?
  • What is your budget?
  • Who will be responsible for maintaining the site after it goes “live”?

Be sure you’ve got these questions answered in order to start your project out on the right foot.

Research Solutions – using your requirements as a guide, research solutions. If you don’t have any budget, you’ll be forced to look at free solutions. If you have very few resources to help maintain the site after it is implemented, you may consider a hosted solution as opposed to on-site. Be sure to read reviews from industry trade magazines such as eWeek or sites that deal specifically with Intranet software (sometimes referred to as Portals or Content Management systems). CMSWire has a good list of software packages.

Demos – once you find a few solutions that should meet your needs, start by getting your hands on demos. This may be a lot of work, but it’s better to find out a product won’t work for your organization before you purchase it rather than after.

Prepare a Summary – once you’ve found the right package, write up a summary of your findings and present it to the sponsor and stakeholder(s).

Evaluating SharePoint

One of the easiest packages to evaluate is Microsoft SharePoint Server 2007. The best way to evaluate SharePoint is to download a pre-configured virtual machine image from Microsoft. Before doing this, you will need to make sure you have a machine running Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2 (available here).

Next, download the SharePoint 2007 Test Drive image here. Test Drive images allow you to download a single file and run the evaluation of SharePoint in a pre-configured virtual machine. This makes setting up your test environment as easy as booting up your virtual machine and giving it an IP address.

Follow the directions outlined in the Virtual Server 2005 documentation to install the product and load the SharePoint virtual appliance. You should be up and running in no time.

This post is part of the series: Understanding Intranets

This series covers in detail what an intranet is, both the advantages and limitations of intranets, example of intranet designs and how to plan for implementing an intranet.

  1. Understanding Intranet - What is an Intranet?
  2. Understanding Intranet – Advantages of Intranets
  3. Understanding Intranet - Disadvantages of Intranets
  4. Understanding Intranet - Example Designs
  5. Understanding Intranet - Simple Setup Checklist