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Intranet Management

What is an intranet? The definitive explanation

An intranet wears many hats inside an organization. Simply put, an intranet is an internal website that helps employees get stuff done.

11 minute read
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We’ll make the term very simple for you: an intranet is defined as an internal website that helps employees get stuff done. That’s it. That’s what an intranet definition is in simple, everyday language. 

The more formal definition of an intranet is a private, secured network that only authorized users within an organization can access, and helps streamline workflows, enhance collaboration, and centralize information.

As workplaces evolve in the digital age, the significance of intranets continues to grow. In this article, you’ll learn the definitive explanation of what an intranet is along with:

What is an intranet?

Intranets serve as private networks accessible only to authorized users within an organization. And while intranets have been around for close to 30 years, some organizations are recently discovering them. 

With the rise of the digital workplace, many companies are discovering that intranet software isn’t just nice to have, but rather an essential platform for connecting employees. After all, for many of us, work is no longer somewhere we go, but something we do.

An intranet wears many hats. It’s a website, communications channel, knowledge management tool, culture tool, and collaboration platform. It helps people work better by combining the best features of wikis, blogs, and document and content management systems. An intranet makes it easy for everyone inside an organization to contribute—whether remote, hybrid, or in-person.

The evolution of intranets

The start of intranets traces back to the early days of computing when organizations used internal networks for communication and information-sharing among employees.

When intranets first came onto the digital scene, they were very rudimentary, serving basic functions, such as storing company-wide data and broadcasting information from a central location. Whether they were built or bought, they were not exactly designed for collaboration. 

When the concept of Web 2.0 was popularized in 2004, it represented a huge shift in the way digital information was managed. Intranets evolved into a much more valuable and engaging tool for employees and organizations. Current-day intranets incorporate more sophisticated features, such as document management systems, collaboration tools, and customizable interfaces tailored to the unique needs of each organization. 

intranet content ideas

Now, the way people live and work is drastically different. Social technology is as much a part of our everyday routines as our morning java (they actually go nicely together). Thankfully, modern intranet platforms, such as ThoughtFarmer, make it easy to build and maintain an intranet with minimal IT resources. Today’s intranet enhances employee communication and collaboration by giving people the tools to be productive, informed, and engaged anytime, anywhere. 

Why having a company intranet is more important than ever before

With more companies and workforces going global and the rise of social technology, people are increasingly working remotely or in a hybrid workplace. Gallup reported in its State of the Global Workplace Report 2023 that only 23% of employees are engaged at work. Leveraging intranet software can have positive effects on key organizational priorities, such as employee engagement, operational efficiency, and digital transformation. 

When organizations adapt to a digital workplace with the best digital tools, such as a well-designed intranet site, they enable, support, and empower their employees. 

Key features in an intranet

Modern Intranet

An intranet has multiple features at your disposal, such as content management tools. You have the flexibility to create an intranet custom to your organization’s needs.

James Robertson says the intranet has five purposes

1) Content (eg. policy documents); 

2) Communications (eg. corporate news); 

3) Activity (eg. expense form); 

4) Collaboration (eg. project wiki); and 

5) Culture (eg. noon-hour jogging club). 

Let’s go over some of the features that support the five pillars of the intranet:

Knowledge management

Centralized document management systems allow organizations to store, organize, and share important files and documents securely. Content review tools remind people to keep sections or policies up-to-date, a key to maintaining accuracy and integrity. 

Communication tools

A range of communication tools, such as instant messaging, chat rooms, discussion forums, and news feeds, enables real-time interaction and collaboration among employees.

Employee directories

Employee directories provide a centralized database of employee profiles, contact information, and organizational hierarchies for collaboration and networking within the organization.

Task management

Task management features, such as built-in calendars, reminders, and online forms, allow teams to manage their workflows, improve transparency, and ensure timely completion of tasks.

Integration capabilities

Many modern intranet platforms offer integration with other business tools and applications, such as Microsoft 365, Google Workspace, Microsoft Teams, and Slack.

Want to discover all the features an intranet contains? Check out the full features list.

Benefits of an intranet

Employee Communication

Intranets allow you to communicate with your colleagues in real-time, facilitating greater collaboration and engagement.

An intranet can shape organizational culture, drive innovation, and unlock new growth opportunities. Learn about the key benefits of using an intranet:

Improved communication

A Harvard Business Review study found that companies with effective communication practices are 50% more likely to have lower employee turnover rates. Intranets facilitate real-time interaction and transparent dialogue among employees, fostering better communication channels and keeping teams informed and engaged.

Enhanced collaboration

In a Queens University of Charlotte study, about three out of four employees rate teamwork and collaboration as “very important”. Intranets promote teamwork and collaboration across departments by providing robust tools for project management and document sharing.

Knowledge sharing

According to a 2017 white paper from International Data Corporation (IDC), Fortune 500 companies lose at least $31.5 billion a year by failing to share knowledge. Intranets centralize resources, best practices, and training materials, enabling employees to make informed decisions, efficiently solve problems, and drive continuous improvement.

Increased productivity

Fatigue-related productivity loss results in an annual cost of $1,967 per employee. Intranets help increase productivity by streamlining workflows, automating routine tasks, and optimizing task management processes.

Cost reduction

Intranets contribute to cost savings and operational excellence by reducing email overload, minimizing the need for physical meetings, and improving operational efficiency,

Award winning intranets

Want to see examples of some of the best intranets? Check out this white paper.

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10 Award Winning Intranets

Examples of successful intranets

An intranet has become an integral tool for organizations, catering to a wide range of industries. Here are some examples of companies that have successfully implemented modern intranet platforms to achieve their objectives:

Intranet case study: Vancouver International Airport (YVR)


With a modern employee portal, you can add customizable features, such as tailored campaigns and newsletters.

YVR sought to implement an intranet platform due to communication challenges from its diverse workforce. Integration of an intranet solution enabled mobile accessibility and customization features, such as tailored campaigns and newsletters, to facilitate better communication and connection among YVR’s diverse teams. Read the full case study.

Intranet case study: Marigold


Marigold, a family of marketing technology platforms under a single umbrella, overcame communication hurdles by implementing an intranet software, which resulted in improved collaboration, streamlined information access, and enhanced employee engagement.  Features and customizations, such as Google integration and their own “Employee Spotlight,” also helped foster community and engagement.  Read the full case study.

Intranet case study: PrideStaff


PrideStaff, a leading staffing agency, upgraded its outdated intranet to a modern intranet platform for enhanced security and improved content management. The transition not only resolved existing intranet issues, but also resulted in better navigation, search functionality, and knowledge management. Read the full case study.

Intranet FAQ

What is an intranet site?

An intranet site is a private network accessible only to authorized users within an organization, serving as a centralized platform for communication, collaboration, and information sharing. 

Picture a virtual headquarters where employees gather to access important information, communicate with colleagues, and collaborate on projects.

What is intranet software?

Intranet software acts as a centralized platform capable of hosting content, facilitating knowledge sharing and collaboration, and enhancing culture through a community. Most modern intranet software makes it easy to build and maintain well-designed intranets that create engaging employee experiences. 

Today’s software is often cloud-based, integrating with other Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions and document repositories. By centralizing access to various tools, intranet software reduces complexity, minimizes task switching, and improves overall efficiency within the organization.

Are intranets still used nowadays?

Yes, intranets are still widely used in modern workplaces, and in fact, have become even more essential in the digital landscape! Intranets have adapted to meet the changing needs of today’s workforce, incorporating features, such as mobile accessibility, social networking capabilities, and personalized content delivery.

As organizations continue to embrace remote work, hybrid work environments, and digital transformation initiatives, the role of intranets in connecting employees, streamlining operations, and fostering a sense of community within the organization remains relevant more than ever.

What is the difference between the internet and an intranet?

The internet is a global network of interconnected computers and servers that allows for the exchange of information and communication across the world. It is publicly accessible and used by individuals, businesses, and organizations worldwide.

An intranet is a private network that is restricted to a specific organization or group of users. It functions similarly to the internet but is accessible only to authorized users within the organization.

What is the difference between an intranet and extranet?

An intranet functions as a private network accessible only to members within a particular organization or designated group.

An extranet is a private network that extends access to certain parts of the organization’s intranet to authorized users from outside the organization, such as business partners, clients, or suppliers.

How does an intranet work?

An intranet hosts web-based applications, documents, databases, and other resources on a centralized server accessible through web browsers. Employees gain access to an intranet by authenticating their identities through login credentials. Once they are on the company intranet, they can access company policies and documents, collaborate on projects, and communicate via email, chat, or forums. 

What are the advantages of an intranet?

There are numerous advantages of using an intranet: improved communication, enhanced collaboration, knowledge sharing, increased productivity, cost savings, centralized information access, employee engagement, scalability, security, and flexibility.

What are the disadvantages of an intranet?

Here are some of the potential disadvantages of using an intranet: initial setup costs, maintenance, technical issues, user adoption challenges, content management, security risks, and integration complexity.

These disadvantages can be mitigated by taking a comprehensive approach to implementing an intranet, including aligning the intranet with the company’s strategic plans, building a good information architecture within your intranet, developing user engagement strategies, and conducting ongoing maintenance.

Choosing a vendor that is easy to work with and offers a user-friendly experience for both admins and end-users, will ultimately lead to a successful intranet. The benefits far outweigh any challenges, and there are many success stories about the positive impact intranets can have. 

Can an intranet be hacked?

No network is immune from hacking attempts, however, intranets are generally more secure than public-facing websites and networks. Vulnerabilities, such as weak passwords, outdated software, and improper access controls can potentially lead to security breaches on an intranet. Organizations should prioritize platforms with robust intranet security features when seeking an intranet solution.

How much does an intranet cost?

The cost of an intranet can vary significantly depending on factors, such as the size of the organization, the desired features and customization, and the chosen vendor. Generally, prices can range as low as $6,000 for smaller businesses to enterprise plans with custom features for larger enterprises. Organizations should consider their specific needs and budget when evaluating intranet solutions.

What is ThoughtFarmer?

ThoughtFarmer is a leading intranet platform with a mission to make work better by helping employees share knowledge, stay informed, and feel connected. The award-winning software makes it effortless for organizations to customize, deploy, and maintain a modern intranet that fosters high adoption and engagement. Whether your team is remote, hybrid, or in-office, ThoughtFarmer is dedicated to providing you with a digital workplace that empowers collaboration, boosts productivity, and enhances corporate culture.