Less than two years ago, small companies were at a distinct disadvantage when it came to sharing information among employees. Large corporations had the means to install expensive groupware systems, such as Lotus Notes, that allowed them to share internal information such as sales contacts, customer service information and other documents. They could also install large wide area networks to share key database or other corporate information. But such systems were far too costly and complex for smaller organizations to even consider.
Today, with the increased availability of Intranet technology, organizations of all sizes--even those with as few as five to 10 employees--can give everyone on staff access to internal information, wherever and whenever they need it, simply and cost-effectively.
"Intranet" is a term used to describe the use of Internet technologies internally within an organization rather than externally to connect to the global Internet. Essentially, companies use the Intranet to publish information on an internal Web page, using the same process they would use to publish an external Web page. Users then access this information using a Web browser. These Intranet products also provide some e-mail capabilities.
Intranet applications are catching on quickly in the business world. The percentage of large and midsized companies using some sort of Intranet application has soared to 55 percent, up from just 11 percent a year ago, according to Business Research Group, a high-tech market research and consulting firm in Newton, Massachusetts. By January, that figure is expected to reach 70 percent. And the Intranet's popularity extends equally to smaller companies, according to Clay Ryder, a senior industry analyst at Zona Research, a Redwood City, California, market research and consulting firm. "We've talked to numerous very small companies," Ryder says, "and found usage patterns aren't much different between small and large organizations."