Inside Line

Its So Easy

Despite all its advantages over printed documents, the Intranet would not be nearly as popular were it expensive or difficult to use. Luckily, all you need to get an Intranet site up and operating is a personal computer capable of running some sort of graphical user interface system, such as Windows 95, Windows NT or the Macintosh OS; an Internet browser; and a networking card for each system.

You'll also need a hard drive on which to post content; if you want to post more dynamic applications, such as forms, or provide access to "applets" (small applications written in Sun Microsystems' Java programming language), you may need a computer to act as a server on which to post your internal Web page.

With browsers costing about $20 per user, an Intranet can cost as little as $1,000 to install--even taking the server into account.

Other reasons Intranet systems are so popular?

Ease of use: Most people can learn to use a Web browser in a few days (or less), compared with weeks or months for many other software applications.

Consistency: You can use the same browser interface for a wide range of applications, from database access and document retrieval to bulletin boards and e-mail. This significantly reduces the time needed to train new users and makes life a lot easier for even the most computer-savvy employees.

Performance: The Intranet runs over a high bandwidth network, which means it can easily handle
audio clips, graphics, animation, video and other multimedia technologies that improve communication.

Cross-platform communications: The adoption of a wide range of standard protocols, such as TCP/IP for networking and HTML for publishing documents on the Web, makes for ease of communication. Whether your company uses a single type of computer platform or a mix of Macs, Unix, Windows systems and so on, common standards for Intranet publishing mean any of these machines can access Intranet documents. You can even set up secure links to communicate with specific external partners or potential customers.

Security: While many people remain concerned about Internet security, Intranets remain secure because they're internal. Intranet users can access the Internet but not vice versa. And, if you wish, you can incorporate additional security levels, including firewalls or encryption.

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This article was originally published in the October 1996 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Inside Line.

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