The Pros and Cons of Intranets
An effective intranet setup and infrastructure benefits organizations, but there are risks. Here, we'll discuss the pros and cons.
The year 2020 reshaped many organizations across the world by changing the way their business is run. Due to the pandemic and social distancing, a massive digital transformation took place in the regular functions of business.
A digital era that was previously thought to be too difficult or unfeasible for day to day business operations started worldwide. Remote working or working from home became a part of our lives.
Organizations had to maintain business operations in the virtual environment using the latest technologies and network infrastructure. However, the threat to network security and productivity issues always remained a great challenge.
Intranets, a closed network that is used in corporate organizations, have long been utilized in business but their importance has come to the forefront, spurred by the mass migration of workers to remote work.
Everybody knows about the internet—the global network connectivity between computers providing information and communication. But unless you work with a company that uses an intranet, you may not be familiar with the term. Even if you use an intranet on a daily basis, you may not have thought of the advantages and disadvantages of the system. Here we will discuss some pros and cons of using intranet in today's business landscape.
The Meaning of "Intranet"
An intranet is a restricted network that helps employees share their work-related information and communicate within the organization. It functions strictly within a closed network. It doesn't allow access to anyone from outside its network area. Intranet uses corporate web servers which are only accessible to employees of the organization using this facility for specific business communication and operations. An intranet may or may not be connected to the internet. If it connects to the internet, then its security measures should be very strong to prevent unauthorized access to the network.
Benefits Of New Generation Intranet
New generation intranet technology is equipped with advanced facilities. It's now more advanced than previous intranet technology with more flexibility and user-friendly features. It can solve many business challenges and criticalities. Let's have a look at the areas benefited by modern-day intranet.
Connect With Remote Workforce
Remote and distributed workforces are now a revolutionary trend across the world. People are working online from a remote place or from their homes. Intranet in modern days is compatible with most business workflows to make it happen seamlessly, easily on a regular basis. It plays a vital role in business function in a virtual environment maintaining proper communication and productivity. (Read also: How to Ensure Peak Remote Work Productivity.)
An intranet allows for a closed social media platform functionality. Company updates, activity feed, likes, comments, etc all of these features are important parts of employee engagement in an organization. It enables workers to get to know their company culture better, raise their own voice and battle some of the isolation, if they are working from home. The modern intranet has all these functionalities to create a good bond between employees and their organization.
Streamline Collaboration and Decision Making
Constant private network connectivity through intranet means that even if team members are not in the same office, they can collaborate on projects easily. Making decisions that require input from disparate parties, as well as having access to the same information is a key advantage to an intranet system. The intranet system allows different departments to organize according to their needs, while recognizing that allowing access to those that need it results in less "siloing" of information, where knowledge stays with a select group rather than being shared.
Centralized Document Management
New generation intranets are needed to provide a central storage system where the most updated official documentation can be easily managed, maintained, and accessed by employees of an organization. There is no need to search through hard copy files or archived email folders to find each document. Employees on an intranet know where to look for the latest information they require for work.
Cost and Investment
Setting up modern intranet infrastructure needs worthy investments also. Most often it charges as a subscription, a set monthly fee similar to a magazine subscription. However, some intranets use different or complicated fee structures, for instance a per-user cost that fluctuates according to the size of the business and number of users.
Complexity in Configuration and Setup
Intranet has a reputation for complexity in its configuration and setup. It's often noticed that IT people take much time to configure, implement and manage an intranet infrastructure in organizations. This technical burden may feel like a waste of time or labor resources.
Confined to Internal Use Only
The intranet is confined within the organization. So, employees can't easily share any content with outside parties or social media platforms. This can be a tech barrier to collaborating with external partners. Usually, the ability to share data from the Intranet, outside of the business is dealt with by a select few, such as the marketing team, and permissioned accordingly. Corporate Websites and Social Media platforms are usually edited and maintained by the same team. Although many organizations instruct employees to keep their personal social media posts completely separate from the corporate posts, others want to leverage employees' networks with social sharing.
Additionally, employee advocacy is a great way for brand awareness and generating leads. Many companies are using different technologies to use employees as brand ambassadors. As the intranet is very much internal, employers wanting to capitalize on this kind of brand advocacy can't implement this opportunity in their organizations. If you are in an industry that benefits by amplifying your message via employee social media, putting any extra steps to the sharing process is a distinct disadvantage.
Security Threats Over Intranet and The Solutions
We can't avoid the fact that intranet security risks are always there to hamper any organization's running business. It can even collapse business operations due to simple mistakes. Besides remote work culture is now a growing trend. Hence, intranet security has become a valid concern to organizations nowadays. Intranets run on web servers and require the same security controls as any other website, regardless of the fact that they are internal facing. Remember threats can come from the inside as well, by either accidental or malicious means. Plus, once a hacker is on your network, an unprotected Intranet is an easy target.
Importance Of Implementing Intranet Security
Remote work or a virtual workforce entirely depends on various web-based tools and software. The applications and data get stored in a cloud-based environment, so staff can easily access them. Some users may work remotely and access cloud systems for their work. Others working remotely, make use of a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) over a VPN connection and access their desktops, systems and applications from a traditional data center. Either way, Security is paramount. Although this new work culture solves many problems, it also attracts cyberthieves and hackers looking to get unauthorized access to the company's network. That's why implementing strong intranet security is now. perhaps more than ever, crucial.
Cyber threats can be internal or external and are as much a risk to businesses as they are a threat to national security. They can range from a massive take-down of systems to a minor inconvenience that requires an hour's worth of work to repair. (Read also: Cybersecurity Concerns Rise for Remote Work.)
Correcting Internal Vulnerabilities
Easy To Crack Passwords: A strong password is the basic necessity for employee data protection. Two-factor authentication (2FA)—or even better, multifactor authentication (MFA)— is also required for secure login. 2FA is easier for end users and not as expensive. However, it also isn't as secure which should ultimately be the deciding factor.
Employees should change their password roughly every 45 days, and adhere to a "No Historical Password Reuse" policy implemented via a Group Policy Object (GPO).
Data Protection Issues: Official data should be encrypted to avoid data breaches. Network admins should encrypt intranet data in organizations. When to encrypt data stored on servers is a decision that should be made with careful consideration by the organization. Taking into account, classification of data, access time (speed) and whether you are obliged to encrypt to meet compliance. Encryption is especially important for organizations that are subject to regulation, such as banks and medical facilities.
Unrestricted access to workplace devices: Intranet security breaches are possible due to mishandling of workplace devices. Employees should not connect any personal electronic device like pen drives, mobile phones, etc to their computers or laptops. This is a major reason for data leakage. To prevent this practice, IT professionals of any organization should configure the devices used for work purposes only, in a restricted manner to secure intranet infrastructure. USB drives and other removable storage access can be blocked either by an enterprise antivirus platform or via GPO. Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD) can be configured to allow a partitioned area for segregated use of company applications such as corporate email or Blackberry apps and the like. (Read also: 5 Things to Know About BYOD Security.)
To prevent rogue devices connecting to the network, or devices that don’t have up-to-date patches installed, AV or malware protection, these devices can be prevented from connecting directly to the network by use of Network Access Control (NAC).
Remote access security: Using mobile devices employees can access the company's cloud storage sometimes. But their mobile devices don't have adequate security software installed like antivirus applications or software firewalls. This remote access can affect intranet security as well. Organizations should train their employees on how to secure their mobile devices before connecting to the company's private network. Bring your own device policies must be created, communicated and enforced.
Preventing External Threats To Intranet
Phishing Attack: Remote employees use various digital applications for their work, like email, IM, etc. Hackers send any malicious link or file via email or chat, to break the company's network. Once clicked, they get access to the network. Hence, employees must be cautious to not click or download any suspicious web link or file. Also, IT professionals should install anti-phishing software into the network to strengthen the intranet infrastructure.
Malware and Viruses: Malware, spyware, Viruses, Trojan, etc can target the intranet and damage its functionalities. IT professionals should regularly monitor event logs to find out unusual activities over an intranet and fix the issues quickly.
Physical Security Of Devices: Besides virtual attacks on the intranet, employees should be cautious about physical theft of their office devices. Employees should not leave their portable work devices unlocked or at an unsecured place. These activities make the devices vulnerable to huge data theft. This is why it is so important to encrypt mobiles, laptops, tablets and make it as difficult as possible for a thief to get to your data.
Denial Of Service (DoS) Attack: This type of attack can bring a high volume of data requests to the intranet and stop its operation. IT professionals should regularly check for any possible issues and install tools or software to control traffic volume to the intranet to avoid this damage. Tools such as DDOS protection are usually offered as additional protection as part of a web application firewall(WAF). Cloud based DDOS/WAF protection can be as simple as ticking a box (as it is in Azure, depending on your subscription.)
An effective intranet solution can have a profound impact on organizational productivity, collaboration and data management. Employees have the ability to interact and share information with ease, facilitating effective collaboration on projects – paving the way for increased productivity. With available desktop resources and tools, each employee can easily access everything they need to perform their job. All of these positive benefits stem from dedicating time and resources to setting up an effective intranet.