How to Create an Intranet Website
By Ellis Davidson
An intranet website is developed using the same technologies used to create a public website on the Internet. There are two primary differences. First, the content of an intranet site is focused on a restricted group of people, typically the employees and subcontractors of a company or organization. Second, the intranet is not accessible via the Internet; its web server is programmed to respond only to requests made from inside the internal network of the organization.
Develop the intranet website as you would create a regular website. You can build an intranet website from scratch using HTML, CSS, and other web-building tools, or you can use a content management system such as Drupal or Joomla, which comes with pre-built modules designed for a variety of purposes. Many content management systems come with modules specifically designed for intranet development, so if you have not settled on a web server technology, you can save yourself a great deal of effort by choosing one of these.
Deploy the intranet in test capacity on your internal network. A public web server must be set up so that its port 80--over which most web traffic is conducted--faces the Internet, but on an intranet server you should explicitly avoid this. A test server can be reached by going to its numerical IP address on the internal network; for example, “http://10.0.1.100” will reach an internal intranet web server if that is the assigned IP address for that server.
Restrict access to the web server from outside the internal network. This is usually done by IP address restriction, username and password registration, or both. IP address restriction checks the IP address of incoming requests, and only replies to addresses on the local network; if your routers assign IP addresses in the range 10.0.[0-255].[0-255], which is typical for a mid-sized business, then incoming requests outside of that range that are directed to that computer will be rejected. A username and password system allows your intranet to respond differently based on the permissions assigned to various people in your organization.
Assign a domain name address to your intranet server. Set this up in your internal domain name server (DNS). Intranet servers are usually assigned third-level domains; if your organizational domain is “yourcompany.com”, then an intranet may respond to “hr.yourcompany.com”, or “internal.yourcompany.com”. Your DNS can be private, so that only internal network users can find these domain names, or can be public, so long as external requests to these DNS addresses are rejected as set up in step 3.
Ellis Davidson has been a self-employed Internet and technology consultant, entrepreneur and author since 1993. He has written a book about self-employment for recent college graduates and is a regular contributor to "Macworld" and the TidBITS technology newsletter. He is completing a book on self-employment options during a recession. Davidson holds a Bachelor of Arts in American civilization from the University of Pennsylvania.