Besides supplying infrastructure for Web applications by providing a natural developmental and staging area for these applications, intranets have become so useful that they are now generally recognized as being necessary even if the organization has no need for Internet applications.
1. Document publication applications
The first application that always comes to mind for intranets in and of themselves is the publication and distribution of documents. This application allows for paperless publication of any business information that is needed for internal employees or external customers or suppliers. Any type of document may be published on an intranet: policy and procedure manuals, employee benefits, software user guides, online help, training manuals, vacancy announcements--the list goes on to include any company documentation.
2. Electronic resources applications
In the past it has not been easy to share electronic resources across network nodes. Employees have had problems sharing information for various reasons including software version inaccuracies and incompatibilities. Intranets provide the means to catalog resources online for easy deployment across the network to any authorized user with the click of a mouse. Software applications, templates, and tools are easily downloaded to any machine on the network.
3. Interactive communication applications
Two-way communications and collaboration on projects, papers, and topics of interest become easy across the intranet. Types of communications that are enhanced and facilitated include e-mail, group document review, and use of groupware for developing new products.
4. Support for Internet applications
Even though organizational full-service intranets are the next step in enterprise-wide computing and have enough value to make them desirable simply for the organizational benefits they bring, they are also necessary for supporting any Internet applications that are built.
The transactional processes and trading of information that will be done by all but the most elementary Web applications will require an infrastructure to store, move, and make use of the information that is traded. The infrastructure to accomplish those tasks is the organizational intranet.
The development and maintenance of the Internet application requires that the organization has a developmental environment and the means to test the applications prior to placing them on the Internet. This requires an intranet that mirrors the functionality of the Internet. The infrastructure also requires that the Internet application be easily updated and maintained by the staff that has the responsibility for the application. The infrastructure becomes even more important until the middleware to easily manage Internet applications becomes available. Because both intranet and Web application tools are still missing, maintenance on Internet applications will remain labor intensive for the next 18-24 months. This requires an infrastructure that allows easy access and manipulation by these labor-intensive processes.