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Sub-artikel # 1 Prepared by Jafar Basri

The development of intranet

Intranet is still in its infancy stage. Although corporate information systems and networks is in existence for a while, the introduction of Internet into the organization is just recently begin. The encounter of Internet with the internal corporate’s information systems opened up new changes in the configuration of the corporate information network. Lot of problems must be overcome, and a number of political and management issues require serious attention from management in entering the new "intranet" environment.

What is intranet ?

Intranet is defined as internal corporate networks using the same basic architecture, protocols, and applications as the Internet (NCC guideline bulletin number 216 , October 1996). Obviously Intranet comes after Internet. Corporate networks may have been in existence for a while, and without any clear plan, Internet suddenly was widely used by many corporate staffs and personnel. The power of the standard protocols and HTML technology attracted some creative professionals to introduce "Intranet" which are mostly dedicated to corporate’s utilization by integrating Internet into the corporate’s information network systems. The typical standards are : The Internet Protocol Suite (IPS) at the infrastructure level, Web server and browser technology for the communication, retrieval and display of data, and HTML (the hypertext mark-up language) for content creation. As all these are inherited in the Internet business domain, the Internet Service Providers (ISP) are the forerunner to invest skills into it. Obviously, as the related technologies that make the above standards effective, required the same level of discipline commonly resides in a dedicated network managed activities, ISPs again are the suitable agents. Those technologies are : Common Gateway Interface (CGI) scripting , Java or similar network programming languages (e.g. Microsoft ActiveX), GIF and JPEG image file formats, Sound and Video format (packages like Real Audio and Macromedia).

Major issues faced by Intranet

Messaging growth has its inherent problems. Those related to the number of users, the network configuration itself and response time, not to mention the content of the message and its coordinated efforts required. Intranets exacerbate the problems even further. This is because :

  • e-mail and internal messaging must coexist with access to the textual and graphical riches of the wider Internet
  • Allow internal users to adopt the new technologies of the World Wide Web, thus increase the need for network bandwidth and processing power
  • Shift toward client-side processing is the trend, making network management more complex.

Organization usually firewalled their Intranets, allowing the network administrator to control incoming information according to resource type, IP address, or domain name, and to restrict access, if required, to specific users. Hereby it is expected that the traffic volumes can be managed, beside controlling the type of traffic as well. However no matter how rigorously the Intranet is firewalled, internal information flows - which in the real sense, is the only purpose of an Intranet - will increase. Organizational communication will grow alarmingly leading toward :

  • the increase of users desire to access external resources on the Internet
  • the capture of information from or about customers for the organization
  • The exchange of information among the users outside the organization with the internal users by way of retrieving the data bases
  • the increase in e-mail volume with the number of users and their accessibility.

Despite this, few people seem to plan this introduction with sufficient attention to the need for controlling information flows.

Some consideration

If Intranet introduces so many problems, why is it so widely accepted ? There are obviously positive sides of the Intranet. Next sub-article will elaborate it a little bit further. Here, I will point out three important reasons why Intranet is the right alternative for adoption :

  • allow easy integration of internal and external e-mail
  • allow the use of simple, powerful and cheap software tools and technologies for storing, retrieving, communicating, and processing corporate information resources
  • allow easy access to the substantial resources of the wider Internet - in particular, material published on the World Wide Web.

It is also worth mentioning that there are also some benefits gained when using the Virtual Private Internet (VPI) => see explanation of VPI on the next heading.

If a corporate is using the VPI, the following advantages can be gained :

  • Easy access to the Internet

Company can avoid the administrative chores and costs incurred in setting up their Internet connection.

  • More secure and Efficient Access to the Internet

There is no advantage when Intrenet are intended to be used for internal purposes only. However VPI vendors stress external features, notably security, response times, and bandwidth, which present no particular problems within a closed group using technologies such as high-speed Ethernet, LAN switching or frame relay.

  • Cheaper access to the Internet

US telecommunications operator Sprint calculates that businesses spend around $ 8 an hour running dial-up lines and modem pool, while they offer access through a VPI at around $ 3 an hour. When traffic volume is high, this is of course not an issue, where the cost of leased line is justified. Companies intending to use Web sites to carry customer-focused applications and transaction processing services might consider effectively outsourcing the whole operation - Intranet and all - to a carrier or service provider operating a VPI under a tight service level agreement.

Intranet and other private Internet

There are basically two implementation in the usage of Intranet from a technological distinction point of view :

  • a private server linked directly (usually through firewall) to the Internet
  • virtual private Internet (VPI) utilizing a corporate network infrastructure but hosted by an external service provider, possibly using an on-site server.

There are increasing numbers of service providers, including UU net, Infonet, MCI, AT&T, Sprint, and a number of cable companies, which are offering managed Internet services which appear to the user to be Intranets with Internet links, typically using an inexpensive router attached to a corporate LAN to create closed user groups.

Final remarks

This sub-article # 1 : the development of Intranet covers the general ideas of the Intranet since it development toward its current status. The next article emphasizes on the legacy behavior of management and related sides to accept Intranet. Legacy behaviors are those attitudes possessing typical characteristics inherited naturally in human. In the information technology environment, it appear to draw management’s most attention on the narrow technical aspects than the fundamental issues of management.

The Indonesian version of this sub-article can also be retrieved from this "Expert column", and will be available next week, sub-article # 2, a week thereafter.

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