To Build or Buy an Intranet? Everything You Need to Know

Struggling with making the decision on whether to build or buy an intranet? Find out all you need to know to make the decision.

August 4, 2023
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Given the increasing rate of workplace virtualization and the wide range of tools for knowledge management now available, an intranet has proven to be an ideal software for nullifying the boundaries of geographical differences by integrating employees, resources, and technology. 

Any company intending to have an intranet will have to decide whether to custom-build or leverage on a pre-built intranet software. These two possible ways of implementing an intranet have their unique peculiarities. 

In this article, we’ll outline all you need to know before you decide, from the factors to consider to the differences and features to look out for.

But first, let’s understand the basics.

What Is An Intranet?

An intranet is a secure online platform within an organization, accessible to only authorized individuals and set up to facilitate real-time information exchange and collaboration. 

Intranet features include built-in security measures to ensure the protection of company data by effectively regulating access to the network within the confines of the organization.

An employee intranet essentially provides an organization’s workforce with important real-time information to carry out their duties, improve collaboration and communication, and foster employee engagement.

According to Mindshare and Dynamic Signal research, 53% of employees believe that a single platform consolidating all company info would make receiving and sharing content easier.

In a nutshell, investing in a modern intranet may be one of your company’s best decisions yet!

Building Your Intranet

How Much Does It Cost To Build An Intranet?

Costs for building an intranet range from $10,000 for small-sized companies to $50,000 for medium-sized companies. For large-sized companies, costs could go as high as $100,000.

The total cost incurred in building a company intranet is largely dependent on the following factors:

  1. Number of users
  2. Hardware infrastructure
  3. Intranet type
  4. Security installation
  5. Customization needs
  6. Content creation and integration
  7. Support and maintenance

  1. Number of users

Companies with larger teams will require more hardware and software infrastructures to support the teeming number of intranet users. 

This is in contrast to small-sized companies, which can build an intranet using fewer servers and cloud storage, thus the cost variations.

  1. Hardware infrastructure

When building intranets, accessing the degree of competency of available hardware is important. It helps you ascertain whether the existing hardware infrastructure - routers, switches, servers, can support the employee intranet portal. 

  1. Intranet type

The form in which employees access the intranet also contributes to the total cost. A company intranet can be in two forms; on-premise or cloud-based. While an on-premise intranet requires relatively less hardware and software requirements, a cloud-based intranet software depends heavily on cloud computing storage.

  1. Security installation

Firewalls define intranets and constitute a large fraction of the intranet’s building budget. Generally, the degree of sensitivity of the contents published on the intranet determines the level of security measures to be installed. So, the more sensitive the information, the higher the level of data protection, translating to higher expenditure. 

  1. Customization needs

An intranet software with basic features will work for smaller companies. However, larger companies require a higher degree of customization. Also, an organization looking to expand will have to factor in costs for scalability when creating its budget for building an internal site. 

  1. Content creation and integration

Employee engagement and the intranet are interdependent. The content and integration of essential productivity tools dictate how much employees can engage with them. 

So, a significant part of your budget goes into integration costs and the intranet CMS which functions to create, curate and manage content on the internal network.

  1. Support and maintenance

The cost of building an intranet also includes continuous maintenance - bug fixes, software license renewals, additional server procurements, and provisions for conducting routine intranet performance reviews via user feedback. 

Can You Create Your Own Intranet?

Yes, you can build your intranet! While it may involve some technicality, with the right information and skills, you can be well on your way to building the intranet of your dreams.

Once you select your intranet building software, building an intranet involves seven crucial steps, which include:

  1. Define objectives
  2. Create an action plan and design
  3. Choose a vendor
  4. Incorporate resources
  5. Pre-test
  6. Launch
  7. Monitor and maintain

Assembly is an intranet site builder that transforms your unique intranet design into a functioning IT infrastructure. Book a demo today.

What is needed to create an intranet?

In addition to having a clear objective and design layout, you will need the following tools to build an internal employee website.

  1. Server
  2. Network
  3. Content management software
  4. Firewall

A server hosts the internal website. Depending on the specifics of the intranet design, it can be cloud-based or installed on the company’s premises.

A network is needed to link the server to the different devices that access the intranet. A content management system is responsible for the intranet's functionality, while a firewall ensures data privacy and regulates access to the intranet.

How long does it take to build an intranet?

On average, building an intranet takes about 3-6 months. This estimation is for a basic custom-built intranet developed from scratch. So, the duration could extend beyond six months, depending on the degree of customization and availability of resources.

Buying a Ready-Made Intranet

What can you expect from a ready-made intranet?

A ready-made intranet is a pre-built intranet solution fully set up and maintained by a vendor. Hence they offer the advantage of frequent and regular updates. In addition, most intranet builders provide 24/7 support leaving no room for network downtime.

Subscribing to a pre-built intranet solution provides you with the following benefits:

  1. Quick deployment 
  2. Cost-effectiveness 
  3. Communication and collaboration tools 
  4. Document management
  5. Analytics

  1. Quick deployment

Their whole essence is to provide an internal network that can be implemented rapidly; hence they are coupled with preset templates and settings to aid quick setup.

  1. Cost-effectiveness

Compared to custom-built intranets, which incur more initial costs due to the high degree of customization, ready-made intranets have lower initial costs since they come with pre-organized templates.

Also, costs for a pre-built intranet principally consist of a license fee payment which, depending on the vendor, can be paid annually or spread out monthly via subscription fees.

  1. Communication and collaboration tools

Ready-made intranets are fitted with tools that improve internal communication and facilitate collaboration. These tools include discussion forums, news feeds, announcements, document sharing, and shared calendars.

  1. Document management

You also get to gain the benefit of a robust information repository system when you go the route of buying a ready-made intranet. This enables effective storage and retrieval of important company information.

  1. Analytics

Some of these pre-built intranets come with tools that enable the HR teams to track and monitor employee engagement with the internal company website. And this can guide further optimization. A good example of such intranet-building software is Assembly.

Assembly has:

  • A one-stop knowledge base for accessing and sharing information seamlessly
  • High search functionality enables employees to look up information on the knowledge base easily
  • An idea portal where fresh and innovative ideas from employees can be curated, fine-tuned, and developed into a foolproof project
  • A dedicated news feed that provides a platform for employees to read and post relevant content
  • A collection of valuable productivity templates that address different workflow aspects, guaranteeing maximum use of the pre-built IT infrastructure

Overall, it’s important to thoroughly evaluate your organization’s needs and critically assess the economic benefits of building an intranet and buying one before deciding.

Factors To Consider Before Building Or Buying An Intranet

When deciding whether to build or buy, it's normal to wonder if the intranet’s ROI is worth the investment. It is!

However, in this phase, it’s best practice to use relevant factors to streamline, inform, and speed up your decision-making process. They include:

  1. Company Size
  2. Budget and cost
  3. Timeframe
  4. Customization requirements
  5. Future scalability
  1. Company Size

The company structure indicates whether a basic custom-built intranet will be preferred or a much more complex internal network will be effective. Building from scratch may work for smaller companies, but large-sized companies will benefit from the high functionality offered by a CMS employee intranet.

  1. Budget and cost

The company’s budget sets the tone for what can be done in the long run, despite what the company may need. While a custom-built intranet incurs a lot of expenses, subscribing to pre-built solutions attracts continuous costs in subscription fees.

  1. Timeframe

How soon the company needs it also determines the provision. Buying an intranet is a good option if immediate deployment is required since building an intranet takes much longer.

  1. Customization requirements

The degree of specification has a significant impact on the overall cost. It’s important to evaluate the degree of customization, security needs, and extent of integration outlined in the company’s intranet design before selecting an option. An intranet solution that satisfies nearly all design specifics is the best approach.

  1. Future scalability

It’s best to choose an option that can effectively adapt to meet the company's dynamic needs, especially for companies that are still expanding.

Assembly is a tested and trusted vendor for building an effective workplace with the intranet. Get started today.

Should I Build or Buy An Intranet?

Choosing whether to build or buy an intranet can be challenging but becomes much easier after carefully considering the different variables involved. It’s also important to apply the intranet best practices. Ultimately the final decision rests on a company’s peculiar needs, available resources, and intranet objectives. 

Building your intranet is time-consuming, capital-intensive, and places significant pressure on an organization’s IT department. It, however, gives you complete control of the design process, from features to tools to integrations particular to your company’s needs.

In comparison, buying pre-built intranet software allows you to launch faster and save considerable costs in the building process. And while it’s a good option for a company looking to deploy its intranet soonest, there’s the possibility of limited integration and customization options.

Ultimately, having a company intranet is a wise investment. Intranet advantages could go on and on. An intranet can unleash a company’s inner productivity by significantly improving the organization’s communication and collaboration. 

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