15 November 2016

Why a cloud-based intranet solution could be a game changer for your business

Tags:Security, Cloud, Intranet

You’ve made some big business decisions. Smart decisions.

Your new intranet project is up and running. Designs are underway, and content is being assessed. But have you considered hosting?

Organisations know the 'Digital Workplace' is the way of the future, and they’re looking to make their intranet accessible from anywhere. But your choice of hosting can have huge implications for cost, time, and training.

Why on-premise hosting may not be right for you

If an intranet solution is hosted on-premise, it can be difficult to provide external access. So although your staff can use your intranet at work, as soon as they leave the office, it will become inaccessible to them.

With the endgame being to have a digital workplace that staff can access and interact with wherever they are, organisations are looking towards how they can achieve this external accessibility. And they’re increasingly turning to cloud-based intranet solutions.

But it’s not a decision to make lightly, because even if the intranet industry is moving towards a cloud model, how can you be sure that it’s going to be the right move for your business?

Cloud integration is easier than ever before

Although many websites are straightforward, out-of-the-box solutions, intranets usually require more advanced set-ups.

When considering a new intranet solution, organisations are often looking to integrate multiple back-end systems, each with vast amounts of data. And with the ever-growing array of content-management systems (CMSs), support-desk apps, and collaboration tools available, your choice of host is vital.

But although it’s natural to assume that an intranet hosted on-premise will provide much easier integration with these back-end systems, our director for digital government, Alex Buchanan says it’s not so cut-and-dried.

“When moving to the cloud, you have to think about the special hardware, private networks, and tunnels required to get access to your back-end systems, but it’s complex,” he says. “In many ways, deploying in the cloud can be faster and easier, because the initial set-up and expertise are often already there.”

Additionally, Alex explains that integration often isn’t a technical challenge – it’s a conceptual one. “In many circumstances, there isn’t a lot of additional work involved in integrating with your systems other than establishing secure network connections.”

After all, it’s not just intranets that are moving to the cloud. Lots of other technologies are becoming cloud-based, too. What’s more, with organisations moving towards a cloud-based business model, they’re becoming more skilled at establishing these connections with their existing back-end systems.

“As a result, integrating with the cloud is now easier and more efficient than it has been in the past,” says Alex.

On-premise doesn’t always mean more secure

Your intranet holds an extensive range of data, much of it confidential and important to your business. Naturally, privacy and security are priorities.

Many organisations are reluctant to move to cloud-based solutions because of the perception that local hosting provides greater security for their data. They believe that the more control you have over the environment, the safer your content will be.

According to Alex, however, the reality is often the opposite. “Organisations invest a lot less in their security than a dedicated hosting provider like Squiz does,” he says. “The reality is that external hosting is often much more secure.”

“Your Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Security team will be emotionally invested in their internal environment,” explains Alex. “Their approach is almost always to put it behind a firewall, which makes it difficult to access externally.”

When taking cloud security into consideration, some infrastructure may still need to be hosted on-premise. “A search engine, such as Funnelback, would benefit from local hosting so that it can easily access your document management systems,” says Alex. “Then we just need to set up a connection between the search engine and the cloud.”

Alex believes that when it comes to security, you shouldn’t be asking whether or not to deploy in the cloud. “The right question is ‘what’s the safest place for us to deploy?” he says. “For most organisation that is going to be with a dedicated cloud host, where security is a core part of their business, and they have the tools in place to mitigate the range of threats that are faced in an internet-facing environment.”

Your internal workforce could be working against you

Organisations already set up with existing workforces that support internal hosting often resist the move to cloud-based technologies because they already have that investment in place.

Keeping work in-house can be a plus for some businesses, but Alex believes that it’s often a double-edged sword. “You might have the workforce there to support a locally hosted intranet, but that also means you have the overhead costs,” he says.

Because, although it can be beneficial to have a dedicated team, your staff might need additional training to acquire the skills to support your new solution.

“Even if they have training, they’re rarely ever going to be as efficient as those who manage these types of systems day in, day out,” he says.

If you don’t already have this internal workforce, the management structures and expense behind recruiting, retaining, and training these staff is often infeasible. “If somebody leaves your company, you’re putting yourself at risk of losing this knowledge,” says Alex. “Then you’re back to square one.”

By working with a cloud-based system, with external teams looking after your infrastructure, there’s possibly a longer-term savings.

You’ll be able to focus on the simpler skills of publishing and managing content, rather than worrying about your staff having a deep technical expertise of the solution.

Businesses are already moving to the cloud

You can already see the benefits that cloud-based solutions can provide for businesses, says Alex.

“We’ve resolved cases in which two large organisations – each with its own individual infrastructures – merged and were looking to consolidate their data and practices. Providing a single intranet with one credential in these situations is no small feat. And it’s much easier to do that in the cloud than it is trying to do that locally.”

However, he doesn’t believe that a cloud-based model favours only these types of large-scale mergers.

“Smaller businesses have different reasons for moving to the cloud, mostly to do with not wanting to employ that dedicated workforce to manage their solution,” he says. “The main reason they’re not is due to pricing. It can be initially more expensive. But that initial cost can be a major investment in the future of your organisation.”

The future is cloud-based

Seeing firsthand the shift towards digital workplaces, Alex believes that cloud-based solutions are the future of the intranet marketplace.

“It’s a different world now. We’ve gone from on-premise – everything is done in-house inside a single network – to reducing that infrastructure and technical staff, and instead focusing on cloud-based security and integration,” he says. “There’s a reason the whole world is moving towards the cloud: It’s a better model for organisations.”

In Alex’s view, the long-term benefits outweigh any initial difficulties.

Don’t be left behind. Investigate your options today and discover why a cloud-based offering is right for you. Learn more about our intranet offerings at Squiz.

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